Book Review: QualityLand by Marc-Uwe Kling

Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling

Rating:  ★★★★

If you took the humor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and mashed it up with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, I think QualityLand is what you would get.

From the moment I started reading I found this almost impossible to put down. I am always a little nervous when reading a translation, because some books I don’t think translate as well no matter how talented the translator. I needn’t have worried with this one. The translator (Jamie Searle Romanelli) did an excellent job. At times I was even surprised that the book was originally written in German, since the setting felt very much like the US.

It takes us a little while to get to the heart of the plot, and I didn’t always feel like all the viewpoints we were given were necessary, but all the view points were so entertaining that I didn’t mind so much. The plot is this, TheShop – The World’s Most Popular Online Retailer – has sent a product to Peter Jobless. Peter Jobless (his surname comes from his father’s occupation at the time of his conception) believes the product was sent in error. He is now on a mission to return it. But TheShop, won’t let him. After all, TheShop does not make mistakes. It’s in his profile. Of course he wants the item.

It sounds ludicrous, but it’s entertaining, and clever to boot. There are so many topics the author managed to comment on, everything from privacy, to evolving technology, to consumerism and politics. And he managed to do it without sounding preachy. That didn’t make the result any less terrifying though.

The characters were a lot of fun. Peter is an average Joe kind of guy with a soft spot for defective machinery. Kiki, a character we meet later in the book, absolutely stole the show once she entered. I adored her. She’s a pull no punches, tell it like it is, kind of girl, with many shades of gray.

The chapters are short and the pace moves pretty quickly. It does a fantastic job of world building without lengthy info dumps. Humor is a subjective thing, so I would recommend checking out Amazon’s Look Inside or Sample feature before purchasing. If you aren’t laughing at the first chapter (maybe even the first page) this might not be the book for you.

Otherwise, a relevant and entertaining satire that I highly recommend!

QualityLand releases in the US on January 7, 2020 and can be found on GoodReads or preordered on Amazon.

Top Ten Tuesday: Childhood Favorites

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Edit: I’ve just realized I once again jumped ahead a week. Please forgive me! I don’t know where my brain is at.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This was a hard post for me.  Not really because I didn’t read as a kid (I definitely did) but just remembering what exactly I was reading.  Also- a lot of childhood favorites I’d probably feel different about today.  For example, Charlotte’s Web, or the traumatizing end to Where the Red Fern Grows?  The horrible treatment of children by Roald Dahl… Sigh.  (Why are kids books so darn sad?)  Anyway- I probably missed a lot, but here are ones I remember that I don’t think I’d change my mind about as an adult.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – I loved everything about this story as a kid and I still love everything about it as an adult.  I love Charlie’s relationship with Grandpa Joe, I love the ending, I love the poetic justice all the other kids receive.  I also love the movie.  The Gene Wilder version (sorry Johnny).

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley – Like most young girls, I was horse obsessed.  I’m pretty sure this book does not have the happiest ending, but I loved everything that came before that.

Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain – Here they are.  The only wholesome books I’ve ever read.  (I kid.)  These were a staple in my house.  My mom used to read them to me and my sister before bed tonight.  I still have these books.  I read them to my daughter so they hold a lot of sentimental value.

The Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen – Can I count these as my first Science Fantasy books?  I loved Ms. Frizzle.  I loved all the kids and the illustrations, but especially our unfortunate friend Arthur.

Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene – I spent the summers at my aunt’s house in Ohio, and she had like the first 40 books in the Nancy Drew series.  And I’m pretty sure I read most of them, and loved them all.  She’s like Scooby Doo, but you know, human.

Choose Your Own Adventure by Miscellaneous – I’m low key thrilled these are making a sort of comeback (well, I know I’ve seen a few new copies kicking around at B&N anyway).  I LOVED these books as a kid.  I loved you could read through them pretty quickly, I loved making a game of finding the longest story, I loved finding my way to new endings.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – I love this book so much I actually remember where I was when I bought it.  It was a book wholesaler somewhere in Virginia.  I didn’t include the other two books (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) just because I didn’t read them until I was in my 20s.  I knew it was a series but it took Pullman a long time to put out the other books and I never could find them whenever I looked.  This was probably my first foray into Fantasy and started a life-long obsession with Polar Bears.  (It’s also one of those super grim children’s books I referred to earlier, and it would be hard for me to re-read them today.)  Side note- I still own the original copy I purchased way back when.  It’s mostly in tact and sits on my mother’s bookshelf.

Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar – These books are hysterical and bizarre.  I can’t wait to read them with my daughter when she graduates from picture books.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz – If you were a kid in the 90s you’ve probably read these at least once.  I probably read them way more times than is normal.  The illustrations freak me out and that one story about the hook in the car door still bothers me (and causes me serious paranoia about my back seat in the dark).

Goosebumps by R.L. Stine – Much like Scary Stories, if you were a kid in the 90s, you probably read Goosebumps too.  I gobbled these up faster than Stine could write them (and he wrote them pretty fast).  I especially looked forward to Scholastic book fairs because I knew it usually meant I could get a new Goosebumps.  I totally watched the new movie as an adult and mostly enjoyed it.  Also, here is a really funny post I found reimagining Goosebumps for adults based on their covers.

Ugh- feeling so nostalgic right now.  The 90s were a good time.  What’s on your Childhood Favorites list?

 

Book Review: Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating:  ★★★★

Release Date: May 28th, 2019

Publisher: Solaris

Length: 105 pages

I absolutely loved this novella from the moment I picked it up to the moment I put it down. It starts out very light. The protagonist is a funny guy. He’s lost on an alien artifact humans have been calling “the Crypts.”

The story is told in two timelines, present and past. The past timeline outlines how he came to be lost in the Crypts and tells us a little about the state of the world before he left earth. In the present, he’s wandering the Crypts encountering all manner of alien life.

The writing was very good. I enjoyed the stream of consciousness style here, and that isn’t always my thing. Tchaikovsky employed it very well. This was a context in which it made sense, and it was easy to follow. Another note about the writing, the present timeline is written in present tense. I know for some readers that can be an issue, but I enjoyed it and thought it brought an added level of excitement to the story.

The pace, initially, is ambling. There are a few exciting things happening, but what drew me in was the humor. Gary Rendell is just a guy you want to hang out with. There are some definite elements of horror, but they were balanced well with the humor. As we near the end the tone becomes darker and darker. Nothing is what it seems.

I have a feeling some of the science in this science fiction has no foundation in reality (disclaimer, I know nothing about physics), but there were several fun little nods to biology. Rendell comments on the way the various aliens are formed and how and why they might have developed that way and I thought it was a nice way to flesh out the MC. There were also a few nods to human psychology, and those passages were some of my favorites.

Overall I thought it was inventive and creative. I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy elements of horror with their science fiction or fans of Tchaikovsky’s other work.

Thank you to NetGalley and Solaris for providing me with an eARC to review.

Walking to Aldebaran can be found on GoodReads and preordered on Amazon.