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M. H. Thaung

Author of A Quiet Rebellion: Guilt

7 Works 29 Members 5 Reviews

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Works by M. H. Thaung

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In 'The Warehouse', Rob Hart delivers a horribly plausible picture of a near-future dystopian America and an intriguing, I-need-to-know-how-this-will-work-out thriller. What I liked most was that 'The Warehouse' doesn't fall into the simple black-and-white, good-guy bad-guy mode that so many techno-thrillers have. There are no simple answers here and no oversimplified people either. The result is an engaging, thought-provoking piece of Speculative Fiction that left me wanting to read more of Rob Hart's work.

The story takes place in an America where poverty is widespread as the effects of climate change destroy traditional ways of making a living or even living outdoors at all. America is now a nation where those who have money hunker down at home and have what they need delivered by drones owned and run by Cloud, a sort of Amazon on steroids. Those who don't have money try hard to win and keep a job at Cloud. Most of them live and work in MotherClouds, enormous warehouse compounds built in remote areas of America, well away from towns or cities.

The MotherCloud setup is more than an extrapolation of Amazon work practices. It mimics the neo-serfdom / modern slavery of some Chinese factory towns, made worse by the addition of a Corporate America 'Everything is good here' propaganda gloss

The plot explores Cloud in three ways. Firstly through posts on the public blog of Gibson Wells, the founder of Cloud, who, knowing that he is dying, wants to share the real story of how Cloud came to be, the good that it's done and the bright future that it offers America and Americans. Secondly through the eyes of Paxton, an inventor who used to run a small company that Cloud put out of business and who now needs to take the only job he can get, as a worker in a MotherCloud. Finally, we see Cloud through the eyes of Zinnia, who wasn't looking for a job because she already had one, to infiltrate Cloud and who gets herself hired to the same MotherCloud as Paxton.

Of the three voices, I found Gibson Wells' the most disturbing. The book opens with his first blog post. It only takes a few lines to establish his direct but folksy style and tell me that he's a skilled manipulator who can't be trusted. Here's how it starts.

'WELL, I'M DYING.

A lot of men make it to the end of their life and they don't know that they've reached it. Just the lights go off one day. Here I am with a deadline.

I don't have time to write a book about my life, like everyone has been telling me I should, so this will have to do. A blog seems pretty fitting, doesn't it? I haven't been sleeping much lately so this gives me something to keep myself occupied at night.

Anyway, sleep is for people who lack ambition.

At least there'll be some kind of a written record. I want you to hear it from me rather than someone looking for a buck, making educated guesses. In my line of work, I can tell you: guesses are rarely educated.

Gibson Wells is a wonderful, if frightening, invention. In him. Rob Hart has captured perfectly the tone I've heard from many CEO types, framing the narrative of their own success. It's spookily accurate and made all the more disturbing by the folksy simplicity of the language. Everything seems calm and reasonable and even benign until you consider who benefits and see the bladed steel camouflaged by a 'We're all just folks here' smile.

We get a different view of Cloud from Paxton, who is hired into the security section because he'd worked for years as a Prison Guard while getting the money together to start his business. Through him we get a behind-the-scenes view of how order is kept at Cloud. We also get to experience what it's like, to step out of poverty and hopelessness in a job that gives him, not just a place to live and food in his belly, but the dignity of being a valued part of something bigger than himself, even if that thing was responsible for destroying the company he'd built.

Zinnia gives us the worker drone view, even if she's actually a hornet in the hive. She is assigned to the warehouse floor, racing against the clock to pick items from the shelves and take them to the right conveyor belt. Through her work, we see how the workers are surveilled, measured and pushed to exhausting levels of performance every day. We also get to see Cloud through the eyes of someone who doesn't want to be there, who knows that Cloud has something to hide.

I became completely immersed in Cloud. Most of me hated the idea of it but part of me had to admit that it was a better option for its workers than being out in the punishing heat, homeless and hungry. I wanted to say that those shouldn't be the only two options but I found myself wondering what I'd do if they were.

'The Warehouse' works very well as a thriller. You can see the collision between Gibson Wells, Paxton and Zinnia coming but you are kept guessing about how and when and what it will mean. There are some good surprises along the way and the ending was as textured and thought-provoking as the rest of the story.

I strongly recommend the audiobook version of 'The Warehouse'. The narration is unusual but effective: Emily Woo Zeller is the main narrator but with the voice of Paxton cut in during dialogue and with a wonderfully folksy narrator reading Gibson Wells' blog.
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MikeFinnFiction | 1 other review | Aug 5, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Long-suffering apprentice, Iggy, is desperate to get her trade qualifications certified, but her teacher, Uncle Vernon, is reluctant to support her applications. Following a disaster in the workshop, Iggy finds sponsorship for the "Sapphire Solution" project with a member of the aristocracy. She finds herself caught up in a criminal conspiracy involving the Crown and members of the nobility, including the reformed criminal Lord Richard, who becomes an unlikely ally. The Sapphire Solution is a fun, fast-paced young-adult, steampunk adventure. It is the second book in the series (the first novel being The Diamond Solution) and follows on from where the first ends, but can be read independently without issue. An entertaining read.… (more)
 
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SarahEBear | 2 other reviews | May 16, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The Sapphire Solution is the sequel to The Diamond Solution by M. H.Thaung. It’s a Steampunk novel which seems to mean very advanced inventions being developed in Victorian times, leading to all kinds of intrigue. The Sapphire Solution begins immediately after the end of The Diamond Solution, with new characters, but also with all the old characters. I received this book from LibraryThing to review and was surprised to receive The Diamond Solution as well. It turned out to be important because The Sapphire Solution would be incomprehensible if you hadn’t read The Diamond Solution first.

Lord Richard Hayes is the main character in both books. The plot is so convoluted, with so many characters and story lines that it is very hard to follow. It takes place in a fictional country called Lower Grenia. There are ongoing political problems between Lower Grenia and Calesia, another fictional country. Lord Hayes is in almost constant trouble with everyone in his life, from the Council of Lords to the police to his servants to his parents who are in Calesia. A possible romance between Lord Hayes and Iggy, a young woman chemist working on the Sapphire Solution, never really advances. The story wandered around and then stopped. The writing is very readable but the overall story needs major editing.
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j.alice | 2 other reviews | Apr 23, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Thumbs up for the clever premise of applying old world alchemy to modern day issues in this second novel of the series. Its atmosphere has the bewitching ambience of Harry Potter’s world, but stands on its own as original. Following the story requires energy and attention, as multiple storylines must be knitted together to bring it to conclusion. Aesthetically, more white space on the page could help readers digest the story and rest the eye enough to keep them turning pages. One more edit would put more luster on the jewel this series could be.… (more)
 
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Samadhi0 | 2 other reviews | Mar 30, 2023 |

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Works
7
Members
29
Popularity
#460,290
Rating
4.2
Reviews
5
ISBNs
17