In Ascension

Martin MacInnes
In Ascension Cover

In Ascension


First the good: the novel is well-written, well-crafted, well-constructed -- even if it's sometimes transparent & obvious. Pacing is excellent, and the progression feels great: it starts as a regular book about an abusive dad, and slowly morphs into a mystery in the cold depths of space. I can see non-SF readers being sucked in, surprised by what they ultimately end up reading.

At the same time, even though it is set in the near future, In Ascension keeps it real -- and MacInnes' realism is what makes the later space scenes so harrowing and claustrophobic. Those might be the most true space ship scenes I have ever read -- and that's including Aurora from Robinson or Redemption Ark by Reynolds -- who both in their own & very different ways tried to convey possible realities of fictional space flight.

But realism is not the full denominator: the alien stuff is handled differently, and remains vague & unresolved. There's a bit of how Christopher Priest might handle such stuff there, and, as said, Stanislaw Lem. MacInnes writes something that is both creepy and mystical, yet he doesn't make it feel less real even if it is all handwavium. It also doesn't dominate the story at all, and like the other speculative near future elements, generally remains in the background. Very well done, and rather unique.

Also the character arcs are well-done, and MacInnes lets our perception of the main character end up in some kind of liminal space. In a way there is no resolution or conclusion, or at least no definitive answer to the exact psychology of Leigh, and somehow it fits the story and its themes.

Serious novels get serious reviews, and googling will get you some quality writing on the book easily. As such, it's nice to review this a few months after the fact, and engage in a dialogue not only with the book itself.

A few reviewers, like Duncan Lunan of Shoreline To Infinity and Stuart Kelly on The Scotsman, refer to an author's note accompanying the review copies of the book -- nowhere to be found in the edition I bought.


Full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It