Kling’s dialogue is witty and sharp, the relationship between Peter and the droids is handled with a great deal of humour and warmth, and more often than not Kling lands his jokes—Qualityland is incredibly funny—a rare feat for a science fiction novel ... it’s Kling’s insight into artificial intelligence that, alongside the jokes and absurd set-pieces, makes Qualityland such a rewarding read.
... the book is very readable, and there is quite a bit of acerbic wit to keep the subject matter from becoming too heavy ... the plot unfolds in a way that surprises, which is quite refreshing when dealing with storylines which create a cautionary tale about corporate overreach ... I’ll confess that I dragged my feet in reading the first few chapters, not certain where exactly they were heading, and equally uncertain that I was fully engaged. Peter Jobless initially seems a rather dull character who is wholly content to allow himself to be pushed around by algorithms that do him no favours, but as the story develops, it swiftly becomes apparent that there is more to Peter than a first glance would suggest.
While Kling seeks to warn us how dehumanising digital innovation can be, he doesn’t make us care about what QualityLand’s citizens have lost. Scenes are built around gags, not characters ... Less a novel than a hit-and-miss riff on capitalist ills, QualityLand’s style and structure make more sense when you learn that Marc-Uwe Kling is also a standup.
There is a lot to chew on in QualityLand—the power of the internet, the malicious use (intentional and otherwise) of personal data, artificial intelligence (both Turing and Asimov get a workout here), the hypocrisy of commerce and politics. But despite the satirical setting, which can and does show these issues in action, Kling still often feels the need to spell things out to his readers ... QualityLand is often funny but at other times it is, as Peter himself observes at one point, ‘too true to be funny’. Kling has plenty of points to make, most of them about a bunch of genies that are well and truly already out the bottle. But in using this type of over-the-top satire, Kling hopes to lull his readers into a sense of security...before ramming his points home ... And in setting those points within a standard hero’s quest narrative (Peter the everyman takes on the system), he provides some little spark of hope that readers who get the point can actually make a difference.
... a hilarious romp through an absurd hypercapitalist dystopia ... Sharp and biting, the most implausible aspect of Kling’s novel is the relative note of optimism that ends it. This is spot-on satire.
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.