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3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  1,104 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
Bad is the new good. In the not too distant future the European Union enacts its most far reaching human rights legislation ever. The incompetent have been persecuted for too long. After all it's not their fault they can't do it right, is it? So it is made illegal to sack or otherwise discriminate against anyone for being incompetent. And now a murder has been committed an ...more
Paperback, 291 pages
Published 2004 by Gollancz (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dec 17, 2007 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of satire, Red Dwarf fans
Incompetence begins fabulously, and I'm not just talking about the first page, or even sentence. Take a close look at the cover: notice the misplaced "e"? That's what caught my eye at the bookstore, and having never before heard of Rob Grant, I bought the book based solely on the strength of that cover alone. "Surely," I thought, "anyone who can purposely misspell the word 'incompetence' on the cover of a novel is a writer to be dealt with." In many ways I was right, but in many ways I think thi ...more
Apr 08, 2012 Holly rated it it was amazing
Probably the most sarcastic book I've ever read. Could not stop laughing.
Nov 20, 2010 Rumi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've been keeping this book on my "currently-reading" shelf forever because I wanted to give it a worthy review, with examples of all the things that led me to believe that this is the worst book I've ever read.

What a shame that a good idea can turn out mediocre because someone didn't have the patience to work on it properly. I've noticed that a lot with books and movies recently. I was so eager to read this book after I saw it in the bookstore. I expected something splendidly satiric from it, b
Thomas Jancis
May 14, 2009 Thomas Jancis rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who want a fun read.
Recommended to Thomas by: Foggy
This, according to a friend, was the funniest book he had ever read. He had been looking for it for years. As we walked away from the shop, he was chortling away as he read.
It was funny but the world’s best? I guess it must be more about the time he read it.
Nothing really “happens” in this book. The love interest just “is” and appears in one scene. The great mystery of the killer is kind of obvious.
But you’re not reading this for the biting plot. You’re reading it for the setups and moments of h
Apr 28, 2009 Martin rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who get sarcasm (i.e. not Americans)
The author obviously has a flair for writing. Unfortunately this flair may be limited to haiku, as on or about the eighth line I started to get sever pain in the front right lobe of my brain: This is the first time I have ever experienced deja vu as other than an existential event.

The first chapter was tough going. The author has a particular style and likes to hammer it home paragraph after paragraph remorselessly. Things got better for me further in, but I think this was a combination of my ac
Jun 19, 2015 Matthew rated it liked it
Incompetence is a comedy noir-esque novel by Rob Grant, best known for his work as one half of Grant Naylor, the writers of Red Dwarf. Set in the near future where United States of Europe Article 13199 has banned basing hiring and firing practices on a person's competence level, Harry Salt - deep undercover agent for an British/European intelligence agency - has to unravel the mysterious death of fellow cell member Klingferm, committed by the anonymous and dangerous Jack Appleseed.

If that sounds
Oct 24, 2016 Ben rated it liked it
One half of Grant Naylor, creator of Red Dwarf. Odd book this. Some laugh out loud slapstick, some biting eurosceptic satire but ultimately not much of a story. It's, loosely, an old school detective story set in a near future, dystopian, rule-bound United States of Europe. Ultimately rather unsatisfying if very amusing in parts.
Martha Aldridge
Feb 16, 2017 Martha Aldridge rated it it was ok
Cute idea but it got old quickly. Writes better with Grant Naylor.
Katia Maria
Jan 07, 2017 Katia Maria rated it did not like it
Unquestionably the worst book I have ever read...
Martin Willoughby
Jan 07, 2017 Martin Willoughby rated it it was amazing
I haven't laughed this much for ages. Absolutely hilarious.
Oct 05, 2016 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Whimsical, and definitely amusing in places. I found the central premise a bit odd, since it seemed to be implying that the logical next step after outlawing racism and sexism was to outlaw meritocracy, and I'm not sure I agree. All in all, a nice light-hearted read but I'm not sure I'd rush to recommend it.
David Jones
Apr 24, 2013 David Jones rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 26, 2010 Robert rated it liked it
Shelves: dystopia
Incompetence is a book that loves to rant. In fact, it is about 85% rant, and 15% plot. Which makes it a bit difficult to review without giving too much plot away. In a nutshell, the story is set in a near future where the EU and political correctness have led to discrimination based on competence being abolished. The result? A society where the vast majority of things don't quite work, and most people are annoying nincompoops. In the middle of all this, a kind of super secret agent is following ...more
Jack Reed
Aug 06, 2016 Jack Reed rated it it was ok
When I first waddled into a small bookstore located in Lanzarote, this little book caught my eye straight away as it seemed like it would be perfect: a detective novel with a twist of black humour that seemed unknown to most people. Immediatley, I payed the 4 euro it cost to buy it; I'm honestly disapointed, and about 1/3 of the way in I dropped reading it.

