First published in Germany in 2017 by Ullstein Verlag, Qualityland introduces readers to Peter Jobless, a mediocre denizen of QualityLand, a nation where all aspects of life—from love to shopping—are automated by algorithms. But when Peter receives a product from TheShop that he absolutely knows he does not want and decides to return it, he shakes the very foundations of QualityLand itself.
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.