Eric Boss reviews QUALITYLAND

Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling
Grand Central

1 cup condensed 1984 by George Orwell
½ cup Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, pureed
¼ cup Douglas Adams, finely chopped
¼ cup Christopher Moore, grated
2 Tbsp Carl Hiassen
2 Tbsp George Saunders
2 Tbsp William Gibson, divided (reserve 1 for garnish)
Combine ingredients in a cultural processor and pulse until completely blended.
Plate portions according to each guest’s ability to absorb moderate amounts of combined humor, horror and grim future prognostications. Season to taste.

Pushing the limits of absurdity is a fine art. When it’s combined with a hard-eyed look at contemporary social behavior and the commercial exploitation of it, it becomes a gloomy augury. Algorithms and their utilization to predict consumer proclivities are already the subject of debate, but there’s so much farther to go in the discussion. When your purchases are predetermined for you without your input, it’s bad enough, but when you’re prodded into sexual relationships based on your profile and urged to cast political votes gauged on your facial responses to television ads or conversations you’ve had with friends (and strangers), things have gone too far. Don’t you think? It’s closer than we may realize.

The author has masterfully combined profoundly frightening predictions of the future of merchandising with a truly twisted sense of humor that meshes perfectly with the premise. A feckless non-hero with no social, commercial or political power whatsoever is pushed beyond the limits of his forbearance by the unheralded, unwanted delivery of an object so far from what he really needs or wants and is then refused the right to return it takes matters into his own hands, with hilarious result. He’s every-human and we all know just how he feels, because I suspect we’ve all experienced something of what he is dealing with, just in a measure we have yet to reach.

Combining elements of all the recipe ingredients in a creepy but amusing salmagundi Kling has produced a modern masterpiece that may stand among the works of the writers referenced above. Funny as hell, scary as the devil. Every online addict should be made to read this one and be quizzed when finished.

Shelf Talker: Grim, funny and profound at once, this quirky but frighteningly astute prediction of where our wireless, instant-gratification-driven culture is going should be required reading for anyone with an electronic communications device.