Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



In association with Amazon.it - Italia

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Tim Davys

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Amberville

Title: Amberville
Author: Tim Davys
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 343 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: Amberville - US
Amberville - UK
Amberville - Canada
Amberville - Deutschland
Amberville - Italia
  • Swedish title: Amberville
  • Translated by Paul Norlen

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B- : not nearly as fun or creative as the premise suggests

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Bookforum . 2-3/2009 Stefanie Sobelle
The LA Times . 15/2/2009 Sarah Weinman
San Francisco Chronicle . 1/3/2009 Laurel Maury
Svenska Dagbladet C+ 23/10/2007 Eva Johansson
The Telegraph . 26/8/2009 Jeremy Jehu
The Washington Post . 8/4/2009 Claudia Deane

  From the Reviews:
  • "No character in Amberville is quite what he or she seems, and each offers a meditation on truth, power, the value of goodness, and the nature of evil." - Stefanie Sobelle, Bookforum

  • "The translation continues to be clunky, the tone remains hard-bitten and violent, and the characters' names are anything but ironic (.....) (T)he giddy thrill comes in how Davys accomplishes the obvious." - Sarah Weinman, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Yes, it sounds kooky, weird, even hopelessly cute, like some Christmas special where the animals wear fedoras and mutter in tones of Sam Spade. But this debut by someone calling him or herself Tim Davys (the author's identity is a secret, allegedly because s/he is a public figure) is dastardly fun to read. (...) Once the "whoa -- this is weird" reaction subsides, Amberville is a nifty rollick that's as bracing as a good shot of whisky." - Laurel Maury, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Idén är det alls inget fel på, den är tvärtom både rolig och fantasirik och bitvis mycket väl genomförd. Tim Davys skriver med driv, humor och känsla för snärtiga formuleringar och späckar berättelsen med skojiga, smarta och välfunna detaljer. Men tyvärr har han inte nöjt sig med att skriva en rafflande fabelthriller. Han har dessutom velat tala om ondskans natur, en diskussion som enbart blir schablonartad och platt. (...) Romanens stora problem är att den inte lyckas engagera. Den väsnas och står i, men utmynnar i slutändan i ett enda stort jaha. Upplösningen känns trött, som om författaren inte ens själv förmått intressera sig för lösningen på sitt mysterium." - Eva Johansson, Svenska Dagbladet

  • "The Roger Rabbit-on-acid setting is neither uniquely weird nor a cynical gimmick. It merely belongs to that old hippy tradition of making kindergarten philosophy sound more profound in a nerd-friendly metaphysical setting. This is Watership Down with car chases." - Jeremy Jehu, The Telegraph

  • "Weird ? Obviously. But oddly gripping and convincing. (...) Should you flinch ? Laugh ? Both ? There's more than stuffing here, though, including questions of good vs. evil, life vs. death, and sanity vs. insanity." - Claudia Deane, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Amberville is the first in a quartet of books set in Mollisan Town, each centered on a different one of the city's four districts. The Mollisan-world is in many ways similar to the real one, the most obvious difference, however, being that it is populated entirely by stuffed animals. That is a pretty big difference, and would seem to allow for some very creative fiction; unfortunately, Davys chose to make everything much too life-like: often one almost forgets he's writing about stuffed animals -- and that's not a good thing here.
       Amberville is a novel about the nature of evil, and about mortality -- with a healthy dose of identity-issues thrown in. The central character is Eric Bear, now nearing fifty, working in advertising, and married to Emma Rabbit. The plot of the novel centers around Eric being approached by the thuggish Nicholas Dove (with whom he's had dealings previously ...); Dove has learnt that he is on the infamous 'Death List', meaning he's likely to be collected sometime soon and put out of commission. (There are stories about the 'Death List', but most apparently believe those to be apocryphal; if Dove really is on the list that means such a list actually exists -- which would be a rather devastating blow to the inhabitants of Mollisan Town.) Dove threatens Eric, demanding he get him off the list and warning that if Dove disappears his gorillas (yes, they're actual gorillas) will tear Eric's beloved Emma to pieces.
       Eric gets his old crew back together -- Sam Gazelle, Snake Marek, and Tom-Tom Crow -- and tries to undertake the impossible: finding a list that supposedly doesn't exist, and removing Dove's name from it.
       Most of the narrative follows the efforts of Eric and his gang, but there are also chapters centered on or narrated by other characters, specifically 'Twilight', a shadowy entity who seems to have quite a bit of control over this stuffed-animal world, as well as Teddy Bear, Eric's twin brother. As Eric comes closer to the truth, these two characters -- and their secrets -- also come to figure more prominently.
       There's some entertainment value to how Eric and his gang go about finding the 'Death List' and who is behind it. There are also some amusing tangential story-lines, such as Snake Marek's ingenious and decade-spanning plan to make and take his place as the leading writer of Mollisan Town -- a plan that, however, earns him the enmity of one animal whom it proves unwise to cross.
       Unfortunately, much of all this is also quite plodding -- and Davys' exploration of the nature of evil gets quite heavy-handed. The explanation behind the 'Death List', and the reasons for the secrecy turn out to be rather pedestrian, too (and, again, there are too-close commonalities with the real world). Even the clever twists Davys throws in -- of who else is on that list, and of the identities and true character of several of the prominent figures -- are rather dulled in the presentation.
       Both the moralizing and the humor in the novel are, for long stretches, off, barely redeemed by the occasional spot-on bit. Some of all this is quite cleverly imagined, but not nearly enough; the narrative in Amberville is largely tepid fizzle -- and it's not a short novel, either.
       Rather disappointing.

- M.A.Orthofer, 11 February 2011

- Return to top of the page -


Amberville: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       'Tim Davys' is the pseudonym of a Swedish author.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2011 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links