Amatka by Karin Tidbeck
Published by Vintage on June 27, 2017 (originally 2012)
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg: 3.80 (as of 2019-08-11)
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Vanja, an information assistant, is sent from her home city of Essre to the austere, wintry colony of Amatka with an assignment to collect intelligence for the government. Immediately she feels that something strange is going on: people act oddly in Amatka, and citizens are monitored for signs of subversion.
Intending to stay just a short while, Vanja falls in love with her housemate, Nina, and prolongs her visit. But when she stumbles on evidence of a growing threat to the colony, and a cover-up by its administration, she embarks on an investigation that puts her at tremendous risk.
In Karin Tidbeck’s world, everyone is suspect, no one is safe, and nothing—not even language, nor the very fabric of reality—can be taken for granted. Amatka is a beguiling and wholly original novel about freedom, love, and artistic creation by a captivating new voice.
Amatka is quite creative as far as dystopian novels go. The world we’re dropped into is a strange place where everything must be labeled and referred to with its proper name (CHAIR, TABLE, etc.) or else it turns into a pile of goo. Language is vital for keeping the world together here. Our main character, Vanja, has traveled to the city of Amatka for a research project assigned to her by her employer. As is typical in most dystopian novels, things are not quite as they appear and some deep secrets are uncovered.
I had a lot of mixed feelings about some aspects of the novel. As is indicated in the blurb, Vanja falls in love with her housemate Nina. Interestingly, absolutely no ado is made about this and it’s clear that same-sex relationships are treated just as any others. The issue really is that there is no clear reason for Vanja and Nina’s relationship. We don’t see much besides lust develop between the two and while it’s obvious Vanja’s former life left much to be desired, it seemed bizarre of her to drop everything to stay. I will say Vanja’s relationships with others are similar: they exist only for the sake of the plot and don’t develop much otherwise.
The pace of the plot was quite good, as was the way things were gradually revealed. The reader is forced to pick apart clues along with Vanja and watch as she must decide whether it’s more important to fit in or to discover the truth. As is typical in this genre, things build slowly but steadily until they reach a frantic climax that is impossible to look away from. I had some mixed feelings about the ending itself, which I can’t discuss without touching on spoilers. I’ll just say that I didn’t love the way things were left and found the last bit of the novel to be a bit too frantic to take in easily.
Overall, though, this was a really neat book that I’m glad I picked up. I had no idea what to expect going in and I’m not sure how it even ended up on my TBR but I’m glad it did. I’ll probably be picking up some more of Karin Tidbeck’s works to see what else she’s been able to come up with.
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