Don't get me wrong, after the first chapter I was hooked; I was near to tears in laughter and it left plenty of room for it to pick up and ge
Dec 07, 2013 Sylvian rated it really liked it
This book for bought for me by a friend on the last day of college. In it contained a note explaining how I should still be myself regardless of what the rest of the world is like.

Interestingly enough, I see myself as a particularly incompetent person, I feel I'm terrible at my job, awful at keeping girlfriends and generally unable to grasp social situations without over-thinking everything.

So what a relief Rob Grant came along. Rob Grant, Rob Grant. Rob Grant was one of the original writers of
John Kirk
I enjoyed this. The ostensible plot is really just a framing sequence to allow a sequence of interludes, but that's ok since they're funny. The internal logic doesn't always work, e.g. at one point the protagonist gets stuck in a lift and blames himself for being foolish enough to trust it, but later he criticises a paramedic for choosing the stairs over the lift. Also, even if there are plenty of incompetent people being given jobs, what happened to all the competent people? Colony handled that ...more
Rob Kitchin
May 06, 2012 Rob Kitchin rated it liked it
This is a somewhat of a curious book. A kind of futuristic, comic noir. Its strengths are some very well written, clever and genuinely funny scenes. The weaknesses the unevenness and disjointedness of the whole work and the fact that story is pretty much all surface and no depth. Essentially the book consists of a set of linked set pieces framed within a future united Europe that is overly bureaucratic and largely dysfunctional. Everything is subordinate to the gags in the set pieces, which mean ...more
Kristine Morris
ha ha ha. Truly funny. A very good break from what I am currently reading....short stories by Alice Munro. This felt a bit like Vonnegut and Tom Robbins together. I loved the vegetable shoes, NSS or non-specific stupidity and the episode with the train ticket clerk and the bell. Reading the entire chapter about the Paris car rental was frustrating only because that type if incompetence is only too real. And I love Harry's internal rage..."I am prepared to hire another car. Can we do that? Can we ...more
Sep 03, 2013 Dark-Draco rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, humour
A hilarious, well written romp of a book.

It's the story of Harry Salt, a dectective cum spy, who lives in a world straining under the burden of a European Directive that makes it impossible to fire someone just because they are incompetent at their job. Hence pilots with vertigo, a geriatric male bunny girl and a police captain with anger management issues - serious issues. Through all this, Salt has to find who murdered his colleague and work out where his luggage actually went!

I laughed out lo
Jan 29, 2012 KimStitch rated it it was amazing
This book is a brilliant look into a future that is much closer than you may think... I'm a world where incompetence is not grounds for being fired, anyone can do any job, no matter how poor they are at it. The narrator may be an excellent secret agent, but in a world where no one can agree which streets are one way and where vegetable leather shoes are the only shoes readily available thanks to animal rights activist, catching a murderer is next to impossible. This book made me laugh till I cri ...more
Aug 04, 2013 Jay rated it really liked it
Do not go into this book expecting it to be about what it says it is....

