Amatka by Karin Tidbeck
Penguin Random House: 6/27/17
eBook review copy; 320 pages
Amatka by Karin Tidbeck is a highly recommended science fiction
novel that explores the power of language; it is translated from the
Vanja lives in a world that has four surviving colonies from the
original five. She is an information assistant living in the colony of
Essre when she is sent by her company to Amatka. Once there she is
supposed to survey the residents on their use of hygiene products and
their need for new products and willingness to try new brands. Vanja is
assigned to stay in a local house with only three other residents, Nina,
Ivar, and Ulla.
Everything in this world is made of some kind of mushroom/fungus. All
citizens in this weird world are required to mark and name all of their
things or they will risk having the objects lose their shape and turn
into a kind of sludge that must be cleaned up by a special crew. It
seems that in Amatka, the citizens need to do this much more often than
they do in Essre.
Amatka is also much colder than she expected and the residents seem to
be monitored much more intently for any subversive activity. Vanja is
only expecting to be in Amatka for a short time before she returns to
Essre, so she concentrates on doing her job. While doing so she notices
that something seems a bit strange with the residents, and the truth
about some mysterious events are not discussed.
This is a rather odd novel
that immediately brought to mind Jeff VanderMeer's fungus-laden Ambergris novels
(City of Saints and Madmen, Shriek, and Finch), as mushrooms seem to play an important role in Amatka
too. With a translated version it's difficult to know if some of the
oddness is from the translation or the writing. Certainly Tidbeck does
not explain everything that is happening and some of what you will come
away with is supposition based on what you think you know.
Dystopian, sure, but much more science fiction as it is set in a
different world that has been colonized. The colonies seem to be based
on a Soviet-style system, but other than that little is explained about
how these people arrived in this world. The naming of things or writing
down their names could lead to all sorts of questions about controlling
our environment and the meaning behind language. This is an interesting
novel, but not likely for a wide audience.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.