Book Review: QualityLand by Marc-Uwe Kling
By: Jessica Sullivan
Marc-Uwe Kling writes, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” In this future world, everything runs smoothly. A person doesn’t need to worry about work, leisure, and relationships; QualityLand takes the guesswork out of all of that. The self-driving cars know where you want to go, QualityPartner knows who suits you best, and TheShop, using a foolproof algorithm, will automatically deliver products that it knows you either consciously or unconsciously want. The main character, Peter Jobless, is a machine scrapper who can’t bring himself to scrap imperfect machines sent to him. One day, Peter is sent an item from TheShop that he does not want. Upon trying to return the item, TheShop won’t accept it, as doing so would admit that their algorithm isn’t foolproof, which would call into question the foundation of QualityLand itself.
In this world, capitalism has run rampant and runs the society. Kling portrays the cyclical nature of poverty and adversity well, from the surnames of the characters being their fathers/mothers’ occupation at the time of their birth to the different levels that a person could be, and the advantages and disadvantages that come with that. Specifically, those who fall below a Level 10 are called “Useless,” and are deemed to have no advantages to society, whereas those with a high level, and thus, typically, a higher income, are able to evade the police when the do something wrong, and even control the pedestrian walk signal. In this world, improving social standing is critical. Attending a workout class or getting a promotion will earn points, which upon reaching enough points, would advance you to the next level. The opposite is also true. Getting dumped or losing a job would lose points, and can affect your level. While it would seem that focusing on things that improve your physical, emotional, and mental state would be a good thing, when mixed with a capitalistic society, it’s very easy the constantly thinking about what else you could be doing, instead of enjoying where one is in life.
QualityLand is like a modern-day 1984. It was originally published in German and is Kling’s first book to be translated into English. It’s a clever and illuminating satire that follows in the footsteps of Kurt Vonnegut and George Orwell. Additionally, QualityLand is currently in production as an HBO series. It’s thought-provoking and enjoyable, full of dry humor and enjoyable characters. While it’s eerily similar to today’s day and age, it’s a fun, funny book with something to say.
Picture source: https://vimeo.com/233904527