Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ammonite by Nicola Griffith - I Almost Quit

Pros: Some interesting things, some interesting characters
Cons: Most of the time I got bored, and once I almost quit.

The Bottom Line: If you like this sort of SF you'll be fine, but if you want more excitement and just...more, then look elsewhere.

This was the August choice for the 2011 ABC Book Club hosted by Calico Reaction. While some of the books that have been chosen have been interesting (hmm, I notice that I'm using that particular word a lot with these books...), others have been less than so - at least to me. With so many other books on my plate, my patience is running thin. So I decided, as I began to read this book, that I would do something I don't think I've ever done before.

If the book wasn't grabbing me by the time I hit the 100th page, I was going to quit. Not something I like to do, but I have well over 20 books on my "Want to Read" list, and I didn't want to spend my time with something I didn't like. And let me tell you - I almost put this one down.

Marghe is a SEC rep, and SEC is essentially in bed with Company. They've found the planet Jeep again after hundreds and hundreds of years since its first population of Earth humans. But there's a virus there that kills all men and changes women at the cellular level. As an anthropologist, it's Marghe's job to liaison between the natives and the rest of the people at Port Central. She's also there to test FN-17, a new vaccine against the drug. But when Marghe sets out on her own in a land she doesn't understand, she discovers more than she thought she would - good and bad alike - and when she runs out of the vaccine, she discovers what the virus is truly capable of.

The beginning of this book is, or at least it feels, rather disorganized. Like the author wasn't exactly sure how to move things along to get from the beginning to Marghe's capture by a northern tribe of women. And that's where the book finally gets interesting. I was *this* close to putting the book down, but I made it to page 107 and that's where I was finally intrigued enough to keep going. But in those first pages, I did not like the way Griffith handled the timing of things, I did not like (and still don't) many of her word choices, and in general just found myself bored and not really connecting with any of the characters. When Marghe had a flashback, I almost rolled my eyes in a, "Oh man, are we doing to do flashbacks all the time now?" kind of way. It felt like Griffith was just pushing her way to the meat of the story, so things felt disjointed and awkward until she got to where she was comfortable.

There are a lot of things I just don't like in this book. Griffith tends to describe things like weather and the sky, and that's great, but she completely fails at describing the creatures. I have no idea what the heck a taar looks like, so I just conjured up some shaggy creature like a yak. I think wirrel is unimaginative because it sounds too much like squirrel. Maybe that wouldn't be so bad, but again, I have no idea what the heck it's supposed to look like. And Company as the big bad, um, company, taking over everything is also unimaginative and felt really cliché. In fact, the whole deal with a company trying to eradicate the virus and then exploit all of the planet's resources, not to mention the fact that Company basically owns everything under the sun, annoys me to no end. I'm sick and tired of stories where corporations own everything and they're in complete control and everyone else is just screwed. It's boring! I've heard it a million times! Books and TV and movies alike!

There are times where some of Marghe's past is brought up, particularly her beating on another planet, but Griffith makes that out to be some big deal and then once the information is spoon-fed to us in the form of something very nearly an info dump, it fizzles out into no big deal after all. I thought it might have some significance, but apparently not. Most of the book focuses on Marghe's ordeal, and by the way I thought her reasons for going north were weak and the fact that the head of Port Central (Hannah Danner) allowed her to go alone is pretty stupid. Especially in light of Marghe being the test subject of a new vaccine for the virus.

The other half of the book focuses on Marghe's and other characters' - primarily Danner - need to find themselves. Finding their place in the world. Finding out who they are and how they fit, etc. That sort of thing. Also something that tends to bore me after a while. Griffith wrote at the end that she wanted to show a planet full of women that exhibited the entire spectrum of humanity. So basically nothing is different than if men were involved. And I'm still wondering where they got the horses in the first place - who brings horses on an initial space mission? And who on the first mission thought it would be okay to start breathing the air without thorough testing first.

But whatever, then I guess we wouldn't have a story.

This isn't my type of book, obviously. It does have it's perks and I'm sure that there are going to be plenty others in the book club who enjoyed it. I didn't hate it, despite all my ranting, it's just....well, three Epinions stars average is all. Perhaps if I were more in the mood for a slow, introspective SF book, I'd be more excited about it.


Notes from the playlist: "Bubblin' in the Cut" by Boreta

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