This is an amusing and unpredictable detective novel- at no point is the incompetence of the title elaborated on, it serves as background and little else. Obviously if you look into the world painted here, you would see a total lack of sense- just because you cannot discriminate against someone for being rubbish at their job doesn't mean the worst person will get it every time. This aside, Rob Grant is humorous and though th
Kieran Dosanjh
Jul 25, 2016 Kieran Dosanjh rated it it was ok
In theory, this should have been terrific; the premise is a good one (and topical), and I was fully expecting Rob Grant's humor to shine through. Unfortunately, this is a mess of a book; the character's are flat, the humor is forced, and the whole thing has the feel of something bashed out over the course of a few weeks.

The book is mercifully short, meaning the suffering is short, and in fairness, does move along at a pace. However this feels like a huge opportunity missed,
Jean Barrett
Jul 14, 2014 Jean Barrett rated it really liked it
I found this when I started packing up to move, and re-read it. I'd forgotten just how funny it was. It made me laugh out loud. I'm not sure the humour would suit everyone, and if you're looking for a smart who-done-it, then give it a miss. What it is, in a slap stick type of way, is incredibly funny.
Rob Grant wrote Red Dwarf, so if you don't like that, you may not like this book, but he has a genius way of taking the mundane and seeing a situation in it.
A.L. Butcher
Jun 26, 2012 A.L. Butcher rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, mystery, humour, sci-fi
I liked this but in places I found it hard going. It is slow to start and some of the jokes are quite amusing in a dark humour way but a lot of it comes across as a bit of a rant. Some of the scenes go on for a little to long.
I enjoyed the mystery, and although I guessed who the villain was I was not expecting the ending.

Not as funny as the Red Dwarf books but overall an amusing read if you like sarcastic humour.
Fabio Albertin
Mar 08, 2014 Fabio Albertin rated it really liked it
Although this book was written before the current string of crises, it does do a great job of painting a dystopian but also sadly very realistic picture of a future Europe, kind of like the movie Idiocracy did for the United States.

If people don't awake from the political correctness stupor, then we will indeed soon have as unqualified and inept idiots in position of responsibility like in the novel. So please, let's make sure this remains fiction!
Aug 15, 2012 Christopher rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
A terrible, terrible book. I haven't given up partway through a novel in a long time, but I could just no longer justify wasting my time on it. Absolutely, laboriously unfunny. An annoying, tired and viciously overlong complaint about ham-fisted caricatures of the world done in an narrative voice that manages at once to be intolerably smug and utterly inane.
Jul 28, 2014 Jen rated it liked it
A strange and somewhat vent-ful story which demonstrates a frustration with modern society tied up in a comedic film noir yet futuristic setting. Somewhat tougher than some Red Dwarf fans might be ready for, but in the same vein as the later Red Dwarf novels. Silly and enjoyable with aggressive undertones.
Sep 01, 2011 Voodoochilli rated it liked it
Fun little satire of a book. The sort of thing that I would recommend reading on holiday - not too taxing but a good read to have sat outside in the sunshine with a nice drink. Semi-reminiscent of the Red Dwarf series in the sense that it shares a lot of the same humour - mostly simple and silly observations about people. Still, rather entertaining and worth picking up.
Jan 19, 2014 Raymond rated it really liked it
This book is very imaginative, active, fast paced at times, gripping and at times gory. I will not give away any of the story but it will keep you wondering why this guy is doing what he is doing and what he does for a living. The main character by the end has more lumps thin a wet pillow. Does he survive? Read it and see but beware for you are going on a fast trip with numerous stops.
Andrew Booth
Jan 12, 2014 Andrew Booth rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Simple an funny. Nothing complex about the way this is written. Very funny, and written like Tom Holt, with a joke every line. There's a bit of a grumpy old man in Grant's writing, as the main character encounters situations that just shouldn't be, and are caused by downright incompetence. Think of a world populated by Hitchhikers 'B' Ark and you'll know what I mean.
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“Rome was buzzing. Quite literally. Absolutely everyone had a mobile phone, and absolutely everybody was calling absolutely everybody else absolutely all the time. I wondered if there were some law making them compulsory. Frighteningly, it's possible, these days. I swear I saw a street beggar stop and take a call on his cellular. I even heard a trill from a baby carriage, but it turned out to be a toy mobile phone. They start dickhead training early in Italy.” 3 likes
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