In an age of dystopian over-saturation, it’s rare that a bleak, near-future novel comes along with a fully functional capacity to unnerve. Swedish author Karin Tidbeck accomplishes the near-impossible feat of composing such a book with Amatka, the tale of a lowly government worker with too much curiosity and too little experience.
Named for the polar colony where its protagonist winds up, Amatka takes place in a world that is just different enough from our own to raise questions within its opening chapters: Why does every object have to be named and re-named on a regular basis? Where do things go after they melt? What talks back to the people who work underground? Tidbeck answers all of these questions, and more, by the end of the novel, but Amatka leaves readers with a yearning for more of its twisty and nebulous story.
The central figure here is Vanja, sent from the capital of Essre to the titular Amatka, an agrarian colony at the edge of the world. Vanja remains a fish-out-of-water throughout the novel, proving herself nearly incapable of adhering to the strict rules of life in her new colony. Still, her passion for her new housemate, Nina, drives her to remain in this strange, paranoid place.
As is the case with many a science-fiction novel, the ending of Amatka may not please all readers. It is largely unexpected, leaves room for an unlikely sequel, and veers off into truly weird territory. All in all, however, Amatka is a fantastic dystopian thriller, even for people who have grown tired of reading about oppressive regimes.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
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Image credit: Christine Braaten