Friday, January 15, 2021

Review of Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling

Tired of getting online advertisements tailored to your previous searches? Tired of having your hobbies quantified by algorithms like they know you best? Tired of the media and politics curated by user groups prior to publication? Tired of Terminator sequels? Check out Marc-Uwe Kling’s 2020 Qualityland, this is the pink dolphin dildo jazz to blow your 2020 blues away.

The love child of Nineteen Eighty-four and Slaughterouse-Five after they made love in a global, corporate 2020 bed, Qualityland is the story of Peter Jobless, and the trouble he gets into trying to return an item that his super-Amazon equivalent has deemed he needed based on his user profile. Society delineated along Facebook, social profile lines, the Queen’s aristocracy this is not, rather the newer, deceptively scarier version in which even dating has been commoditized. Peter's journey taking him from the backrooms of his scrap robot workshop to the screens of daytime television talk shows, it's proves a tough thing to return an item.

Located somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle of satire, dystopia, and social commentary, Qualityland runs the gamut of laugh out loud humor, biting cynicism, and sad-but-true mirror to reality. It’s perhaps too attuned to its times to achieve the transcendence of Nineteen Eighty-four, We, or Brave New World, nevertheless the novel has their aura, with a strong element of Vonnegut and Douglas Adams (and a splash of Kafka) changing the chemical formula as the winds of story blow.

It’s difficult to say there is anything overtly “wrong” about Qualityland. There are moments the political elements seem a little forced, but given the inherent humor and manner in which they reflect the farce that has become politics in 2020, the inclusion is wholly excusable. Kling’s Trump “impression” is by turns frighteningly realistic yet entirely indicative of how his ego show has little bearing on consensus reality yet full bearing on a narcissistic one. Watching what is happening in today’s media, one has to concede the point that indeed facts are in the eye of the beholder (vs reality). Consuming what you want to consume is not always as listening to those with more education and learning in a particular area…

Qualityland is a little gem of a novel that is sure to delight anyone with half a finger on the pulse of modern, technology-integrated life and American politics. From the categorization and quantification of basic aspects of human life to the degree to which we are automatizing our lives without thinking about it, the novel makes you reflect on your relationship to the internet and reality. A clear vision, laugh out loud funny moments, and a cleverness the reader can appreciate, it is at least worth a read even if it doesn’t have the staying power of some of its dystopian ancestors. I dare say it is the lighter side of Rob Hart's more serious 2019 The Warehouse, or at least a version which chooses sides to more comedic effect. How this novel has not garnered further attention is likely attributable to the waterfall of fiction that is the current market. Let this be a sign of awareness that one of the falling drops sparkles…

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