Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith

Second paragraph of third chapter:

The wind had died to a whisper and the night was quiet and inky soft. Dry ting grass scratched against the spun fibers of Marghe’s nightbag as she wriggled onto her back. The cloud cover was thin and veil-like, allowing tantalizing glimpses of the moons and what might be stars, or satellites.

Back to my read-through of past award-winners, Ammonite won the Tiptree in 1994, and was also on the shortlist for both the BSFA and Clarke awards (as was Snow Crash), beaten by Aztec Century and Vurt respectively. The only other book I have read by this author is the Nebula-winning Slow River, though it sounds like I would enjoy her Hild as well.

The story is of an anthropologist who is exploring a planet on which only women live; a local virus is fatal to men, and the women have developed parthenogenesis. At the same time, the protagonist’s bosses on the orbiting spaceship are looking for ways to exploit the planet. It’s very far from being a lesbian feminist paradise; this is a world where women compete for scarce resources and territory, and resist change, though these issues are resolved with less testosterone than in most stories. The core of the story is the protagonist’s physical and cultural journey between her own Earth background and the new world that she has a chance to become part of. The differences of culture are well done; not totally convinced by some of the choices made, but of course one writes great stories about unlikely events. You can get it here.

Next on this list, Aztec Century and then Vurt.