Gun violence, climate change and unemployment have ravaged the United States beyond recognition.
Amidst the wreckage, an online retail giant named Cloud reigns supreme. Cloud brands itself not just as an online storefront, but as a global saviour. Yet, beneath the sunny exterior, lurks something far more sinister.
Paxton never thought he’d be working Security for the company that ruined his life, much less that he’d be moving into one of their sprawling live-work facilities. But compared to what’s left outside, perhaps Cloud isn’t so bad. Better still, through his work he meets Zinnia, who fills him with hope for their shared future.
Except that Zinnia is not what she seems. And Paxton, with his all-access security credentials, might just be her meal ticket.
As Paxton and Zinnia’s agendas place them on a collision course, they’re about to learn just how far the Cloud will go to make the world a better place.
To beat the system, you have to be inside it.
I never met Maria Fernandes, but I dedicated The Warehouse to her.
She lived in New Jersey, where she regularly bought coffee and donuts for a homeless man outside one of the three Dunkin’ Donuts locations where she worked part-time, presumably so none of them would have to confer benefits.
She would sleep in her car between shifts, and in 2014, during one of these breaks, a gas can overturned and she suffocated.
Maria was struggling to pay $550 a month on a basement apartment in Newark. That same year, the then-CEO of Dunkin’ Brands, Nigel Travis, reportedly earned $10.2 million.
When Maria died, the homeless man attended her funeral. I can’t find any evidence that Travis—who owes what is no doubt a lavish lifestyle to employees like Maria—showed up.
The lines here are very clearly drawn, and this pretty much sums up why I wrote The Warehouse. I could sit here all day and give you examples of stuff like this: chicken processing plant workers who wear diapers because they aren’t allowed bathroom breaks. Villagers in China who assemble iPhones in factories where they’re subjected to harsh chemicals and noxious fumes without appropriate protection. The way the gig economy was designed to create an employment pool without healthcare or retirement benefits.
But for me it all comes down to Maria, and the way large corporations treat us like a disposable product. We are the food they eat to grow bigger. But even worse is the way we’ve bought into this system. How many people who frequented those Dunkin’ Donuts even realized Maria was gone?
One a larger scale, we’ve decided that our own comfort is more important than someone else’s discomfort. And it’s easy to ignore the fact that for an item to be delivered to us in two days, someone had to fulfill the order under very uncomfortable, sometimes dangerous conditions.
I wanted to write about those things, but I also know that data doesn’t sit with you the way a story does, so I wrapped it in the language of a thriller. I thought, in a lot of ways, this book would be unpublishable. And then it sold in more than 20 countries and got optioned for film by Ron Howard. Which shows what I know.
I think the time for this story is now. I think people are becoming more cognizant of that empathy gap, and the way we’re killing ourselves to make some rich asshole slightly richer.
Welcome to The Warehouse, where one company takes over the entire online retail economy, and then builds dormitory housing for its workers, so they never have to go home. The climate is being ravaged by climate change, and in return for instituting green initiatives, this company can do pretty much whatever it wants—including make its employees work seven days a week for below minimum wage.
People have been calling it fiction. I call it inevitable.
Thank you, Rob Hart and Random Things Tours.
About the author
Rob Hart has been a political reporter, the communications director for a politician, a commissioner for the city of New York and is currently a publisher. The Warehouse is his first standalone novel.