Saturday, March 5, 2011

Book Reviews: Ammonite and Slow River by Nicola Griffith

My cat approves of the
Ammonite paperback
Nicola Griffith has written two science fiction books that focus on lesbians and gender identity: Ammonite and Slow River (she also writes a crime-mystery series following a lesbian ex-policewoman).

Ammonite is very, very good - and very interesting... Sci-fi - woman going to study a planet that has been cut off for centuries; a virus killed off all the men (and some women) so many non-tech different cultures have sprung up; the women can self-induce diploid conceptions; the 'Company' has a base of soldiers/security but will probably kill them off (as it's cheaper) if the vaccine they're testing doesn't protect against the virus.

by Nicola Griffith
 (US cover)
I picked my copy up in a second hand bookshop, hence the battered look! (Non-US cover, obviously).

It reminded me a bit of 'Brother's Price' by Wen Spencer - it's all women, they *assume* it's going to be a woman, and sometimes it isn't even mentioned that it is a woman, so you don't realize until later; and the interactions are fascinating. In a way, those stories are a lot simpler, because they don't have to include or adjust for or explain gender interactions - it's one less variable, unfortunately a significant one. The other side of this - the evolutionary issues of male and female roles and dual pregnancies, and the apparent uniform biological attraction of all women to other women is not addressed.

Ammonite - older/UK cover

Another review to check out: by Danielle L Parker

Ammonite Awards
  • winner, Tiptree award
  • winner, Lambda Literary Award
  • winner, Premio Italia
  • finalist, British Science Fiction Award
  • finalist, Arthur C. Clarke Award

Slow River
Slow River
by Nicola Griffith
(US cover)

Slow River is another stand alone science fiction book. About a futuristic, decaying society, it has interesting realistic characters, dysfunctional families, and jumps about a lot. This book is fantastic, very believable, and recommended simply as a good character-driven, science fiction book, quite aside from the matter of fact-ly lesbian protagonist.

It follows the story of  Lore van de Oest, who is kidnapped - and abandoned to her kidnappers by her family. She escapes, and is rescued from the streets by a woman named Spanner who teaches her to survive on the wrong side of the law. Over time, Lore learns to trust again, and stand on her own two feet, taking a job in a biotech facility owned by her own family.

Solitaire: a novel
Solitaire: a novel
by Kelley Eskridge
This multiple timeline narrative is a real pain to start with, but fascinating by the end, with the various timelines in the girl's life unfolding in parallel, and others - think Sheri S. Tepper-style/quality/philosophical level.

For a similar yet completely different 'futuristic lesbian rich girl learns to live in the real world' story, check out Solitaire by Griffith's partner, Kelley Eskridge.

Slow River Awards

Further Reading

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