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3.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,031 ratings  ·  189 reviews
In the near future, Berlin’s real estate is being flipped in the name of “sustainability,” only to make the city even more unaffordable; artists are employed by corporations as consultants; and the weather is acting strange. In search of affordable housing, young couple Anja and Louis move into a community on an artificial mountain, The Berg—yet another “eco-friendly” init ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Soft Skull Press
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Average rating 3.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,031 ratings  ·  189 reviews

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D.  St. Germain
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In a time that sounds very much like our own, climate change has altered the weather so much that seasons can now be experienced within a day or week rather than a year, and hipsters gain notoriety through text message weather reports. Berlin is growing more unaffordable by the day, homeless encampments are springing up all over the place, corporations own everything, everyone wants to know why no one else cares about what is going on, and many people in Anja’s circle have bullshit jobs.

Jerrie (redwritinghood)
An interesting near-future setting, but not a lot happens directly in the book. We learn of corporate manipulation and social upheaval, but don’t witness it directly. More of the focus is on the oxymoron of a corporate-designed “natural” environment called the Berg and the relationship of two of its inhabitants. I often felt like this book was edging around some big topics, but never getting at them head on. For me, this was a little slow.
Erin Glover
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Why do we willingly submit ourselves to social defeat at the hands of those we don't respect?"

Anja laments the banality of Berlin's non-stop clubbing and drugging scene, a scene she at once wants to belong to and at the same time, abhors. Anja’s low self-esteem and overall feelings of inadequacy contribute to her shyness and ultimately, to her social defeat. Independently wealthy, she wears her “Real Job” jacket as an earth scientist to provide insulation from her friends’ all-night partying.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
I liked the cultural satire of privileged 20-somethings in a near future Berlin, who spend their nights clubbing, and their days either living off trust funds or working as well-paid 'consultants' who develop pointless, fanciful projects for a megacorporation that uses them to put a humane, eco-friendly face on its rapacious, money-making designs. My problem was that the novel goes into extreme detail on the daily life of the 20-something characters, while the corporation, "Finster", has no pres ...more
Anthony Crupi
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I haven't read such a propulsively brainy and bonkers novel of idea[l]s—and a first novel, no less—since Tom McCarthy pulled his disruptive Kool-Aid® Man™ bit with Remainder. Elvia Wilk's Oval is a coruscating examination of the inherent contradictions and attendant evils of neoliberalism that also serves as a reminder that most of our store-bought dystopias are designed as lullabies for creatures of privilege. Capitalism is in the brain, as one character notes, and Oval will override that parti ...more
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: female-author, scifi
The subject seemed compelling, and with blurbs by Jeff VanderMeer and Tom McCarthy, the book seemed promising, but it was a disappointment. Wilk has some neat ideas, and she writes of things that reminded me of works by both VanderMeer and McCarthy that I admired, but ultimately, so much of the book was just dull recounting of dud relationships. It doesn't begin to be especially enjoyable until near the end, and then it stops.
Tournament of Books

I really struggled to get into this book. I guess after reading the blurb I had expectations as to where this book was going. Then it never went there and it just didn't seem to get wherever it was going fast enough for me. I know that a slow burn can be a good thing but the full first half was just setting the scene. I didn't relate to Anja (trust fund baby) or Louis (small town American boy makes good). Nor did I take their relationship seriously. Their coupling didn't seem
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2019
Disappointing. I had high hopes for this one. But the novel focused more on the narrator's relationship issues rather than creating a fully realized dystopian world. The more interesting critique of capitalism and neoliberal corporate takeovers faded into the background in sacrifice for the narrator's breakup. Ugh.

Other characters acted as foils to the narrator, rather than fleshed out people. The novel felt crowded with these half (if that) developed characters. I couldn't keep track of them,
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environment, fiction
Another book I asked for and received for Christmas, which I found insightful and frustrating in approximately equal measure. From the blurb, I had high hopes of it examining urban housing shortages and pervasive corporate greenwash. Which it does, when not preoccupied with the very dull relationship between the protagonist Anja and her boyfriend Louis. Separately they seemed like interesting characters, but together they were terribly boring. Why must a disintegrating straight relationship be c ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it liked it
A speculative fiction debut with unobtrusive writing and some interesting insights into capitalism, charity and human relationships, but the whole thing feels underdeveloped.
Dystopia as if written by an academic. It's cutting and intelligent, with some ideas I expect to come into vogue in the next decade. The contention that the specter of climate change will be manipulated to push austerity seems especially prescient.

