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Amatka

4/5. My vacation* book. A woman goes to a neighboring colony for work, gets involved with her (lady) housemate, and discovers that there is something very, very wrong with their world. Oh, and by the way, this is on a planet(?) where objects only hold their shape/meaning if they are properly and repeatedly labeled with the right word. Trust me, it makes more sense in context. Well . . . it makes more thematic sense.

This is weird and wonderful and requires a lot of work. It's in translation (from Swedish), but it's a very skillful one, as far as I can tell. Which is necessary for a slim, intense, calculated book like this, where words really count. I keep thinking about this book – about how it intersects language and oppression, and about its explicable-if-you-work-hard ending. And the worldbuilding – it's spare but sharp as a knife, as the contours of this authoritarian democracy come into relief. For example, there's a wonderful detail that seemed to open up the whole book for me, about how poetry serves an entirely different function in this world than it does in ours.

And I really like the protagonist's slide into disobedience. Her inability to play along anymore is part old personal history, part recent stress and it makes sense. But not in a paint-by-numbers tragedy-happens-to-a-plucky-person way. More like . . . yes. That is how you slide a tiny bit out of step with your community, then a tiny bit more, and a tiny bit more, and suddenly, bam. You're in a different world.

Content notes: Discussion of reproductive coercion, some forced medical stuff by the authorities, etc.

*Vacation: in which we went to see my dying father and I don't know if I'll ever see him again, and also I retired my dog and settled her with her puppyraisers and I don't know if we'll ever see her again, and then we did some hiking. Do I know how to decompress from work or what?

Date: 2017-07-20 02:16 am (UTC)
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu
* places library hold *

Also, I'm sorry to hear about the hard things.

Date: 2017-07-20 04:07 am (UTC)
ellen_fremedon: overlapping pages from Beowulf manuscript, one with a large rubric, on a maroon ground (Default)
From: [personal profile] ellen_fremedon
I read another review of this and wasn't sure if I'd like it, but from this I think I may give it a chance.

Date: 2017-08-01 04:35 pm (UTC)
cathexys: dark sphinx (default icon) (Default)
From: [personal profile] cathexys
Yes, I couldn't put that into words, but the anxieties (and oppressive regime aspects) felt incredibly familiar to me, and I wondered if that was the Swedish background.

I picked this book up because of your review, and now it's on my short list of books to maybe teach next year, so...

As you said, it's not an easy book, but I'm glad I gave it a try!!!

Date: 2017-07-20 03:57 pm (UTC)
readerjane: Book Cat (Default)
From: [personal profile] readerjane
TBR'd. This sounds like a story I would really like.

Date: 2017-08-07 01:47 am (UTC)
readerjane: Book Cat (Default)
From: [personal profile] readerjane
I finished this last week. It strongly reminded me of the stories my generation was told as children, about life in the Soviet Union: bare functionality of all objects, everyone cold, everyone hungry, everyone paranoid about being reported for the least infraction.

The strong implication in those stories was, "this is what will happen if we give an inch in the slide towards Communism." So it was eerie to see those very same opressions justified, in the culture of Amatka, as safeguards against a more tangible slide into gray goo. The same fear directed at a different manifestation of change.

Date: 2017-08-14 05:02 pm (UTC)
ellen_fremedon: overlapping pages from Beowulf manuscript, one with a large rubric, on a maroon ground (Default)
From: [personal profile] ellen_fremedon
So it turns out it is possible to do every single thing I dislike about allegory through relentless literalness and concreteness. I can't say I enjoyed it but I'm glad to have read it--it's going to be living in my head for a while.

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