Karin Tidbeck's Amatka (Vintage) starts as so much dystopian fiction does: bleak, gray, disaffected. Vanja, a government worker, travels from Essre to a sister colony called Amatka to do consumer research for hygiene products. Her introduction to her new city and roommates is slow and heavy with foreboding, and it is here that we learn what makes this world so. People must engage in a ritual where they label the objects around them; if not, the fabric of reality could come apart. Vanja, seemingly resigned to her dull life, finds her curiosity awakened in Amatka as she comes to love and care for the people around her. She soon learns about a threat to the colony, and her investigation and newfound individualism could destroy everything. Tidbeck excels in drawing small details that send a chill up the spine — and turn this dystopian novel into a fine piece of horror-weird fiction.
After the Flare , by Deji Bryce Olukotun (The Unnamed Press), starts as hard science fiction but develops into something more mythical. The novel follows Kwesi Bracket, one of the head engineers of the Nigerian space program. Kwesi has a lot to prove after a solar flare scrambled the world order, with South America and Africa the only places with any sort of sustained cyber prowess and thousands of satellites about to plummet to Earth. He lost his wife and his job at NASA, and his daughter is at Yale University, which has been relocated to the Caribbean. Bracket is responsible for making sure the space program can complete its mission: rescuing a group of astronauts trapped on an international space station plummeting to Earth. Beyond the technological difficulties, Bracket must navigate a political conspiracy, a rebranded Boko Haram and the emergence of a mysterious and dangerous creature. Though billed as a sequel to the 2014 novel "Nigerians in Space," the book stands on its own for new readers.
Everdeen Mason reviews science fiction and fantasy every month for The Washington Post.
Science fiction and fantasy