Oval is a novel of ideas, heavy on the ideas, low on the novel bit. The plot swings into effect only after reaching the halfway point, and the characters didn't have quite enough meat on them to sustain 300+ pages. I wonder if this novel could have wo
Feb 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
Jfc, this was boring. I had such a hard time getting into it. I literally found myself going to empty the dishwasher instead of reading. Ugh.
Alison Hardtmann
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
In an alternate/near future Berlin, Anja lives in a malfunctioning eco house on a steep hill with her American boyfriend, Lewis. It's a world where corporations control everything and artists are contracted to companies, their work and even their bodies part of the corporate machine. The weather has gone haywire, with vast fluctuations taking place within single days. Anja works as a scientist until she's promoted into a consultant role, while her boyfriend grows distant as he works on a new ide ...more
Nofar Spalter
Jan 11, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Dystopias are rarely boring. Dystopias rarely make you think, "meh", when the characters meet the horrors of their world. Dystopias rarely lack plot, drive, an every calling telos. The world of dystopia may be hedonistic but the characters rarely are: after all, what's the point of creating that kind of world if your character are too nihilistic, hedonistic and selfish to care what is going on around them?
Elvia Wilk's "Oval" manages to be all that: a boring, bland, myopic, pointless dystopia fu
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
This was quite a disappointment. The dystopian world building had a lot going for it, much of it blackly humorous. A world where everyone (especially artists) are "consultants", and almost everything in the work world is PR babble. A world in which a few giant corporations control all of the aforementioned artists, and the non-profit world as well. A world in which the pursuit of "social capital" is frenzied, and the movement towards environmental sustainability is a cynical tool for gentrificat ...more
Aug 07, 2019 added it
Shelves: dnf
This is leaving me very cold, so I'm bailing.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
look just put some solar panels on your roof and call it a day
Ștefan Anca
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great Zeitgeist of Berlin culture and mentality, even though it's based in fictional world. The author missed some details about the interactions between the main characters, that would have added to the story.
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For more of my book content check out

This book blew my mind! I thought it was a brilliant dystopian story. It takes place in the near furure but touched on so much that seems so close to our reality it was frightening! It was also funny, fast paced and very engrossing! I will definitely be on the lookout for whatever Elvia Wilk does next.
This one will be available June 4th!

Thank You to the publisher for sending me this #ARC.
@softskullpress has been publishing exquis
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ryfo-2019
I liked this, even though it turned out to be a lot different than what I expected. Oval was a lot more about the weird issues Anja faced in her social life while everything in Berlin was falling apart than the pill narrative in the summary. The pill, Oval, is her boyfriend's invention to "cure capitalism" through making people give each other shit (peak weird neoliberal, which Anja i think even says). Oval was thought provoking! I liked it. Would compare it to Severance by Ling Ma and Anatomy o ...more

15th read for the 2020 Tournament of Books (ToB) with only 3 more to go - will he, for the very first time, read them all?! Tho, as you can see by the rating, this is the type of book that also questions my loyalty/commitment to ToB. I always says even if I didn't like a ToB book, at least it was interesting. And while I guess that technically still qualifies here, 'Oval' just barely escaped being only my 3rd 1-star rating in over 500 books here on Goodreads.

What saved it (well, perhaps too str
It took almost 200 pages until the book caught up to (and advanced beyond) the premise/events described on the dust jacket. That's where the book engaged me, but it's got me wondering what I was supposed to be getting out of those first 177 pages, or whether all of them were necessary. (Well, it's got me talking about this book having a transactional relationship with its reader, though I think the transactional relationship happens post-page-177 as well.) From what I can tell, it's a lot of ref ...more
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wilk takes the familiar and makes it strange in the most entertaining way. The perverseness of sustainability, historic pres as a moral code, new drugs, a gentle slip into the dystopian, marketing as art as science set up a fascinating world in the known/unknown Berlin. What I liked about this book the most is what others are critical of . . . the focus on the relationship. I was fully invested in Anja's character, and found her focus on the relationship, even the midst of crumbling structures ( ...more
Feb 25, 2020 marked it as read-enough
clever (satire?) but boring near-future dysfunctional 'utopia'
I am letting it be for other TBR entries.
Aug 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Makes me feel lucky - how exhausting to be in a relationship where you don’t assume good intentions from your partner.
Sara Batkie
Wow, wow, wow. Thanks to the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize long list for drawing this one to my attention. You won't read a scarier dystopia this year (aside from, you know, the actual news), not because it's especially bleak but because it's actually plausible.
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
in the beginning of the book i thought it was just the next book about berlin hipster culture and a bit meaningless, but now that i'm finished i'm really glad i got to read it. it really gained momentum throughout the book and touched some interesting topics from a dystopian angle.
Vuk Trifkovic
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book. So Berlin, so now, so relevant, with a very distinct and crisp voice. If you are in any way in tech, art, and Berlin, it's a must-read. Rating? Hella "go read".
Gaby Cepeda
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Area X by/for the creative/artsy class underemployed under the gig-economy. Gets a little slow in the middle, but reaches great heights on its the second/last part. Beautifully written, easily assimilated, I kept identifying with different characters throughout. Very impressive first novel.
Kassy Harris
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: future skeptics and philosophy lovers
Shelves: sci-fi
This was a difficult read for me. I don't mean this in that it wasn't good. Oval is actually highly enjoyable. It was difficult to read because I felt as though every other sentence was a new pearl of wisdom. Almost every paragraph I found myself thinking "wait, go back. You just missed something really profound and didn't get it." The ideas and proposals running through this book are astronomical and I couldn't believe that this was a debut novel. Oval takes an intense look on a near-future ...more
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Tournament of Books: Oval 19 123 Feb 05, 2020 09:58AM  

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