Review: Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

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This was, I confess, a complete impulse read. I was idly browsing cheap ebooks and – hey, I’ve heard of this before. And it looks to be barely longer than a novella, too! Checking the preview, the strangeness of it all was incredibly compelling. I had to go back to it at the earliest possible opportunity.

Amatka is a strange book set in an even stranger, dystopian world. Every object has to be periodically re-inscribed with its name or it dissolves. In addition, people are under strict control to obey rules and any deviance or wanting the society to be different is horrifyingly punished. It makes for a creepy, unsettling combination (I was reading it before going to bed. This was…a bad decision.). 

Vanja, our protagonist, is an information assistant, sent to the cold, distant colony of Amatka to see what kind of hygiene products the people there might need. After falling in love with her housemate Nina, she decides to stay, and along with her, we slowly discover why things are as they are.

The atmosphere of the book is gray and depressing and mastefully done. You can feel a sense of wrongness that intensifies with each new revelation, both about why the objects have to be marked and how the society functions. I haven’t seen many people label this book as horror, but I’m highly tempted to classify it as such regardless. It’s true that the characterisation is bland, but I thought that was part of the point – having a MC who is, in a way, completely alienated both from her world and herself mirrored the oppressive, eerie atmosphere well. Also, I have to say I always love it when a book includes bureaucracy and this one has bureaucracy aplenty.

The only thing I didn’t like was the ending, which was very much of the unsatisfying, literary type. Once again it’s an ending where rationally, I can see it make perfect sense, but emotionally, I was far from satisfied. Still, if weird, creepy dystopias are your thing, this is the book for you.

Enjoyment: 😰/5
Execution: 4.5/5

Recommended to: fellow weirdos who LOVE bureaucracy in their SFF, fans of creepy, dystopian, and/or deeply weird books, those looking for casual wlw rep
Not recommended to: hard to be specific without spoiling, but I could see that ending being a dealbreaker, in addition to the horror elements

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