Set in the not too distant future, Marc-Uwe Kling’s new novel unravels the world of QualityLand, where every aspect of society has been optimised by the use of androids and formidable algorithms. It is a place that trades exclusively in superlatives: the latest blockbuster film is ‘The Fastest and the Most Furious Ever’. Since hackers breached the database of fingerprints and faces, kissing the screen of your QualityPad has become the main mode of identity recognition. A pregnancy ultrasound is no longer a mere gender reveal – for prospective parents computers can now plot a projected life cycle, offering a glimpse of the foetus’s future, daddy issues and all. Tinder has been surpassed by Kinder, a dating app that predicts what the offspring of you and your valentine will look like. No point in sticking together if your baby is going to have an elliptical head.
Audio assistants such as Alexa and Siri have taken corporeal form, becoming worms that nestle in your ear canal and whisper sweet nothings to you. The class system has been replaced with a tiered structure reminiscent of China’s social credit system. Citizens are ranked from one to a hundred and the level they reach affects everything from career prospects to romantic entanglements.
Peter Jobless is in the single-digit realm, making him one of the people dubbed ‘Useless’. QualityPeople have done away with traditional surnames and now simply take a parent’s occupation as their name. Peter, whose personal ear worm is called Nobody, is a metal scrapper tasked with disposing of defunct machines.