Book Review: Amatka by Karin Tidbeck


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis / @zaralibrary

bk - amatka


Category: General Fiction (Adult)
Author: Karin Tidbeck
Format: E-book via NetGalley, 320 pages
Publisher: Vintage Knopf Doubleday Group
ISBN: 978-1-1019-7395-0
Pub Date: June 27, 2017


Summary from Publisher:

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.

  • From NetGalley

Book Review:

Amatka is a novel of quiet imagination, a story set in the near future in an unknown place, a greatly sanitized dystopian of a five-colony world run by totalitarian rule and within it, a culture of repressed citizens who are told half-truths about their history, and secretly punished for what is considered to be subversion.

The narrative of the book is sterile with purpose, a tool to emphasize the sterile culture of its characters’ lives as dictated by the strict rules they must abide by in order to survive from repeatedly speaking, writing, and naming items in order to ensure their structural integrity.

The language in the book, too, is extraordinary in its naming originality from the five colonies: the administrative Colony One, Essre; the scientific Colony Two, Balbit; the industrious Colony Three, Odek; the agricultural Colony Four, Amatka; and Colony Five, which mysteriously burned by fire.

As each colony itself holds its specific communal rules, the characters’ personalities and roles in the book are also strategically placed from: Brilars’ Vanja Essre Two, an information assistant to the Essre Hygiene Specialists (EHS) sent on duty to Amatka to study the hygiene habits of its colonists, a role assigned to her because of her quiet discretion; Ulltors’ Nina Amatka Four, a medic at the Amatka Clinic; Jonids’ Ivar Four, a farming technician; Sarols’ Ulla, a retired general practitioner; and Samins’ Evgen, the sentimental librarian for Amatka’s Library of books and letters.

While the plot of the novel is not the star of the book, the new dystopian world in which the novel resides is enough to keep readers intrigued from its Commune Office, Mushroom Farm, mycopaper, mycoprotein, scrap-by-dates, and pale polypores.

The book, like its totalitarian Committee, holds its secrets. There are those who have been punished for accused subversion, operations done to distort language, and lobotomies meant to silence a dissident few. There is a Locked Archive filled with hard truths and fewer more with access to it. There is a lake that thunders as it thaws each morning as readily as it freezes at night—without the temperature decreasing.

The cultural order and refrain of the people of this New World is harsh in its dystopian reality. The tone is as grey as its skies and setting; its climate as harsh as its protocols; and though its technological advances are new and fantastic, it’s this technological fervour that keeps the people in a constant state of fear, denial, and panic.

The book is in its dystopian tradition, a stark glimpse of what the future could hold for a people who fail to care for its natural resources and resist learning from its cultural grievances, moving from a natural free society to a totalitarian one—one where there is more than the loss of freedom at stake.


Characters: 3.5 stars
Plot: 3.5 stars
Language/Narrative: 3.5 stars
Dialogue: 3.5 stars
Pacing: 3.5 stars
Cover Design: 3 stars


Zara’s Rating

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A special thanks to Knopf Doubleday Publishing on behalf of Vintage for providing me with an e-copy of the book, Amatka by Karin Tidbeck through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and timely review.


About the Author:

author - karin tidbeck

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 shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award. Her novel debut, Amatka, will be out in English in 2017.
She devotes her spare time to forteana, subversive cross-stitching and Nordic LARP.

  • From Karin Tidbeck’s official website.


You may contact Karin Tidbeck on her official website, Facebook, and Goodreads.



zara - kai lan frame



Author: zaraalexis

Writer. Bibliotaphe. Fountain Pen & Stationery Addict. Lipstick Junkie. Justice Advocate. Wife. Mother. Warrior.

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