Tag Archives: workplace problems

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of NETGALLEY arc The Warehouse by Rob Hart #Brainfluffbookreview #TheWarehousebookreview

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I found this a really, really uncomfortable read – and have been thinking about it a lot since I finished this one. Those of us who have increasingly got into the habit of shopping online in the comfort of our own homes need to think long and hard about the ongoing consequences on not just our local High Street – but the power we are ceding to powerful multi-national companies. This cautionary tale brought that home to me…

Paxton never thought he’d be working for Cloud, the giant tech company that’s eaten much of the American economy. Much less that he’d be moving into one of the company’s sprawling live-work facilities. But compared to what’s left outside, Cloud’s bland chainstore life of gleaming entertainment halls, open-plan offices, and vast warehouses…well, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s more than anyone else is offering. Zinnia never thought she’d be infiltrating Cloud. But now she’s undercover, inside the walls, risking it all to ferret out the company’s darkest secrets. And Paxton, with his ordinary little hopes and fears? He just might make the perfect pawn. If she can bear to sacrifice him.

In this dystopian world, there has been a widespread collapse of the economy, taking all Government services and a lot of jobs with it. Cloud is still thriving, however – so its employees are hugely grateful for the accommodation, medical services and meals that go with the job. Surely working hard in return makes it a reasonable bargain…

Hart uses three protagonists to demonstrate just how the system works – Paxton, whose own small firm was squeezed out of existence by Cloud, who also took over his own nifty invention for a pittance; Zinnia, who has been employed as an undercover agent; and Gibson, founder and figurehead of Cloud, who has his own reasons for reflecting upon his life’s work.

As I continued to read, I felt a chilly recognition. I happen to be a historian by training and one of my study areas had been the early Industrial Revolution when runaway capitalism stripped workers of any rights and turned them into foundry-fodder. It took years of grinding poverty and degradation before workers in this country were able to band together and win back the dignity of a fair day’s wage in return for a fair day’s work.

Without any kind of political spin or widening the scope of this story, Hart skilfully depicts what happens when there aren’t any checks and balances on any large conglomerate where the profit margin is the sole goal. I couldn’t put this one down as the plausible chain of events led to a state of affairs that seems unstoppably to be just over the horizon. And neither can I forget it. I find myself less enthusiastic about online shopping, these days. The ebook arc copy of The Warehouse was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell

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Jane came to talk to West Sussex Writers in June about characterisation, using the main protagonists in her two published novels The Lie of You and After the Storm. It was an enjoyable talk by a fluent, articulate speaker, but I was particularly intrigued by the sound of her new book and delighted when Jane kindly invited me along to the book launch.

womanofthehourLiz Lyon is Head of Features at StoryWorld TV. It’s exhilarating and sometimes glamorous work, but as a single mother with a demanding career, her life is a constant balancing act. Then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a web of rivalry, manipulation and deceit. If she trusts the wrong person, she could lose her job. But with everything she thought she knew crumbling around her, can she even trust herself?

Jane used to work for the likes of Anne Diamond at Breakfast TV – and she clearly is drawing on her own experiences as StoryWorld deadlines come and go and Liz is frantically trying to hold it all together. The narrative is in first person present tense which gives the book immediacy as Liz pings off the page with Jane’s fluid, readable style. I had intended to read this book over three or four days, but once I opened up the book and got engrossed, it proved very hard to put down again.

The characters are well depicted and even the nastiest character in the book – the bullying, sexist Julius Jones – has a major redeeming feature, which I appreciated. I do get very sick of pantomime-villain antagonists. What is also enjoyable, is that this book focuses on Liz’s work life, instead of her domestic and romantic life. While those elements are addressed and discussed, Liz’s focus is on her job as it consumes most of her waking life and thinking time.

However, the joy of this book isn’t just the protagonist – it is the ensemble who work at StoryWorld, who are mostly larger than life with flaws and talents to match. It is Liz who has the unenviable job of keeping them running as a team, while constantly working to punishing deadlines. As Lythell braids the different stories about the likes of Fizzy the main presenter, Betty the agony aunt, Ledley the chef and Harriet, the latest intern who has the job because her prominent father pulled strings, I found myself pulled into the febrile world of big egos, diminishing budgets and viewing figures – and absolutely loving it.

I haven’t read anything else quite like it, but I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the sequel and if you’re looking for an entertaining, holiday read this summer that will keep you captivated from the start to the finish, then consider this one. It’s great fun.
10/10