James Patterson and Richard DiLallo. The Store. Boston: Little Brown, 2017. Print.
James Patterson is almost a publishing company himself. He has a stable of co-authors and writers in a variety of genres. I believe a new book with his name on it appears about every 6-8 weeks. He clearly supervises more than he himself actually writes.
Any reader will be tempted to compare The Store with The Circle. Certainly one could an IQ test analogy puzzle: The Circle: Google::The Store: Amazon.
The Store faintly echoes 1984. It is set in 2020 and The Store (thestore.com) sells virtually everything. While it has warehouses all over, its headquarters is in America’s heartland, New Burg, Nebraska. Only we discover that New Burg is indeed a new burg and a complete company town. Just as Amazon and other online outlets try to discover all they can about their buyers and users through algorithms, items purchased, and pages viewed, so The Store keeps tabs on its employees with video cameras everywhere—not only for security on the sidewalks, but even in the homes they rent and sell.
When writer Jacob Brandeis and his wife are both downsized from their jobs in New York City, Jacob takes and offer from The Store. He is a writer, after all, and The Store began by selling books. When he arrived in town, it seems that everyone—the police, the librarian, all the neighbors—already know his name and the names of his wife and kids.
Drones fly everywhere. While many of them are delivery drones, others are spy drones. At one point he is enjoying looking at two starts through the tree limbs out the window of a friend’s house. The next morning he still sees them and discovers that they are two video cameras aimed at the house.
One neighbor couple seems to be bothered by such things as much as the Brandeises, but most workers at The Store and in New Burg seem content. Suddenly, The Store transfers the other couple to San Francisco. Brandeis suspects it is for some kind of psychological reprogramming. Brandeis takes a vacation to San Francisco, but they are not there.
Later he runs into them, and they tell him that they were in San Jose. Now they seem as Big-Brother-ish and Stepford Wives-like as the rest of The Store’s crew. No freedom. No privacy.
Total conformity. Everyone appears happy, so no one cares. Even his wife and children eventually drink The Store’s Kool-Aid.
The Store is written more like a young adult (YA) novel. The chapters are quite short. The action seems almost breathless. There is a lot of suspense. (Divergent anyone?) There is one thing that will keep it off the YA shelves: the language. When Brandeis and others get angry, there are plenty of expletives.
With some faint parallels to 1984, the reader might even guess what Brandeis calls the exposé of The Store which he is writing. Still, no one is going to confuse The Store with Orwell’s classic. It is a lively page turner with a typical Patterson twist at the end. It is fun, even if comes off an assembly line.
P.S. One day after this reviewer finished this book, the Wall Street Journal carried an article titled “Amazon Takes Over the World.” Art imitates life?