“Ammonite‘s story is gripping, many-layered, ever-changing. Griffith has a fine way with character and sure talent. Many passages are beautifully written; most seem to do double duty, shimmering with the many levels and complex meanings of this remarkable first novel.” — Los Angeles Times Book Review

Publisher’s Description

Change or die. These are the only options available on the planet Jeep. Centuries earlier, a deadly virus shattered the original colony, killing the men and forever altering the few surviving women. Now, generations after the colony has lost touch with the rest of humanity, a company arrives to exploit Jeep—and its forces find themselves fighting for their lives. Terrified of spreading the virus, the company abandons its employees, leaving them afraid and isolated from the natives. In the face of this crisis, anthropologist Marghe Taishan arrives to test a new vaccine. As she risks death to uncover the women’s biological secret, she finds that she, too, is changing—and realizes that not only has she found a home on Jeep, but that she alone carries the seeds of its destruction…

Ammonite is an unforgettable novel that questions the very meanings of gender and humanity. As readers share in Marghe’s journey through an alien world, they too embark on a parallel journey of fascinating self-exploration.

Ellen Key Harris, Acquiring Editor

This first novel is one of the best books I’ve ever acquired and edited. What was most impressive about it was the minimal amount of editorial work and copyediting work it needed—it arrived in our offices in publishable form and just needed a few editorial comments from me, and a few commas and such from the copyeditor, to send it on its way. For a first novel, that’s extremely rare (as well as extremely enjoyable for the editor!). Nicola Griffith has been a great writer from the start. Even with the pulpy cover we put on the book when we first published it, featuring what seemed to be a metallic jellybean rather than a spaceship, Ammonite went on to win a Lambda Award and the Tiptree Award for best novel dealing with issues of gender. It got rave reviews from Ursula K. Le Guin, Kim Stanley Robinson, and other renowned writers, and a great review in the New York Times as well. As a young editor, I was really proud of this one, and I still recommend it as thinking-person’s SF to any friends or acquaintances interested in the genre.

Book Discussion

Fem-sf book discussion (1998)
Fem-sf book discussion (2004)


“Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith, is the first novel of a major talent.” — Denver Post

“Uncompromisingly packed with non-dogmatic feminist and queer ideologies… Griffith reveal[s] herself to be fluent in presenting realistic science and its implications, capable of cinematic clarity in her prose, insightful with emotions and character.” — Washington Post Book World

Ammonite is a self-assured, unselfconscious, convincing depiction of a world without men…doing what only SF can do, and doing it with skill and brio. It answers the question ‘When you eliminate one gender, what’s left?’ (‘A whole world,’ is the answer.) But a lot of books, like Moby Dick, eliminate one gender, and yet nobody thinks anything about it. I believe Kate Clinton has the answer: ‘When women go off together it’s called separatism; when men go off together it’s called Congress.'” — Ursula K. Le Guin

“Nicola Griffith’s first novel, Ammonite, flies all the banners of traditional sf but beneath the banners, it is armed to the teeth against convention.” — Interzone

“Ammonite represents a major, no, make that a revolutionary change…a remarkable departure from the commonplace.” — Locus

“A serious assault on conventions so enormous that it is very much more dangerous, sometimes, than writing about lesbianism.” — Dorothy Allison

“Pays homage to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness without inviting invidious comparisons.” — New York Times Book Review

“Probably the best debut novel of the year—an accomplished, moving, intelligent, and graceful examination of gender roles, and a helluva good read.” — The New York Review of Science Fiction

“Ms. Griffith is an astonishingly gifted writer… Her work is of the very best in the lesbian and gay literary field.” — Allen Ginsberg

“Ammonite is utterly believable, and at times heart-wrenching in its emotional power; the characterisation is impeccable.” — New Statesman and Society

“Griffith is in possession, most decidedly. Ammonite is science fiction, and it is in her hands: like a coiled spring; a secret, many chambered fossil, round and snug and tight.” — Colin Greenland, Foundation

“In many ways, and certainly deliberately, Ammonite recalls the fictional and metafictional Utopia Whileaway… But unlike Whileaway the planet Jeep remains a real place where people are to live—if the world will let them. Buy it and enjoy it. Dream on. But be warned, Nicola Griffith is going to remind you that dreaming doesn’t make the problems go away.” — Gwyneth Jones

“It charts a new and different kind of women’s space.” — Atlanta Magazine

“Nicola Griffith is a promising successor to Ursula K. Le Guin and James Tiptree, redesigning gender and power relations in alien milieux.” — The Face


  • winner, Tiptree award
  • winner, Lambda Literary Award
  • winner, Premio Italia
  • runner up, Locus First Novel Award
  • shortlist, British Science Fiction Award
  • shortlist, Arthur C. Clarke Award



The audiobook, read by Gabra Zackman, is available in all the usual platforms. Gabra does an excellent job, but if you want to hear me read a couple of short snippets, here you go. The first is Marghe, sitting by the gong in Ollfoss:

The second is also at Ollfoss; Marghe listens to Thenike telling a story…