Amatka by Karin Tidbet (book review)

August 7, 2017 | By | Reply More

Vanga is an information assistant, sent to the colony of Amatka to do research in to hygiene products. Placed in a house with three Amatkan housemates, Vanga starts to get to know Amatka and do her research but, in doing so, Vanga realises that Amatka has secrets that will impact on her beliefs about society and life.

The most intriguing part of Amatka is one of the main concepts, being about the importance of language. Citizens of the society in which, for example, Vanga lives must mark all their items by telling them what they are. This does very literally mean they must go around their house and say chair to their chairs, table to their tables, bed to their beds and so on. Also, they must scrap items after so long otherwise they will dissolve in to sludge. This was quite an interesting idea, which made this book different from other dystopias. It also fed in to some intriguing storylines about the value of language and what people perceive things to be. This is a noteworthy topic in today’s society of information being more readily available through the internet, TV, more availability of a wider range of books and so on. We have so much information available to us, but how accurate is that information? Amatka addresses this topic in an insightful way that it didn’t really occur to me, until I was reading it, is not something I’ve seen as much as I feel I should have in dystopias. I have read a lot of dystopias.

The cast of characters were quirky in an intriguing way. The book provided a range of characters so there were a range of different personalities which was pleasant, however, I felt consistently distanced from the characters, not fully feeling like I’d got to know anyone. It gave the book an atmosphere of disengagement, which in many ways wasn’t a pleasant reading experience. But then, having given the matter some thought, the society in ‘Amatka’ seems to cultivate citizens in such a way that it leads them in to unknowingly having distance between each other and not getting too close or feeling too much intense emotion, while simultaneously creating the illusion of a community. So, in some ways, I feel it was intentional, in which case it’s done well, if possibly a bit too over-powering for my tastes. It’s as if those concepts that leads to the question of, what is more important, the reader enjoying the book or telling the story that’s right for the world and characters. I have to say I’m generally with the people who prioritise telling the right story, so I don’t feel qualified to complain too much on that front, because I understand why author Karin Tidbet does what she does.

Something I really enjoyed in terms of structure is the fact that rather than the traditional breaking down of the book in to chapters, it was broken down into days, taking on the structure of a diary. I found this pleasant mainly because I feel it’s not done often enough. People write in chapters most of the time, it’s just part of the parcel of reading a book, which is to be expected, nevertheless I find it refreshing when someone does something different and does it well. One of the issues I sometimes find with books that take on the diary format is you end up with boring sections or find it somehow limits the story. However, I think Tidbet used this structure well. Where there wasn’t much relevant to the story on a particular day, the entry was left short and sweet, meaning I wasn’t bored through long expositions on irrelevant topics for the sake of keeping up the diary affair. On the other hand, days that contained a great deal more story-related events were longer more detailed entries.

My main problem with ‘Amatka’ is that it was very short. In some ways it could be argued that Tidbet had told all the story she intended to tell and I would agree that there’s no point rambling on more than what you need. However, the ending felt rushed and was very unexplained. It’s very difficult to talk about the ending without divulging the whole plot, but I just felt that it was very rushed and unexplained and unsatisfactory.

Overall, ‘Amatka’ was an okay read, I neither loved nor hated it. It’s not the sort of book that I’d go around actively recommending, but if you read a lot of dystopias and want to experience a range of dystopias, you may find it an interesting read. I certainly did.

Rebecca Thorne

August 2017

(pub: Vintage Books/Penguin. 216 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £17.99 (UK Price: $18.95 (US), £12.17 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-10197-395-0)

check out website: www.vintage-books.co.uk

Category: Books, Scifi

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