When the latest James Patterson-branded book came out last month, it got a lot of press attention for its choice of villain. The Store featured a thinly veiled Amazon as the world's largest retailer dubbed The Store. It's set in a time when The Store is the only book publisher and basically controls everything.
This take on Amazon intrigued me enough that I got on the waiting list at my local public library. My turn finally came this morning when I picked up a copy, and I've spent part of the day reading The Store.
I'm glad I didn't spend any money on this book, because it's not worth reading, much less buying.
The Store reads like a manifesto written by your conspiracy theory uncle after he had been handed a script for an episode from the late-1990s The Outer Limits. (In fact, I'm pretty sure this book has many similarities with a specific story from that series, but I can't recall the title.)
This book focuses on a couple of Manhattan writers, Jacob and Megan Brandeis, who - for reasons never fully explained - are hired by The Store to work in a Nebraska warehouse. Oh, the writers are out to write a book-length expose on The Store, but it's never explained why The Store would hire a couple of middle-aged writers for a physically demanding job like stock picker.
Very few of The Store's actions are explained in this book; instead they are merely conveyed in a tone intended to keep you afraid without explaining or informing (think the nightly news, only more so).
The company town, New Burg, is ominously uniform in a Stepford Wives sort of way, which I suppose counts as frightening to those who did not grow up in suburbia, but it's never made clear why The Store would build the town or why the surveillance or company control was made so oppressively obvious.
That's just in the first twenty or so pages, and that lack of explanation really makes it hard to suspend disbelief for more than a few pages.
What is also hard to believe is how The Store is portrayed both as all-knowing and all-powerful and yet also incompetent.
The Store can see and do anything it wants, including vanishing critics and ex-employees, suppressing evidence of a car accident, and more or less engaging in mid control, and yet The Store was also unable to catch the protagonist, Jacob Brandeis, when he was on the run. It also can't stop him from publishing the book, holding a press conference, etc.
So this all-powerful The Store can't hire a hitman, engage in a smear campaign, or fake up some committal documents?
There's just so much here that doesn't add up, including the conclusion.
In the end Brandeis publishes his book, and so he has won, but The Store still exists and it continues to operate. It hasn't been vanquished or defeated.
How is that a victory, exactly?
O O O
Don't read this book. Patterson's book isn't worth the bother because one, it's just not that good, and two, the same concept has been done many times before, in depth, with nuance, by better writers.
Instead of The Store, you could read any of several nonfiction books about Amazon.
Or, if you want to read about out of control consumerism, Frederick Pohl wrote a couple books titled The Space Merchants (Amazon, Wikipedia) and The Merchant's War (Amazon, Wikipedia). They are not available as ebooks but they are worth reading.
Or, if you want to read about companies taking away user rights, try Richard Stallman's dystopian The Right to Read (it's free).
Or if you want a chilling and plausible tale of a tech company gaining control through spying on everything you do, try Cory Doctorow's Scroogled (also free). I can also recommend the about half of his nonfiction that touches on the same issues (Content would be a good place to start).
There is a long list of works that are more worth your time than this book (including, in my opinion, dinosaur erotica).
image by hnnbz