The Cloud Nightmare – Culture / Next

An astonishing effect of reality occurs on page 243: all employees are confined to their accommodation during a system update. "Anyone caught out of their accommodation during the update will be penalized with a full star." No pandemic on the horizon, but the authoritarianism of an American multinational with regard to its personnel.

Rob Hart's model for Cloud is likely to be found in high-tech companies born in the second half of the 1990s, the so-called Gafam. A kid, Gibson Wells, an idea, a two-penny philosophical-paternalistic discourse, and a fortune, which in his case amounts to 30 billion dollars. The principle: deliver consumers as quickly as possible using drones so they don't have to move. Against the backdrop of intense global warming and riots (especially the "Black Friday massacres"), people prefer to be seen rather than venturing outside.

An infiltrator and a former prison guard

Beyond having more than a hundred huge warehouses of goods, comparable to those of Amazon, MotherCloud offers its employees a whole system of life alongside the company, housing, pensions, bank, etc. Thus, the novel begins with a selection of recruits for the MotherCloud of Pennyslvanie, where will be taken the two main characters, Zinnia, actually an undercover, and Paxton, former prison guard, whose small business went bankrupt because of Cloud . It is inside the system that interests the author, his psychological analysis, rivalries and harassment mechanisms. Under the guise of providing work and a salary to a number of people who find it hard to live otherwise, the MotherCloud subjects its employees to hellish rhythms and permanent humiliation, the ultimate being the cutting day: four times a year, people are sacked massively because they are insufficiently productive. A knife that results in suicides and revolts controlled by security orders.

Nothing new under the sun when it comes to a society of surveillance and oppression. But the anticipation thriller of Rob Hart fascinates by the cynicism finished and one lets oneself carry by the blooming of the improbable bond which is tied between Paxton and Zinnia, the naive and the spy. Who is playing the other? As for the future described, it already seems there: Cloud appears as a confined delivery man.

Mothercloud by Rob Hart, Tranhooly-news.comd from English (United States) by Michael Belano, Belfond, 416 pp., € 21.90 (ebook: € 14.99).

Frédérique Roussel