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The Amateurs

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  328 ratings  ·  68 reviews
In the style of Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood, Dave Eggers' The Circle, and The Walking Dead a post-apocalyptic examination of nostalgia, loss and the possibility of starting over.

Allow us to introduce you to the newest product from PINA, the world's largest tech company. "Port" is a curiously irresistible device that offers the impossible: space-time travel mysteriously powe
Paperback, 328 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Vintage Books Canada (first published 2018)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  328 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Liz Harmer
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I guess it's okay to rate one's own book.
Anna (lion_reads)
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
This book had everything going for it. A cool, futuristic technology involving time travel; an apocalyptic setting; a Station Eleven feel...but after trying very hard to get into it, I could not read another page. Maybe it's the lack of action, maybe it's the nonchalant wasting-away of the characters, but I couldn't take it any longer. In the end, the book didn't have anything special to carry me through the end. It's just another quiet apocalypse and humanity is just as boringly flawed as it wa ...more
Steven Buechler
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those types of reads that is difficult yet worthy of making one’s way through the book and pondering over the themes for a few minutes at the end. Most of our lives are filled with muddled thoughts and fragile emotions and Harmer has brilliantly explored what would happen to us beings if our devices brought out an element of human nature that would ruin civilization. The wording is perfectly crafted and planned. This book took Harmer a bit of time to produce and her time was certa ...more
Anne Logan

The Amateurs by Liz Harmer is hard to slot into one category; it’s literary, philosophical, dystopian and science fiction, all within 300-ish pages. Even the publishers had to use other books like The Leftovers by Tom Perotta, The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, and The Circle by Dave Eggers to describe what this book is similar to. Did it succeed in keeping my interest, even though it was all over the place in space, time and location? To be honest, I’m still pondering that, but the fact
Alexander Kosoris
I find it interesting to consider what influences your opinion of a book while reading. The big thing that spurred this thought along was a passage in The Amateurs where the protagonist, Marie, realizes how starkly unique she is just before discussing architecture influenced by architecture influenced by architecture. (I won’t directly quote it because the passage may change significantly from my advance reading copy before publication.) I read it and wondered whether what I saw as a joke about narcissi ...more
Kelsi H
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Please read all of my reviews at!

In a world very similar to our own, the largest tech company in the world is PINA (with their logo being a stylized pineapple – remind you of any other companies?), and they have just released an astonishing new product called Port. It is a human-sized pod that offers space-time travel and is powered by nostalgia for the past and the desire to return there. Step inside the port with any time and location in mind, and Port will take you there.

But there i
Zara Garcia-Alvarez of The Bibliotaphe Closet Blog
"The Amateurs" by Liz Harmer is a fantastic, dystopian debut, which could very well describe a realistic and prophetic future of unbridled, ambitious technological advancement—and ultimately, society’s own demise.

With the production of an ambiguous product called Port, which offers to its owners the opportunity for alleged, instant space-time travel powered by personal nostalgia and desire, the new advancement in tech-toy entertainment in an unknown future, explodes rapidly into a bu
Seyward Goodhand
A bold, wry, brilliant, atmospheric thought experiment and cultural commentary. Feels both human and metaphysical. It takes you into crazy Ports where computers merge with everyone's historical nostalgia. It's nuts, I loved it.
Nov 05, 2018 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Station Eleven (maybe?)
The premise ticked off some good boxes for me: post-apocalyptic setting, technology gone wrong, alternating perspectives, Canadian bleak. But it was too slow-moving for my taste, and I just had trouble buying into the idea of the ports.
Eric Knudsen
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Contains a surprisingly large amount of information on the post-apocalyptic activities of raccoons.
I am suddenly not feeling this book. There's too much telling and not showing. Life is short.

No star rating. It's just not my jam.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 This book deals with a dystopian world. I was intrigued by the book's setting in Hamilton, Ontario and could visualise many of the places described by the author. Also surprised to discover, at the end of the book in the acknowledgements section that I know the author's parents through church and educational settings, so that was fun too.

The plot and characters are very engaging. A tech company on the West Coast, PINA, has moved on from their phones to the new technology of "Port". The clai
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Amateurs sustained my attention from start to finish. Her cultural and religious critique is embedded in sparse prose. The book feels like a blend of Douglas Copeland's Life after God, sci-fi fantasy, and lots and lots of earthy Canadian fiction. Concrete details about locations abound. She moves the action between a survivor's colony in Hamilton Ontario and the technological centre of PINA in California, making for a series of refreshing location and character changes. It had a cool vibe.

Jul 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good writing, but maybe for a younger reader. Younger than 75.
Michaela (Mickey Reads)
I received a finished copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review -- Thank you Penguin Random House!!

I was SO insanely excited for this book when I saw the possibility of getting a copy for review. I'm a massive science fiction nerd and when I read the synopsis for this book, I was SUPER excited. Not only that, but it takes place in Canada, in Southern Ontario, which is where I'm from! Nothing is cooler than going into a book and when the characters talk about streets an
Alethea Ng
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“People had always been stupid and full of hope, thought Marie. Despite their cynicism, everyone believed in magic.”

