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3.79  ·  Rating details ·  2,646 ratings  ·  509 reviews
Vanja, a government worker, leaves her home city of Essre for the austere, wintry colony of Amatka on a research assignment. It takes some adjusting: people act differently in Amatka, and citizens are monitored for signs of subversion.

Intending to stay just a short while, Vanja finds herself falling in love with her housemate, Nina, and decides to stick around. But when sh
Paperback, 216 pages
Published June 27th 2017 by Vintage (first published September 2012)
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Kari The version I read said that the author translated it herself.
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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Emily May
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Emily May by: Tatiana
Shelves: dystopia-utopia, 2019
So I thought this was excellent but I'm not sure how widely I'd recommend it. It's a quiet, odd, unsettling dystopian novel - my first from Swedish author Karin Tidbeck - that opens up more questions than it answers. Pair this with the ambiguous ending and I can easily see why some readers might feel dissatisfied.

I actually really liked it, though. I found it an extremely atmospheric novel-- the greyness, the loneliness, the constant sense of wrongness about everything. On the back of the Vintag
Jul 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, dystopia, sci-fi
That was weird. Seriously weird, but oddly fascinating, but with an ending I found unsatisfying. My thoughts are all over the place for this one, so here they are first in list format and then a bit more elaborated.

World building


Set in the not specified future on a (I assume) different planet, this books reads very much like a classic dystopian novel in the style of Ray Bradbury or George Orwell. The main character, Vanja, arrives in Amatka
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
A trippy, hopelessly empty-ish world populated with people seemingly shambling through their lives without purpose and, mostly, dignity. They get words and goop, if they misuse the words.

Very reminding of Zamuatin's We, of Orwell's 1984. Though, this one was libeerally sprinkled with feminist and diversity vibes. And, it felt a lot more depressing than the prototypes. I sort of want to unread this novel. Sadly, I can't.

Is there something behind the gray of our sky? (c)
I’m thinking I might ta
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one is a hard one to review without giving away certain discoverable plot twists except to say... what a surreal, surreal world.

I think it's a mild New Strange. Or perhaps it's a hardcore Magical Realism. Perhaps it's just a study in what it means to use imagination when surrounded by literalism. Maybe it's a whole society built on the necessity of crushing that imagination in all ways. Maybe it's a necessity. And maybe we're in bizarro commune land brushing its fingertips against 1984.

Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tatiana by: Catie
I didn't think I would like another dystopia any time soon, but here I am. This was pretty good.

I am not surprised to learn this novel was written by a Swedish writer, because the basis of this story is deeply rooted in the pipe dream of perfect socialism, you know, total gender and class equality and adherence to group needs at the expense of individual. I am not trying to disparage Scandinavian socialism, I am all for it. The dystopia of this world is the theoretical socialism, the type I per
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
People often conflate pity with sympathy. Both words may refer, superficially, to a feeling of compassion for another’s misfortune; contextually, they can have radically different uses. Sympathy more often carries with it some notion of equity – it asks that compassion be born of justness, that understanding is earned because it is shared. Conversely, pity holds a note of condescension from the pitying, and a certain amount of solicitousness on the part of the pitied. Sympathy is meant to streng ...more
Jessica Woodbury
This was my first exposure to Tidbeck. I knew nothing about her or the book before I started it. I had just gone on vacation and when I realized I was reading something rather bleak and Scandinavian I almost put it down. It didn't seem like the right fit. But there was just enough weirdness in those early chapters to get me to stick around.

Dystopia is popular these days, and this is certainly a speculative dystopia. But I enjoyed it immensely. While reading it I kept commenting about it to my tr
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars.

Currently I'm absolutely happy with my picks. This was another little jewel.
"Amatka" hits all the short-story-lover, overly-explaining-hater marks of my darker reader personality.

It is bleak, the characters are distant, there is no comfortable hand holding by the author, the end is completely open and certainly confusing. So I can see why some readers don't like it. For me on the other hand these are all points that speak in favour of a novel. Of course there is a thin line between tr
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of classic dystopias and/or Jeff VanderMeer
As I listed in the "I would recommend to" section: Like classic dystopias and/or Jeff VanderMeer's works, particularly the Area X trilogy? It's perfect for readers who are intrigued by the idea of the unlikely intersection of that particular venn diagram. The weirdness seeps in drip by drip, building significantly in the final chapters, until all semblance of normalcy (quite literally) dissolves.

The very end was, for me, a bit anti-climactic, but just as with VanderMeer's Annihilation, the ambig
Jessica Sullivan
The kind of book where I had no idea what I'd be rating it until the very end. It's completely readable and thought provoking, but with a story like this, so much depends on how it all comes together.

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 d
After reading Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck years ago, I knew I wanted to read anything of hers published in English. It's still one of my favorite short story collections. I believe Amatka is the only other of her works published in the U.S., though I could be wrong.

Amatka is both similar and different than Tidbeck's short stories. It has the same subtlety, the same unique world building, and the same ambiguous ending (which I loved). I missed out on the lyricism of Tidbeck's short stories, and I
Caitlin Cramer
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: strange-worlds
This was a weird and beautiful story with a weird and beautiful ending. The actual plot was mostly standard dystopian fare: bleak society that enforces conformity, government secrets, housemates spying on each other, creepy communal rituals, mandatory procreation, coerced confessions, and terrifying medical torture procedures to punish dissidents (although the particular surgery features here serves up some delicious irony). The book has shades of The Prisoner, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, The Mem ...more
Anna Luce
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoy watching traffic
Recommended to Anna Luce by: I did this to myself
★★✰✰✰ 2.5 stars (rounded down)

I was hoping for something original, for something unapologetically bizarre, something à la Yorgos Lanthimos...sadly Amatka delivers its predictable peculiarities in such a flat and listless way that I find little to praise about this novel.

