Now here’s an impressive book: Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite (1993), a far-future science fiction novel set on the distant world of GP (“Jeep”). Colonized centuries ago and then forgotten, Jeep has become a planet of interest to the Company, a corporate-military organization that exploits planets for their natural resources. But something’s wrong: a planet-wide virus has killed all the men, and many of the women. Enter Marguerite Taishan, an anthropologist hired by the Company to test a possible vaccine, and to serve as a representative to the descendants of the original colonization effort. Marghe journeys far beyond the safe confines of the Company base to investigate the fascinating cultural and biological mysteries of the native tribes of Jeep, unexpectedly becoming a catalyst for change.
Populated by strong, convincing characters, Ammonite is a striking story full of thought-provoking ideas. Jeep is vividly depicted, and it serves as an epic backdrop — a world without men, with an unforgiving climate and unexplained magical properties. I found it a slowish read at times, but it’s rich and rewarding on many levels: as a scientific mystery, a tale of interstellar intrigue, an inventive and thought-provoking sociopolitical speculation, and a tale of survival. But most importantly, it’s a story of the necessity of change — the need to adapt in order to coexist, and to confront the harsh realities of a dangerous environment. In that sense, it’s every bit as relevant now, as a mirror of the world’s current challenges, as it was when it was written. Superb novel.