For whatever reason, it’s shaping up to be a specfic kind of summer for me here at Reading the End. A glance at my reading spreadsheet reports that I did a sci-fi binge at the start of this year, and here I am having another one, what with Touch and Elysium and The Player of Games and some other books I didn’t tell you about because YOU DO NOT KNOW MY WHOLE LIFE. And now Ascension.
Like The Player of Games, there’s a very “I am science fiction!” quality to Ascension, which I admit is not always my jam. I like my science fiction to be of the type the Sad Puppies truly despise: spaceship-free and full of ladies. (Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty, for instance. Touch for instance.) And don’t get me wrong: The Sad Puppies would despise Ascension. It’s full of feelings! And people of color! And ladies kissing ladies! And families of choice and what it means to build one and be a part of one! But also, spaceships; and when it comes to spaceships, I have to be gently led (by bloggers!). It is not my natural diet.
Our heroine, Alana Quick, is a sky surgeon. When she sees an opportunity to stow away on a ship called the Tangled Axon, she seizes it; and the next thing she knows, she and her sister Nova, with whom she has a very fraught relationship, find themselves fugitives on the run along with the crew of the Tangled Axon.
Whenever I get on a scifi binge, it helps me clarify what kind of scifi I actually like, versus what I read in the hopes of making myself like it. I do truly not care for spaceships. Ascension overcomes that to the best of its ability, creating a spaceship that has a properly Firefly-like feel to it, with a ragtag group of vagabonds whose only home is each other. I dug that. What I truly love in sci-fi, however, is a killer idea, played out with exquisite specificity. In Ascension, I loved the milieu, with its casual diversity, sister bonds, open relationships, characters being chill about other characters’ disabilities, etc. etc. But I wanted the plot to be more of an IDEA. I wanted it to be what-if.
All of that to say: If you love spaceships, and diversity in sci-fi, and plots that spin you along, Ascension is a really fun ride, even if it’s not the exactly perfect book for me.
If I may brag: I have been trying to get to some of the books that are higher up on my TBR list (i.e., the books that have been sitting on my list for a while without me reading them), and Ascension was maybe number 4 on the list. When I went looking for the review that inspired me to add it to the TBR list, which was Clare’s, I discovered it was only from 2014! Only last year! Yay me! I am an efficient reader of TBR pile books!