Amatka features a Soviet-inspired world that is far from the ideal utopia. Children are raised away from their parents (emotional bonds are considered to be stunting) and each individual has a 'function' in the community (in Am
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Ninety years ago, a group of intrepid "pioneers" travelled to the "New World" and set up a communal society. Recently the head committee has given permission for "free production", allowing independent companies to produce products other than the stock, standard, official ones. One of these companies sends our young woman main character our to the colony/city of Amatka to do research on the possible market for new hygiene products...

That might not sound like a rousing template to launch a novel,
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Listed as sci-fi, Amatka is more of a dystopian novel. I know that this book got good reviews but the beginning of the story seemed weak to me; it was slow to reveal the plot or substance of the story. The 'weakness' seemed to permeate this story.

Life is made up of colonies - each colony has a purpose or job. Vanja, from Essre where they manufacture items necessary for life, goes to Amatka for surveys or personal hygiene to take back to the manufacturing company where she works. This was oddbal
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
An immersive, mysterious tale about personal freedom, human emotion and the power of imagination. Karin Tidbeck has created an atmospheric, fully-imagined world where words are power and independent thought is forbidden. Moreover, Tidbeck trusts her readers to explore and understand the world as her protagonist does, without the need for extraneous explanation. This aspect really drove the story forward for me, as I tried to piece together the puzzle of Amatka, a puzzle I still don’t think I've ...more
Mar 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Spare. Creepy. Intriguing.
Emily Crow
Somber and strange. I really liked it for the most part, but the ending kind of collapsed into the weirdness.
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating spec-fic story about the power of language. There are some strange mushrooms, a hidden history, and all the elements of a sci-fi thriller -- but Tidbeck goes deeper, delving into fascinating questions about the nature of reality and what we are doing when we name things. Fabulous.
Sep 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
La La
I was in love with this book. It was strange, it had a mysterious tone to it that made me not want to put it down. It was a smooth read and it had LGBTQ and mental health elements. It also made some sociopolitical statements, and you all know how I adore those. So what happened? The ending happened.

The author led me by the hand thorough the strange and the mysterious, and I was constanly wondering if the ending was going to make it SciFi or Fantasy because I could not tell. She intrigued me with
Bogi Takács
Whoops, I made the longer review years ago, but forgot to link it here in GR. Here it is:


Longer review later because I have a grading mountain to vanquish, I just wanted to update because I have been losing track of books with the Jewish holidays and whatnot.

This was a very powerful, atmospheric and grabbing read, but I'm still processing the ending. I had some issues with it, but I'm also not sure how else I would have finished this book. I will
Bill Hsu
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
So far, very different from the slippery, sparkly hairballs of Jagannath. The role of language is still strange and intriguing; but with Amatka's overt science fiction-y conventions, I fear everything mysterious and wonderful will be overexplained soon enough. The pace is also a bit on the plodding side.

Update: I love the central concept. But we do ooze slowly to the climactic events.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Doooode. This was strange. And amazing. Just plopped me right down into the story with no back history, no world-building, just boom here is this new plot line and this is just how stuff is.

This is the second Swedish dystopia I've read and damn, it's got a specific aesthetic. Definitely born of specific setting in nature and specific culture and government.
Mur Lafferty
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John Hatley
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant and haunting dystopian novel. I especially enjoyed the fact that the many mysteries of this strange land are never fully answered. In this way the suspense so skillfully created by author Karin Tidbeck continues even after the reader has finished it. I recommend it.
Blodeuedd Finland
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This is one of those can not be explained books. I have read reviews calling it dystopia, but, no, not really.

I assume people went through a portal, or took a ship to another planet. A planet that is alive somehow. But nothing lives there. The first people established 5 cities and tried to survive. This has turned into a strange "communist" state because that is the only way to survive.

Everything has its name written on it. Because if you loose the name then the chair, house, whatever disappears
Ben Loory
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really loved, loved, loved this in the beginning. The whole world, and this idea of all these manufactured objects that are only held in their shapes by a constant naming process ("chair, chair, chair, chair"). Just so awesome; I loved it; made me grin madly to myself. After a while though, the whole thing kinda ran out of steam somehow. The characters were never very interesting and it became less strange and magical and more run-of-the-mill dystopian. I think I would've loved it as a short sto ...more
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Maybe 3.5? Or 4?)

I liked the gentle rise of the tension; you get the sense that something is going wrong, or has gone wrong, or will go wrong...reveals are satisfying and just-enough.

I imagined some sort of cross between scandi neutrals and threadbare dystopia. It's an interesting portrayal, and there are some truly haunting details, but spoilers.

Minus a bit for Nina's flatness/awkward dialogue...and still figuring out that ending, which seemed to come on a bit suddenly?
Kathy Cunningham
Apr 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Karin Tidbeck’s AMATKA is a dystopian fantasy about the nature of reality and how it can be shaped with language. That sounds a bit weird, and this novel is definitely that, but it’s also deeply compelling, truly chilling, and eerily relatable. The story centers on a young woman named Brilars’ Vanja Essre Two (“Brilars” identifies Vanja’s parents as Britta and Lars, “Essre” is the colony in which she was born, and “Two” indicates where she stands in the birth order). Vanja has come from Essre to ...more
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SciFi and Fantasy...: "Amatka" by Karin Tidbeck (BR) 30 40 Jul 23, 2019 12:51PM  

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