Dystopia is the new utopia!
Mooching around our local Waterstones at the weekend I spotted this particular book. After reading the cover I was sold. Obviously dystopian books are my new favourite genre. I started reading it Saturday afternoon and finished the last few pages on Monday morning, and with over 450 pages it isn’t a short book.
The book is all about a fictitious company simply called Cloud, which has almost taken over the whole world. There are a number of similarities between Cloud and Amazon, and I’m sure that Jeff Bezos would probably read the book and remark that it doesn’t sound too bad.
Set in the future and the planet has been ravaged by climate change, unemployment and disease, with Cloud being one of the few places still employing people. The giant distribution warehouses have expanded and now include on-site housing for the workers, health facilities, bars, restaurants and other free time activities, known as a MotherCloud. The housing comes out of your pay, which is less than minimum wage, and is in the form of Cloud Credit, which is subject to a small charge if you want to exchange it into real money, although there isn’t anywhere on-site to spend real money, and the whole facility is a hundred miles from the nearest large town. Living on-site also means that you’re not stuck with a 40 hours working week, everyone can work far more hours (hurrah!). However, if you decline to work extra, or visit the health facilities, your ‘Star’ rating will fall, and you might be axed on ‘Cut Day’.
The book is seen through the eyes of three protagonists; Gibson, Paxton and Zinnia. Gibson is Gibson Wells, the founder of Cloud and worth over $300 Billion. His character is written in the first person, and right from the beginning we find out that he is dying. What is scary is how the author manages to make some of the extreme views from Gibson seem reasonable. He obviously feels that he has started to create a utopian environment. Utopian for the 1% and dystopian for everyone else. Who will take over Cloud once he dies?
Paxton used to work as a prison guard in a low security private jail, where most of the inmates were doing time for crimes that haven’t been crimes for a hundred years (in the UK at least), for example, defaulting on your student loan. I know that student loans didn’t exist a hundred years ago, but debtors prisons were not abolished until 1869, and it was estimated that half of the prison population at the time was in for debt. Paxton set up his own company making a perfect egg cooking device, available through Cloud, who wanted greater and greater discounts until he went out of business. The only place left for him to work was at the company that destroyed his livelihood. Does he have an axe to grind?
Zinnia is more of a mystery. She has been paid to infiltrate Cloud and find out it’s secrets. She hoped to be employed as a Tech but ends up as a picker on the warehouse floor, one of the hardest and most infamous jobs today at Amazon (read my review of Hired by James Bloodworth here). What is she up to and who is paying her?
There are a few twists and turns in the book, although nothing which isn’t too hard to guess. What makes the whole book so engrossing is how this is all too real a possibility. The wealth gap in America between the richest and the poorest is now greater than in France at the time of the French Revolution. Things have to change.
Anyway, I gave the book 5 out of 5 on Goodreads and would definitely recommend it to everyone.