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Ammonite by Nicola Griffith

Ammonite (1992)

by Nicola Griffith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  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 |
The colony of The Company have been ravaged by a virus that has a 100% mortality rate for men and 20 % for the women. All the local inhabitants, survivors of the original expedition over 300 years ago are women.

Into this comes anthropologist Marguerite Tasihen, known as Marghe. She will be testing the new anti-viral drug that hopefully will enable others to come to the planet and for the colonist to get off. If it doesn’t work then they are all trapped on Jeep.

Questions remain as to how a planet of women can continue to reproduce? What is their immunity secret?

Marghe attempts to find answers to these questions by heading out alone into the interior where several of her fellow colonists have disappeared. This is the equivalent of the horror film where you yell at the vulnerable young lady not to go outside, alone, in the dark without a torch, while the serial killer is prowling around.

This is well written. The characters are fully developed and the story is told from more than one viewpoint.

There are a few holes in the plot, nothing to ruin the story, just an annoying niggle where you want someone to explain about the … ( )
  Robert3167 | Mar 23, 2016 |
Didn't finish. I've liked Griffith's work before, but I just couldn't care about the main characters. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
I really liked this book. I chose it because it won the James Tiptree Jr. award, which is "an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender." The world building was interesting and I liked the transformation of the protagonist - I could idenify with her struggles to figure out what she *really* wanted to do with her life. This has sort of anthropological elements to it, which was cool for me as a social science glutton. It didn't change my life, but it was very thought-provoking and took me to another place. ( )
  chessakat | Feb 5, 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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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:12 -0400)

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