“Elvia Wilk’s Oval is a marvel. At the core of this seductive, acute, superbly contemporary update of midperiod J. G. Ballard lies a deep-beating, deep-dreaming heart.” —Jonathan Lethem, author of Chronic City and Motherless Brooklyn
“A fascinating near-future exploration of relationships, sustainability, and power. An extraordinarily accomplished debut novel.” —Jeff VanderMeer, author of Borne and Annihilation
In the near future, Berlin’s real estate is being flipped in the name of “sustainability,” only to make the city even more unaffordable; artists are employed by corporations as consultants, and the weather is acting strange. When Anja and Louis are offered a rent-free home on an artificial mountain—yet another eco-friendly initiative run by a corporation—they seize the opportunity, but it isn’t long before the experimental house begins malfunctioning.
After Louis’s mother dies, Anja is convinced he has changed. At work, Louis has become obsessed with a secret project: a pill called Oval that temporarily rewires the user’s brain to be more generous. While Anja is horrified, Louis believes he has found the solution to Berlin’s income inequality. Oval is a fascinating portrait of the unbalanced relationships that shape our world, as well as a prescient warning of what the future may hold.
J. G. Ballard meets William Gibson meets Jeff VanderMeer. Oval is an up-to-the-minute story about the twilight zones of corporate design, aesthetics, pharmacy, and bioengineering, where there’s nothing consultants won’t break in the quest for ’innovation.’ What could possibly go wrong? Find out in Elvia Wilk’s crisp and stylish debut book.
The book feints toward an Ottessa Moshfegh–style ennui, the kind of tragic vision that disguises itself as satire. But Oval has a warm center in Anja, who is friendlier, more approachable, less alienating and alienated than the typical Moshfegh heroine . . . [Anja] is finely observed and solid, capable of both banter and feeling . . . When Wilk examines social behavior, her attention snags in all the right places . . . Like Oedipus or Othello, characters in Oval can neither alter their destiny nor anticipate its shape. Yet Wilk entwines a classical sensibility with biological determinism—she almost suggests that humans have reached the final phase of a natural decomposition process, like cells programmed to grow and then atrophy.
Oval . . . impressively recasts an all-too-familiar Berlin corporate-artistic landscape.
Elvia Wilk’s novel Oval is like an ever-expanding sphere . . . It would be beautiful satire if it didn’t all ring so true.
Oval is one for the sci-fi nerds out there who want to get their hands on some legit brilliant literature.
In Elvia Wilk’s brilliant, biting debut novel, Oval, the world is weird. This isn’t to say it’s unrecognizable. In fact, the specific weirdness of this world is what makes it so familiar; this dystopia bears contours as intimately known as those of our own face.
Elvia Wilk’s debut novel, Oval, exquisitely depicts the exhaustion of trying to maintain your footing among the reality distortions of 21st-century companies like Google.
Elvia Wilk’s brutal new satire Oval is a lot of things—including a condemnation of gentrification under the guise of environmentalism, and a critique of how well-meaning people try and fail to change humanity for the better. But at its heart, the novel feels like a prolonged elegy for the art world, a coming-of-age story in which maturity is defined by the ability to leave a tired scene behind . . . Wilk’s real skill is in sketching an entire society that has thrown up its hands in the face of corporate dominance . . . Oval is a sharp weapon, both a provocation and a reckoning.
Oval offers commentary on capitalism, consultants, drugs, climate change, and more—but it’s more than commentary. It’s smart and enjoyable and a little bit terrifying.
Oval is Don DeLillo’s White Noise updated for 2019 minus the satire of academia plus a layer of millennial discontent . . . Swift plot, lotta underlineable sentences, what’s not to love.
Everything is work—mourning, clubbing, reading your partner’s moods. And everything is a scam—plants that become buildings, jobs that become consultancies, apps that become jobs. With astonishing emotional accuracy, Oval records what it feels like to hover between two poles.
Deeply weird and unsettlingly hilarious, Wilk’s dystopian debut pushes the grim absurdities of the present just a little bit further, into a near future that’s too plausible for comfort . . . The book’s true surprise is its startling emotional kick: If the circumstances are heightened to extremes, the relationships—with their delicate dynamics—are all too real. Witty and alarming, a satire with (unexpected) heart.
So good, so dark, so funny, so cruelly smart about where we are and where we’re going. This book is a petri dish growing a new strain of heartbreak. I’m sick with love for it.
A fascinating near-future exploration of relationships, sustainability, and power. An extraordinarily accomplished debut novel.
With wit and precision, Elvia Wilk pinpoints the moment when neoliberalism metastasizes into something far more sinister.
As a social comedy of modern relationships and gentrifying Berlin, Elvia Wilk’s debut is exquisitely funny and exquisitely well observed. But it also has something weirder spliced into its DNA: fragments of the future that transform this story into a fabulous biopunk hybrid that’s not quite like anything else I’ve ever read.
Wonderfully clever and beguiling. The circle may be absolute, but the oval remains restless and bursts with potential.
Soft Skull has a reputation for provocative, striking, and genre-bending prose, and Oval is no exception.
Set in Berlin in the near future, Oval is a wry and timely novel that speaks to some of the biggest issues shaping today’s society: the effects of climate change, the growth of corporate conglomerations, the (over)reach of health care, and the role of the artist who explores all of this.
Elvia Wilk’s Oval is a marvel. At the core of this seductive, acute, superbly contemporary update of midperiod J. G. Ballard lies a deep-beating, deep-dreaming heart.
A high-minded, intelligent novel . . . Oval strikes a note that will vibrate with Wilk’s contemporaries.