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Ammonite by Nicola Griffith

Ammonite (1992)

by Nicola Griffith

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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Love a book with a map!!!!!

Once again, man wants something that is not his. The Company searches the universe looking for planets to take over and strip of all wealth. However, on Jeep they find that the males do not survive due to a virus the natives (women) can survive.

The Company continues to try to control and understand the virus so they can take what they want. Marghe Taishan comes to the planet to experience what is happening first hand. Her travels show her how different tribes live and interact with other tribes. She finds a place to call home. Which she wasn't expecting.

Hannah Danner, acting Company commander, learns she can not longer trust the Company and relies on the planet and team of women she has ruled.

Question to author - was Jeep a female society before the Company found them and wanted what they have? It appears the natives of Jeep were able to survive the virus and create new life without the male gene/input. ( )
  dcrawford0629 | Apr 29, 2017 |
3.25 stars. this seems pretty ambitious for a first book, but maybe that's the nature of science fiction. i'm not very familiar with the genre (i have probably read less than 10, possibly 5, science fiction books ever) but there seemed to be a lot going on here, and a lot for a reader to keep track of.

luckily, griffith is a talented writer, and the story is an interesting one. she didn't weigh the two threads of the story evenly enough for me (it was so marghe heavy that i'd actually forget about danner when we weren't talking about her) but i do think that everything tied together so well in the end.

it was a slow read for me, perhaps because the genre is newer for me (and i was stumbling over the names and the geography), i'm not sure. it took me some time to really understand what was going on, and once i did it became more enjoyable for me. probably around 50 pages in it started to flow better, and by 90 pages in i was liking it quite a bit. it definitely took a little time to get going for me, though. but once it did, it was an interesting look at identity, community, and society building. i don't feel like the pacing was even throughout - there were times that it moved much faster than others - but overall this is a solid book. and i didn't miss the existence of men even a little. (although i admit that it took some getting used to to never picture a newly introduced character as male.)

i really did like the science stuff that she put in here, about the virus, the vaccine, the inner workings of the body. and all of my favorite characters were the healers. i liked each of them so much.

and her writing is just so good in so many places throughout. probably my favorite sentence:

"The room...was no more than a lean-to, an afterthought added to a wall." ( )
  elisa.saphier | Apr 27, 2017 |
This is the second book I've read by Nicola Griffiths and I believe it is her first published novel. This one owes a huge debt to Ursula LeGuin's 'Left Hand of Darkness' and falls short of that work. There are some similarities between the works. In each, an anthropologist from a technologically advanced space-faring civilisation descends alone to a wintery world inhabited by humans whose sexual and reproductive habits differ markedly from the general population. One important difference between the books is that anthropologist Marghe Taishan is working for a corrupt interstellar Company instead of a benevolent galactic hegemony.

A mysterious virus has eliminated all men from the planet Jeep and Marghe has volunteered to test a vaccine against its effects. As in 'Left Hand of Darkness' a backup starship lurks in orbit, but on Jeep it is a warship waiting to destroy the station if the virus should ever escape the planet. A Company base, Port Central, exists on Jeep. The military women stationed there and the tribes of natives who live further away are incurious about each others' existence at the beginning of the novel. Gradually the Company women make efforts to integrate with the native population.

I had a few problems with some key features of the novel, which I'll try to outline without too many spoilers.

The vaccine
The virus kills 100% of males and 20% of females. So why is it a legitimate test of the vaccine to send a single female volunteer to the planet's surface? If the Company is as ruthless and mercenary as portrayed, wouldn't it not even blink at sending many volunteers and 'non-volunteers' down, male as well as female? The vaccine -- to a disease which has no known vector -- seems to have been developed by a single researcher on the station above Jeep. I understand that the vaccine ultimately represents a threat to the way of life of the women of Jeep, but it didn't seem to be deployed in any logical or clinical way. The vaccine was therefore a literary McGuffin.

Absence of males
Yes, I get it, it's an exploration of a world without males, and what sort of societies and cultures might flourish. And for the natives who have lived this way for thousands of years it makes sense that they would not miss or need males in their lives. But the Company troops who had male colleagues who died from the virus never mention or speak to a man in the entire book. The only personal relationships which exist for them are homosexual ones. It doesn't seem quite right to me that one's sexuality is determined by the company one keeps. Griffith's other work 'Slow River' more successfully achieves an absence of males and heterosexual relationships in a more successful way: simply by making the males irrelevant to that story. In Ammonite they are absent but *not* irrelevant, whatever the author's wishes: they are in the rest of the universe, waiting and plotting to get to Jeep.

Pregnancy and reproduction
This is a spoiler so I'll be cautious. Pregnancy occurs on this world when two female lovers achieve a meditative sympatico and mentally 'deepsearch' into their pasts, mentally stimulating each others' ova to divide and begin gestation. While this process of bodily control, like the prana-bindu of Frank Herbert's Bene Gesserit from 'Dune', is (ahem) conceivable, it seems unlikely to me that it could produce a viable population because all of the offspring would be clones of the mothers -- not implied in the book -- and that the process itself sounds complicated and possibly difficult to achieve for the average woman of Jeep. ( )
  questbird | Jan 28, 2017 |
Ammonite is a science fiction from the early 1990’s that takes place on an all female planet. I found the beginning very promising, but I ultimately wanted more from the book.

The planet of Jeep is home to a virus that kills all men and a large percentage of women. Centuries later, it has been rediscovered by the greater world. Marghe Taishan is an anthropologist sent down to Jeep to learn about the women living there and to test a new vaccine. She also hopes to learn the answer to the greatest question of Jeep: how do these women reproduce?

