Elaine Burnes's Reviews > Ammonite

Ammonite by Nicola Griffith
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Jul 07, 10

bookshelves: lesbian
Read in June, 2010

Excellent! Griffith’s first novel won a Lammy and Tiptree award. If you don’t think you like science fiction, try this one. I did have trouble getting into it. The thing with sci fi (or fantasy) is that you are quite literally in an alien world and it takes time to get acclimated. This is worth sticking with because once you’re in, you are quite thoroughly stuck. Griffith creates an amazing world, and I would have enjoyed it better if I’d known there was a glossary and cast list at the back. Sigh. She takes great pains to build a world populated with creatures similar yet alien to our own. I appreciated that, when confronted with alien names, the main character repeats them to herself (and me!) phonetically, helping me understand how to pronounce them. I did wonder, though, how the spellings originated among a people with no written language. That always annoys me about sci fi an fantasy. How does something that sounds like Eck-RAYV, become Echraidhe? But she built this language on a known foundation (the less said here the better), so it’s all quite fascinating. There are a couple of gruesome scenes I could have done without. I think they are necessary to the story, but weren’t as effective as they could have been.

What if you were an anthropologist and therefore inclined to explore strange worlds, fascinated by what makes us human and eager to learn about a population who seem to be human but in an important way might not be—all women who can reproduce. What would it be like to enter that world, which is full of danger and your usual tools of survival are useless? Who would be up for the task? There is a companion short story, “Mirrors and Burnstone,” which was her first published piece (available at her website). I had also found that very hard to acclimate to, but it does make a nice companion piece to this.

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