By Nicola Griffith

Ammonite by Nicola Griffith

Ammonite by Nicola Griffith is set in the distant future, when humans have colonised space, largely through a large company that lands on planets and claims land and trading rights, establishing settlements. Remind you of anything? Yeah, me too.

The focus of this story is around Jeep, a planet that has been colonised by man some forgotten time in the distant past. Except now, only women remain. Women who can reproduce. When the Company landed several years before the start of this book, things started to go wrong. Burns were set off due to not understanding the local landscape, thus ruining land, and shortly afterwards many of those who had landed were taken down with a terrible virus. One that killed all of the men, and that only 20% of the women survived.

Marghe, an anthropologist, comes to Jeep to study the “native” women. She is obsessed with figuring out how they reproduce. In order to visit, she agrees to be the guinea pig of a new vaccine against the virus. Shortly before she lands, the person who has been there since the Company landed leaves the planet, and tells her that the other person she was counting on has disappeared, and is presumed dead. All they know is that she headed north towards Olfoss.

Marghe is single-minded in her pursuit of knowledge about the “natives” and puts that above all else. The leader of the Company forces on Jeep begs her to stay. She knows that there is a very good chance that they will not be leaving the planet and wants Marghe’s help to develop relationships and trading with the “natives”. Marghe refuses, and heads off in the direction of her lost colleague. I can’t say Marghe is a likeable character, but she did improve and after some key events on her journey, she came to start thinking of others more than herself and her pursuit of knowledge. She experiences of lot of challenges, some extremely harrowing, in her journey and these do have an impact on her. In the end she does obtain the knowledge she was seeking, but also so much more.

That’s pretty much all I can say on the plot without including spoilers.

This book is very obviously a commentary on colonisation. But it also explores themes of gender, reproduction, and the role of anthropologists – how much can they stand back and observe versus “going native”? These were done quite well and the book kept my interest throughout. It’s not a book to read if you are a reader who needs continual action, though there is some of that. Rather, it’s a slower burn, thinker type book. There will be events that horrify you, especially regarding the true natives of the planet. Because yes, man colonised this planet centuries earlier – they became a type of “native” but are not the true natives of this land. I would have liked the story to delve more into the story of the true natives. We got some glimpses that grabbed my attention and left me wanting more.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with this book and didn’t struggle to put it down. I’m still not sure about using star ratings as my scale has meaning to me, but may be completely different to others. In my scale though, I have given it 4 stars.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s