There was another plot thread in Ammonite following Hannah Danner, the commander of the Company forces. The Company (no other name given) hopes to colonize Jeep if the vaccination succeeds. However, Danner suspects that they will destroy their base if it doesn’t and abandon their employees on planet.

Initially, it seemed like this potential destruction would be a more driving force. However, the threat’s so vague that the tension eventually peters out. The pacing fell off dramatically by the final third of the book, after Marghe is no longer in a direct survival situation. It then focuses almost entirely on Marghe’s inner life. Unfortunately, I found Marghe really bland. None of the other characters were much better.

I also eventually realized that I’d seen this plot before in science fiction. Have you ever seen James Cameron’s Avatar? It’s usually what I use to describe this type of plotline. Protagonist from culture synonymous to our culture goes to native planet and leaves old life behind to follow native ways. The only big twist here was that the “alien” culture was all female. Ammonite was also very heavy on science fiction mysticism, which I can be ambivalent about. Sometimes it works, sometimes it just feels silly. This wasn’t one of the better usages I’ve seen, although to be honest I’m not sure how else I expected the “only women” aspect to be explained.

Obviously, the big draw of Ammonite is that it’s a feminist science fiction novel taking place on an all female planet. While I’m glad that it didn’t go down the “women are all peaceful nurturers in touch with nature” route, I didn’t find it’s examination of gender to go much beyond “women are people.” Yes, great. But I’m guessing that if you’re the sort of person who wants to read a feminist science fiction novel, you’re probably already on board with that message and are looking for something a bit more complex. To be fair, there were a few instances when Ammonite would mention words like “sailors,” and I would automatically picture men, so perhaps it is more relevant than I’m assuming here. It was written in the 90’s, so I really shouldn’t be expecting it to be up to date with feminism in 2016 (for instance, everyone was cisgender). However, it still ends up feeling dated.

In the end, I found Ammonite most relevant as a piece of genre history. There was some interesting thematic material about the need for change, but I have a hard time connecting to a book based purely on themes. I need some connection to either plot or characters, which I didn’t feel in Ammonite.

Review originally posted The Illustrated Page. ( )
1 vote pwaites | Aug 15, 2016 |
Marghe has an opportunity to travel to the newly rediscovered planet nicknamed "Jeep," where a virus killed all the male colonists and some of the women, resulting in an all-female society that has developed in primitive conditions over generations. When she arrives, though, she finds herself connecting with the planet and the women who live there in unexpected ways.

Marghe's character, as our guide to the world of Jeep, was particularly well-developed. I was intrigued early on by learning of her long practice of meditation and extensive work with biofeedback. These qualities make her very receptive to the unique aspects of Jeep's ecosystem, which helps believability, particularly when it comes to the issue of reproduction. I related well to the searching qualities of Marghe's character and how she grows into herself after coming to Jeep. The environment there is uniquely suited to self-discovery, if the individual is open to it.

Jeep is an interesting world that seems very real. The alien life and weather patterns are truly alien, and Griffith describes the planet's environment in almost sensual terms. While in many ways Jeep seems a paradise, it is not a utopia by any means. Life can be very difficult there, particularly in the frozen northern region. Jeep seems more like a real place than an ideal escape from Earth's gender-based social problems.

With the non-gendered names and large cast, it is easy to forget when reading Ammonite that every character is a woman. That's not to say that some characters are actually men in disguise. I never felt this was true. Instead, Griffith explores the entire range of human behavior in her characters. Some characters are wise mentors. Some are stern leaders who hide their self-doubts. Some are selfish, stubborn, impulsive, or even corrupt. Marghe is particularly traumatized when she is kidnapped by a northern tribe who then treat her more as an animal than a person. Even though these characters all come across as fully human, their social structure has evolved in a radically different way, with what I think may be seen as a more feminine (or more humane) outcome. The characters are more forthright and open with one another, particularly on issues of love and family. Kinship and other relationships are extremely important and are also fluid, not wholly dependent on having a genetic connection. Disputes are arbitrated and resolved mostly without violence. Storytelling and art are valued as true professions worthy of communal support. There is violence, but violence is seen as an aberration and not inevitable. This is a compelling vision of what a world can be. ( )
  sturlington | Apr 26, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nicola Griffithprimary authorall editionscalculated
Sleight, GrahamForewordmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herrmann, IngridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jensen, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lynch, Kathleen M.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevenson, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Kelley, who fills my life with grace
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Marghe's suit was still open at neck and wrist, and the helmet rested in the crook of her left arm.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Change or die. These are the only options available on the planet Jeep. Centuries earlier, a deadly virus shattered the original colony, killing the men and forever altering the few surviving women. Now, generations after the colony has lost touch with the rest of humanity, a company arrives to exploit Jeep–and its forces find themselves fighting for their lives. Terrified of spreading the virus, the company abandons its employees, leaving them afraid and isolated from the natives. In the face of this crisis, anthropologist Marghe Taishan arrives to test a new vaccine. As she risks death to uncover the women’s biological secret, she finds that she, too, is changing–and realizes that not only has she found a home on Jeep, but that she alone carries the seeds of its destruction. . . .
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345452380, Paperback)

In Ammonite, the 1994 James Tiptree Jr. Award winner, the attempts to colonize the planet Jeep have uncovered a selective virus that kills all men and all but a few women. The remaining women undergo changes that enable them to communicate with one another and the planet itself, and give to birth to healthy, genetically diverse children. Marguerite Angelica Taishan is an anthropologist who realizes this phenomena and makes the decision to give herself up to the planet to uncover its mysteries.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:12 -0400)

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