QUALITYLAND by Marc-Uwe  Kling


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An outcast in a supposedly utopian future tries to figure out what’s wrong with the world and how to fix it. Join the club.

Well, sure, why not? Kling, the author of a bunch of texts about living with a kangaroo that got translated into a podcast and then turned into three books (all in German, so Google Translate is your friend), enters mainstream author mode with this bitter satire of consumer culture and the modern political sphere. In this kind of book, there’s typically an ordinary guy to represent us, the reader—think Arthur Dent as opposed to Ford Prefect in The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Our main guy here is Peter Jobless, although the point of view bounces around all over the place. Welcome to QualityLand, where everything, from your stuff to your love life, has been optimized for you by algorithm. If you couldn't tell from his moniker, Peter is a bit of a screw-up, just coming off a long-term relationship with Sandra Admin, who’s happily dumped him based on the admonishment of QualityLand's dating service, QualityPartner, which matched them up automatically in the first place. Black humor abounds: There's John of Us, the political candidate who happens to be an android, and TheShop, which essentially serves as the company store for the world. The interstitial bits—news bulletins, guidebook entries, and the inevitable comments section—are particularly funny and give context to QualityLand's odd rules and tics. Despite the novel's comic approach, the nature of the narrative is heavily political, holding up a black mirror to our own troubled times. In addition to the pitch-black political satire, the novel's portrayal of economic inequality highlights a problem that wreaks havoc on our own lives. The characters aren't particularly likable and the narrative is a bit unhinged, but these days, a little comic relief might do us all some good.

How much you enjoy this is in direct proportion to how much trouble you think we’re all in. Sleep tight.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5387-3296-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2019