The ports have taken everyone away. The city’s last 42 people gather in an Anglican church. Marie. Rosa. Steve. Mo. They have nothing in common except the fact that they are here. They have resisted the ports’ siren call — “We will take you to wherever and whenever you desire.” And now they sit in the pews, eating a magenta-coloured stew that tastes of hot sauce. Marie
Jennifer Paton Smith
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopian
This clever story is in turn haunting and horrifying because there is so much that is so familiar.
The book's premise is similar to that of the TV show "The Last Man on Earth," which I love. Except that instead of most of the population disappearing from a virus, they disappear by going through a port, a tech device introduced by a company closely resembling Apple and led by a visionary similar to Steve Jobs.
It's not initially clear why so many people leave, except that the ports are so compell
Todd Cain
Jul 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I really gave this one an earnest try. I read 137 out of 325 pages. I was drawn in by the fantastic cover, and by the descriptions and reviews on the covers that called it "tense and fast-paced", and talked about the "...powerful alchemy that happens when technology meets desire." OK, I'm down for all those things.

Maybe the publishers put the wrong text inside these covers, but I found this to be a boring, meandering, flaccid book. I'm okay with taking my time to sink into a book, bu
Dan Trefethen
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about hubris. And relationships.

The MacGuffin is a device called a "port" which is touted to send people wherever and whenever they want in time and space. Does it really? Can they come back? (But why would they want to?) What happens when the port technology becomes so ubiquitous that almost every human decides to 'port' away? What happens to those who are left?

The POV alternates between a small community of people near Toronto who remain, and the right-ha
Jane Mulkewich
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had been wanting to read this book because of its setting in Hamilton, Ontario where I live, although found it strange that Hamilton is not named in the book (just referred to vaguely as a steeltown) even though other cities such as Vancouver, and Portland, Oregon are named. Hamilton is still recognizable, even though this is a post-apocalyptic story... mostly everyone has disappeared through a strange new technology called "ports" that take you on time travel or to a different dimension or, w ...more
Check out my full review here

The Amateurs is set in a post-apocalyptic setting where PINA is the largest tech company in the world. They introduce a product called Port that offers the ability to travel space-time powered by desire and nostalgia.

The entire premise of the novel is a fascinating one. It has many elements to hook a reader- an apocalyptic setting, an overpowering tech company and space-time travel. Liz Harmer does very well going into detail about the post-apocalypt
Sarah Boon
It sort of reminded me of The City Where We Once Lived, given its focus on a group of people living in an abandoned city. It's interesting that she modelled the city so closely on Hamilton, her hometown. I recognized parts of it in her descriptions. I enjoyed the book - especially the ports. But some of the parts weren't well thought through - most notably the details of the lives of people on the other side of the port. It wasn't as believable as I might have liked it to be. A solid contributio ...more
A unique dystopia story set locally in Hamilton. Just about everyone has disappeared: what do the survivors do? How do they go on? As well, how did the world get to this stage? A middle section explores the silicon valley mindset that creates the tech that gets the world to this stage and how self-serving they move forward. Mad genius or earth-saving?
I did not care for the lovesick protagonist who is plucky and ridiculous simultaneously, but I loved the dilemma of a world that suddenly sto
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a light read, but deeply thought provoking. What happens when an invention leads to creating something that is lucrative, yet has devastating unforeseen results? Is it better to remain in a present difficult situation and make the best of it, or move on in search of a better life; to operate as an individual or work in community; to attempt a journey into the unknown world (future, past, other)? Is it ever possible to come back to the same spot? How strong is the human will when making seemi ...more
Emily Lynne
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program in exchange for an honest review. I loved the premise of this book and the not so subtle references to modern-day technological advances, however I found it a slow read that didn't end up captivating me as I had hoped. Reflecting back, the plot would likely translate well into TV or film if there was dialogue/action added, but it didn't land as a book.

Loved to read a Canadian author's work (from the GTA no less!), and the ref
Chantel Elliott
Jul 02, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This had the potential of being an intriguing post apocalyptic novel, but the character development & story line fell flat. The premise of a large tech firm called PINA selling smartphones & ports (that transport people to another time) really interested me... especially in this modern age of tech giants like Google & Facebook gathering so much data on all of us and how tech has evolved with AI. Sadly it just fell flat - the author introduced many sub plots but didn’t really resolve ...more
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book had so much potential! A future apocalypse, a scary similarity to companies like Amazon and Google and Apple, and yet, it fell soooo short. I appreciated the different chapters going back and forth between time travel and characters, but it was so slow and I don't feel like anything even happened. I learned nothing about the characters or the world they were in and there was no action to the plot whatsoever.
I've never been a huge fan of the time-travel genre but what I really liked about this book was that it flipped the experience to create a central mystery. What happens if you refuse to enter the machine and slowly watch the world around you change? I liked that it didn't throw in genre-specific peril (cheesy climaxes, power mad demagogues), without acknowledging the more realistic underpinning of those fears. There was a certain poetry to this book that made me really enjoy it.
Jacquie Vonhunnius
Would have been five stars. BUT.

Fantastic, realistic dialog. A premise both frightening and plausible. Beautiful description.

Just the right note of "you don't know what's going on but neither do they, so enjoy the ride", which is absolutely RUINED by a completely unnecessary, distracting and diminishing epilogue.

The epilogue was SUCH a bad choice it was worth knocking off two stars.

If you read this, just ignore the last three pages and you'll love it.
Oct 06, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a nonsensical fever dream. Excellent premise, but horrible execution. Characters are cardboard cutouts, filling niche archetypes. The pacing was awful. The author contradicts sentence after sentence. Nothing exciting happens - if it was a color this book would be beige. Coupled with the almost non-existent world building, The Amateurs is not even worthy of a try. Avoid at all costs.
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