jeep the virus, jeep the planet, jeeeeep!

yer bookwyrm has been sitting procrastinating for a while on this review ’cause somehow, i read too many mangas entretemps sorry

cover of ammonite by nicola griffith presenting a person in a surreal abstract projection of an ammonite, with a overall blue dominant

so, jeep, here we go! i actually finished reading this one a bit earlier this month but couldn’t find the right moment to write this review so sorry in advance if i forget details and stuff… anyways, ammonite is the first published book/novel by nicola griffith thirty years ago, in 1992! it’s a bit old (and it sometimes shows) and yeah, it’s a gender apocalypse kinda book… (which kinda ignores trans and intersex folks… my main issue with sff books talking about gender and stuff)

we follow the story of marghe, anthropologue de son état, qui débarque sur une planète du nom de GP (hence the surname Jeep) anciennement colonisée by humans y’a des siècles de cela, sûrement par accident, oubliée puis trouvée à nouveau quelques années avant le début du récit par une certaine mystérieuse et tentaculaire Company (oui, vous savez, /THE/ Company) marghe voit ici une opportunité inouïe for every anthologist qui se respecte un tant soit peu de découvrir comment une société peut évoluer en circuit fermé à l’échelle planétaire des siècles durant. bref, le rêve. sauf que c’est sans compter sur la présence d’un eh, bien, d’un grain de sel, shall we say… bon okay, un sacré gros/minuscule grain de sel… en effet, un virus présent sur la planète, qui portera lui aussi le nom de jeep, fait des ravages among the new arrivals, especially among men, as it kinda sorta kills them all (yeah, that bad) and some women too… and so, as ya can guess, the long now native local population is constituted only by women who, thanks to the virus, have developed a new reproductive way and have acquired some strange powers and the new arrivals are lowkey skeptical about it all but don’t dare go much farther beyond their barracks, a bit scared and also saddened as they are still grieving the strange death of all the men and some of the women they were with… anyways, back to present day now: a doctor in a station orbiting around the planet, that also serves as quarantine quarters (for fear of the virus escaping the planet is rampant in the Company), just came up with an experimental vaccine, untested for now, and who better than marghe to test it, right? so, marghe is gonna stroll and frolic around go down on the surface & test the vaccine as much as her own knowledge and limits…

and, so yup, as it should be clear by now, nicola griffith took a strong inspiration from le guin’s page here, basically taking the whole “envoy” thing, with the anthropologist going all alone to a new civilisation and stuff, just like in le guin’s hain(ish) cycle… that, and the feminist thinking and ideas coursing through this story. but taking the whole thing up a notch, a whole queer notch, i mean… (there’re also other writers from she borrows stuff but this one is the most glaring and obvious, as much as to even take the setting of winter at some point)

in any case marghe will have to hurry and hers will be a short run on the planet if she wants to have a chance to ever go back & more or less easily get off jeep, ’cause the vaccine releases toxins, which given its cumulative effects, will incapacitate/kill her if she ever takes it & remains for more than six months. yeah… seriously.

but will she even want to leave? she and the other newly arrived women, most if not almost all of whom have been more or less now stranded for years, with a few of whom even going to live among the local natives…

and so she goes on a mission to discover more about the natives, their powers, the virus and the site of the original crash… she will also encounter hints and glimpses of a much earlier civilization, which descendants might still live to this day, mostly through the virus.

there’re many threads in this story and it’s actually pretty fun but a few are picked up and forgotten or just stop at some point, when all we’d want is to follow them further, like with the goths…

the narration (and basically rhythm) is fine in itself until like the half to two thirds point, at which point the book just kinda falls on its weight, i guess, and goes too fast? i feel like this book could’ve easily been the start of a series, whether duology or trilogy, i dunno, what with the evident ambition at the beginning, then it’s like the author just got slowed and couldn’t follow suit on it, precipitating the events which lead to the end in a way that recalls mangakas getting the axe on their series… too bad but eh shrugs that happens with first publications. (see le guin, to take another example, with the hainish series altho she did get to write more in her first books’ universe after, but in a “hitting restart button somewhat” fashion)

the writing, especially the work on and with the languages, is beautiful! there’re many parts where i would’ve wanted to stop and just examine the words!

otherwise i loved the characters and their characterization, the overall atmosphere & ideas and also the story despite its failings…

nveau d’emmerdement : il y a quelques ’tites longueurs mais ça va… 1 à 4 / 10

note générale: 6,5 à 8 / 10