Tuesday, 20 August 2019
Gibson Wells, founder of the Cloud tech empire that dominates the US economy, is dying. After Cloud puts Paxton’s business under, he applies to work at one of their MotherCloud facilities, where people work and live. He expects this to be a temporary gig, to earn enough money so he can be his own boss again. Zinnia has been hired to infiltrate a Cloud facility and steal proprietary information.
Their paths collide inside the company in a novel that explores how far corporate America will go to ‘make the world a better place’.
The book takes place during the slow economic and environmental collapse of America. The world is not as apocalyptic as Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower, but it’s getting there. With fewer and fewer options, more people are opting to work for Cloud, which has both caused many of the problems mentioned in the book even as it tries to (claims to) make things better.
At the start of the book I felt sympathy for Wells, but as I learned more about him, and saw the predatory nature behind his smiles and the abusive personality behind his policies I started to despise him. Though Zinnia is also manipulative I found I still liked her at the end of the book. She’s feisty and smart and I wanted her to be happy. I thought she and Paxton made a good couple and hoped they’d stay together, despite some of her choices towards the end. Paxton was a mixed bag. I liked him but he was easily manipulated by everyone around him, which made me feel less sympathetic towards him.
The book was surprisingly fast paced. Adult dystopian fiction generally drags a bit due to excess worldbuilding or political sentiment. The focus here really is on the characters so it was a quick read - and hard to put down towards the end.
That’s not to say there weren’t some poignant moments where you can see how our own world is heading in this direction. The company is obviously modelled after Amazon and Walmart and their practices of forcing producers to cut costs so they can sell products a the lowest price possible. It does end of a slightly more positive note than other dystopian books as well.
This is definitely worth checking out.