- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (June 27, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1101973951
- ISBN-13: 978-1101973950
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Amatka Paperback – June 27, 2017
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“Tidbeck excels in drawing small details that send a chill up the spine—and turn this dystopian novel into a fine piece of horror-weird fiction.” —The Washington Post, “The best science fiction and fantasy books to read this month”
“An unforgettable dystopian novel…equal parts Le Guin, Kafka and Borges.” —The Guardian
“Unique, with a strong and compelling voice…. A book to get lost in, highly recommended for lovers of modern fiction.” —SFBook Reviews
“What elevates [Amatka] is the skill of Tidbeck’s execution and the sheer weirdness of a world in which the very building blocks of reality depend so completely on how we perceive them.” —New Scientist
“Reading [Amatka] is a remarkable exercise in which the borders of perception and communication fluctuate and bend…. A parable like those of Franz Kafka…. Amatka possesses the qualities of a fable and the febrile brilliance of weird fiction at its most inventive and self-questioning.” —Weird Fiction Review
“In her brilliant and bizarre novel Amatka, Karin Tidbeck evokes with quiet precision a dystopian reality that becomes more eerie by the page. The lines blur between fabrication and truth, between annihilation and creation, between bureaucratic obedience and heroic defiance. This book will grip you and move you. Though Amatka may be a fantastical place, we should all heed its warnings.” —Helen Phillips, author of The Beautiful Bureaucrat
“Tidbeck sets up a world rife with mystery…. [Amatka] calls to mind Ursula K. Le Guin’s…speculative fictions of social unrest…. The comparison would be daunting for a writer of lesser gifts, lesser gumption, but Tidbeck invites it, boldly.” —Bookforum
“This is a story about the way reality crumbles—a timely and troubling novel that ranks among the best works of queer science fiction.” —Slate
“A phenomenal and wholly original work from a writer to watch, Amatka is a book that is truly out of this world.” —Bustle
“[Amatka’s] surreal vision of deadly conspiracies, political oppression, and curtailed freedom couldn't be more eerily timely.” —NPR.org
“Compelling. . . . I recommend that you lay your hands on a copy.” —Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice
“Tidbeck's haunting world made of words is undeniably disturbing and provocative.” —The Chicago Tribune
“A fresh dystopian twist. . . . Tidbeck's first novel, translated by the author from her native Swedish, is grim, spare, and fascinating.” —Library Journal
“Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka is a stunning, truly original exploration of the mysteries of reality and what it means to be human. It’s brutally honest and uncompromising in its vision—a brilliant short story writer has been revealed as an even more brilliant novelist. One of my favorite reads of the past few years, an instant classic.” --Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach trilogy
“Tidbeck reimagines reality and the power of language in her dystopian sci-fi novel. . . . Tidbeck introduces the mysteries and mechanics of her world slowly while leaving the origins of these pioneers opaque. Her ending takes a turn into much weirder territory, but her tense plotting, as well as the questions she raises about language, control, and human limits make this a very welcome speculative fiction novel.” —Publishers Weekly
“Karin Tidbeck is a brilliant conjurer of worlds, a fabulist armed with an imagination as fiercely strange as any I have ever encountered. Her fiction is built on a foundation of improbabilities and even outright impossibilities, and if you surrender to its increasingly bold claims on reality you will walk away surprised, thrilled, and in all likelihood changed forever.” —Matt Bell, author of Scrapper
About the Author
Karin Tidbeck is originally from Stockholm, Sweden. She lives and works in Malmö as a freelance writer, translator, and creative-writing teacher, and writes fiction in Swedish and English. She debuted in 2010 with the Swedish short story collection Vem är Arvid Pekon? Her English debut, the 2012 collection Jagannath, was awarded the Crawford Award 2013 and short-listed for the World Fantasy Award.
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Amatka takes place in a mysterious future world where the very fabric of reality is constantly at risk of being destroyed. The inhabits of the four colonies that make up this world are taught from an early age that they must consistently "mark" objects in order to keep them rooted in reality. They do this by observing the space around them and repeating the names of everything in sight, thereby allowing the objects to retain their shape and function.
In a precarious world such as this one that the inhabits still don't fully understand, it becomes necessary to enforce strict rules to maintain order.
But what if there's a better and freer way to live? That's the question that Vanja begins to ask herself, as she learns more about the mysterious history of Amatka, one of the four colonies.
It's a fascinating premise, and for most of the book there was just the right amount of obscurity to keep me needing to know more. The problem I had was that ultimately the payoff wasn't enough. I'm more than okay with ambiguity in novels—often I even prefer it to a clean resolution—but I needs more than what Amatka delivered.
It's always hard for me to avoid comparing books like this to Jesse Ball's novels. In my opinion, Ball seems to strike that perfect balance where he maintains the obscurity and wonder while still offering a fully satisfying story. It's hard to pull that off. Amatka has a brilliant concept, but the execution left me feeling underwhelmed.
The cardinal sin of Amatka is that it makes its protagonist, Vanja, far more pitiable than sympathetic. The novel practically sobs her into existence. It is one thing to make a character an introvert, and quite another to bludgeon the reader with her reticence, to exhibit her meekness as a demand for empathy. But that is exactly what Karin Tidbeck does here.
The world of the novel is an interesting one, a place where language literally has the power to shape reality, so much so that things must be named repeatedly, or they will lose their shape and turn into a pile of noxious goo. As a result, the authorities exhibit an undue amount of control over the behavior of, and by extension the thoughts of, the citizens they police.
I am usually fully on board for stories where systemic oppression is addressed, but in this case the “evil system” and “innocent victim” are codified in such absolute, unsubtle terms that it comes off as a jaundiced, writerly construction rather than a lived-in world. And lest you think I am mistaken in my estimation of how Vanja and this novel are meant to be read, the ending literally valorizes the woeful fawning of its hero, spelling it out in no uncertain terms. It is one thing to nudge a reader’s sympathies, and quite another to push them over a cliff.
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