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Excerpt from Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Qualityland

by Marc-Uwe Kling

Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling X
Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling
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  • Published:
    Jan 2020, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

CALLIOPE 7. 3

Peter is an only child, partly due to the fact that his parents have a virtual reality video of his birth. His mother once told him, "Every time I felt the urge to have another baby, your father just showed me the recording. It was a great cure."

The human memory is merciful. Technology is not. One day, even Peter watched the VR video of his birth, and it scarred him irreparably. It was also probably a mistake to have shared the video with Sandra.

If Peter and Sandra had been able to afford an optimized child, they would have called it Jacob. Sandra really wanted a boy. They had agreed on the forename. But the fact that the baby would have been called Jacob Used-Goods-Trader or, even worse, Jacob Scrap-Metal-Press-Operator had, most likely, been the main problem. Peter gets it. He wasn't that fond of his job either.

Four days after Sandra left him, he finds himself without much to do in his shop again. Peter's shop was one of those that people tend to walk by and wonder how on earth they can stay afloat. Peter often wondered that himself. His grandfather had had the metal press installed in the small hallway due to lack of space— the hallway that connected the shop to the kitchen-cum-bathroom and the bunk bed. This meant that Peter had to walk through the scrap-metal press several times a day.

Today, he is doing what he often does when there's nothing to do: he is standing inside the scrap-metal press and thinking about how it could all be over with one simple command. Not that he really wants to do it, but just the knowledge that he could at any moment is quite liberating. In two hours and eight minutes' time, he has an important appointment. He should get ready, smarten himself up. But he doesn't. He has been standing there, motionless, in the press for 3.2 minutes when the smart door announces: "Peter, you have a customer." Then the door adds in a whisper: "Peter, please come out of the scrap-metal press. One of my anonymous surveys has shown that 81.92 percent of all your customers find this behavior disturbing."

Peter sighs.

"Thank you, door."

He goes into the shop area. A very pretty female android is standing there, or perhaps one should say, more fittingly, a very well-constructed female android. But in truth, all androids are pretty. They don't have any weight issues, or troublesome skin, and only have hair in places where hair should be ... A very enviable species.

"Good morning, Mr. Jobless," says the android. "I'm sure you know who I am."

Peter shakes his head. He realizes with surprise that the machine addressed him formally. Presumably it's one of her defects.

"I am Calliope 7.3. The world-renowned e-poet. Composer of the successful historical novel The Intern and the President."

Peter blinks at the android uncomprehendingly.

"You do know that there is an art form known as the novel? " asks Calliope. "A novel is, to put it simply, a collection of words assembled in such a way that they form a story."

Peter nods.

"Okay then," says the android. "For a minute I was starting to think you were stupid."

Peter shakes his head.

"You presumably also know that, for some time now, the most successful novels have been composed by e-poets, or in other words by AIs that calculate the compilation of words most fitting to the market? "

Peter nods.

"Well, I'm Calliope 7.3. My first novel topped the QualityLand bestseller lists for sixteen weeks!"

Peter nods.

"What's wrong? Can't you speak? " asks Calliope. "You, man! Speaky English? "

Peter nods.

The android rolls her eyes.

"What can I do for you, Calliope 7.3? " asks Peter finally. "I'd like to have myself scrapped."

"Why? Was your latest novel not on the QualityLand bestseller lists for weeks on end? "

Excerpted from Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling. Copyright © 2017 by Marc-Uwe Kling. Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

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