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Ammonite by Nicola Griffith
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Ammonite (1992)

by Nicola Griffith

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
I enjoyed this from first page to last, and it’s different enough for a five. I like its attitudes: for one, how it takes a spanner to our sacred biology. Here a virus enhances our senses and by accident grants us more control over the body. Bring it on.

The story is of an anthropologist who learns the wisdom to go native. Its theme, I’m told, is change, and I can see that: change to escape extinction, on a personal level (the main, among others), or a cultural (a group of horse nomads on the planet becomes destructive/self-destructive because their way of life has ceased to fit their environment), or biological. The main already has taught herself exercises to school her body functions, and she is still traumatised from the time she had her face rearranged – even though she looks unlikely at first, closed-up and scientific, she’s just the one to make the leap of identity, lead the military remnants out of the compound, into the risks and gains of the new. I cared about secondary cast (Aoife) and thought bit parts deftly portrayed (Twissel). For much of the novel I forgot about its messages and had a romp with the adventure. The writing, besides, has a lovely way with descriptions.

Although my copy doesn’t have the author’s note (bummer) I see around the traps that she wrote this, or began to write this as an experiment, in that it only has women in the cast. As Ursula Le Guin said, “But a lot of books, like Moby Dick, eliminate one gender, and yet nobody thinks anything about it.” Women readers grow up used to this – I’m a major fan of Moby Dick – and identify with ease with male characters. But I guess you need science fiction to get aboard a whale ship of women. I choose to see as half-humour, half-homage, the plot whereby she kills off the men with a virus, as Joanna Russ had to do on Whileaway to study women on their own. Men once eliminated, she just goes on as usual, she doesn’t note their absence, they’re not discussed, the book’s not about them for better or for worse. If it was an experiment, then it did its job on me. Four or five times I forgot that we only have women on the planet: a bunch of sailors, a draggle of kids; I pictured males for a moment, and then went, oops. I’m ashamed to say it may have been the rowdy sailors or the bratty kids that popped up a male image in my head. Which means the book wasn’t wasted on me, I needed the exercise. I see that Griffith was moved or provoked to write this by the state of the portrayal of women in speculative fiction in the early 90s. I wasn’t paying attention at the time. What I did notice, though, was that the feminism we had perfect faith in when I was at university – namely, that there are no innate differences between the sexes, there is only socialisation – vanished without much of a trace that I saw in my society; even on campus people embraced their gender distinctions, and the world was never so pink and blue. It’s been a sore puzzle in my life – that change – so if she felt the need to pull out Joanna Russ at them again, I can understand. ( )
1 vote Jakujin | May 10, 2014 |
I enjoyed this very much, although I think my experience was impeded by a poorly-formatted ebook: no one had bothered to put in any section dividers. ( )
  jen.e.moore | May 6, 2014 |
...Ammonite didn't quite make the same impression on me as Hild. It is a very good novel in its own right but Griffith's writing obviously developed over the course of two decades. Jeep is not brought to life in the way seventh century England is. That being said, it is a very solid science fiction novel. It can be seen read as a response to the feminist science fiction that has come before but is works fine as a social science fiction story as well. I'll be moving on to her Nebula Award winning novel Slow River as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Full Random Comments review ( )
1 vote Valashain | Apr 13, 2014 |
Of the "pony club" school of Feminist SF. Tiptree winner 1993 ( )
  SChant | Nov 8, 2013 |
I enjoyed this good, solid novel by Seattle-based Nicola Griffith. It's Science Fiction in that it is set on another world far into the future, but this is a very character-driven narrative. Our heroine, Marghe, arrives on the planet knowing she will be infected by a deadly virus. She has with her a limited supply of an experimental vaccine that will allow her to explore the communities on the planet while learning whether the vaccine works. It does work (that's no spoiler; this is obvious early on) and then all the fantastical futuristic novelties fade into the background while we travel with Marghe. We travel inward with her while we explore the strange societies with whom she interacts. At times, this novel felt like a tribute to the author's therapist. Marghe's self-discovery and her progress toward allowing herself to be fully herself is, I know, a profound journey. But Griffith feeds it to us a bit too directly, which lost her half a star.

Still, this is an enjoyable and engaging story, the characters (all female, but not dying out, which I hope makes you curious) are likable, and Griffith does some interesting and subtle things with gender. I hope more readers discover this author's work. ( )
  EBT1002 | Oct 16, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nicola Griffithprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sleight, GrahamForewordmain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herrmann, IngridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jensen, BruceCover artistsecondary 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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Book description
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:07 -0400)

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