James Patterson and Richard DiLallo have collaborated on another piece that shines a light on the potential monopoly that could become the world with a turn towards mega-stores in the coming years. Jacob Brandeis and his family live in the ever-moving world of New York City. He’s a struggling writer, seeking to bring home the bacon with whatever small job he can score, but Jacob wants more. He has seen much of his life changed by The Store, a mega-facility that sells anything from fertiliser to chocolate, books to motor oil, and everything in between. With brick and mortar shops unable to compete, they struggle to stay afloat, as America has taken to turning to the mega-store and away from personal shopping. As The Store makes its presence stronger, Jacob and his wife decide to take the plunge and get inside the machine, if only to better understand what it’s all about. Accepting work with The Store in New Burg, Nebraska, Jacob takes his family and is soon witness to just how far-reaching his new employer can be. New Burg is a mix of Orwell’s 1984–complete with surveillance cameras and listening devices—and some Stepford community, where neighbours are devoid of emotion and want to help with everything. Jacob has come to see that The Store seeks to control all aspects and become the solution for the entire population. Not buying into the hype, Jacob begins to pen his own book about the truth behind the curtain, but is fully aware that getting the message out will be difficult, since The Store handles all book publishing too. Sacrificing his personal safety and that of his family, Jacob tries to make his way back to NYC, where an editor friend of his might be able to get the message out. Trouble is, even with a manuscript, how receptive with the public be to something Anti-Store? Patterson and DiLallo keep the reader thinking in this mid-length novel that keeps the questions piling up and forces a degree of self-reflection. Those who enjoy Patterson’s work may like this one, though it does not have the thrill or mystery aspect that I find suits him so well.
Having recently completed a piece about the importance of physical books, I entered this reading experience ready to see some similar themes. Patterson and DiLallo have worked together before and do some amazing work at not only entertaining the reader, but selling their ideas. While not an attempt to push readers (and the public) away from mega-store shopping, it does poke fun at what might be the over-Amazoning that has begun in the world. What was once a place for books can now provide the best condoms at a cheap price (and with drone shipping *flashing sign*). It keeps the reader thinking, if only for a moment, about how this all came about. Jacob Brandeis is an interesting enough character, though he does seem to have a generic sense to him; that man who is always fighting The Man in order to shed light on some evil. Still, the interactions and dialogue he has with both his family and friends helps pave the way to better understand those who are not entirely sold by point and click shopping. Some of the Stepford characters are just that, mindless drone-like beings who serve their jobs and likely go home for their meal pill before turning in for bed. But I think the authors were not looking for strong character connection, but rather a keen interest in the theme of this story. The book sells the idea of emasculating the shopping and owning experience, almost a communist collective where everything is in one store (and all clothes are beige), without pounding too hard into the psyche of the reader. Subtle approaches prove effective here and the authors do well to make their point, without dragging the reader to the trough. I enjoy this quick read and think it would make for an interesting morning filler, though is by no means one to be placed atop any pedestal.
Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DiLallo, as you have made a wonderful point here and sold me on the concept. Now then, to do some real-life shopping.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons