Hart’s outrage at the inhumane practices of big business and the human cost of consumerism glares off every page, not least in the segments of the novel narrated by Cloud founder Gibson Wells, who justifies his accumulation of insane levels of wealth with smirking, quasi-messianic hypocrisy. The Warehouse fires an exhilaratingly unsubtle broadside against a world where the wage gap is becoming a yawning chasm and the gig economy is bringing misery, penury and even death to those trapped in it.
Hart has worked with James Patterson before and he has inherited something of Patterson’s breathless knack for narrative and suspense; it helps that he is a far better writer. There is a rich vein of social satire throughout (a frighteningly plausible series of events often referred to are the “Black Friday Massacres”)and also a palpable sense of anger at the injustice visited upon the underclass by their oppressors. Hart has surely read James Bloodworth’s excellent exposé Hired, and his keenly detailed descriptions of the indignities visited upon worker drones are horribly compelling. It helps, though, that in Zinnia he has an empowered and charismatic heroine, battling sundry thugs and her own conscience with the same determined sangfroid. This is a fine and gripping read, a literary blockbuster with brains. Perhaps the anticlimactic ending lets it down slightly, but until then Hart manages to stimulate both the imagination and the viscera alike. Just don’t read it at your favourite burger restaurant – it may put you off your meal.