Susan Midalia's Review
You don’t have to be a science fiction fan to thoroughly enjoy this novel. Leigh, a young and ambitious microbiologist, takes part in a project to investigate the ocean depths. She is then recruited, along with two other scientists, to undertake a long-range, top-secret journey to discover the source of mysterious signals from outer space and the exhilarating possibility of extra-terrestrial life.
Drawing on the real missions of Voyagers 1 and 2, and blending extensive scientific research with fantastical speculation, the novel is a vertiginous, elating, at times deeply unsettling read. In the process, it raises crucial questions about our responsibility to our deeply damaged planet and to other human beings: parents, siblings, colleagues, even strangers who have experienced profound grief and loss.
Recently longlisted for the Booker Prize, In Ascension is a conceptually dazzling page-turner and an elegiac meditation on the possible meanings of our existence in space and time.
Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2023
'I don't think I've ever read a book that was as profound and moving at every scale' - Karen Joy Fowler
'An instant classic. Read it and feel awe and wonder' - Neel Mukherjee
Leigh grew up in Rotterdam, drawn to the waterfront as an escape from her unhappy home life and volatile father. Enchanted by the undersea world of her childhood, she excels in marine biology, travelling the globe to study ancient organisms. When a trench is discovered in the Atlantic ocean, Leigh joins the exploration team, hoping to find evidence of the earth's first life forms - what she instead finds calls into question everything we know about our own beginnings.
Her discovery leads Leigh to the Mojave desert and an ambitious new space agency. Drawn deeper into the agency's work, she learns that the Atlantic trench is only one of several related phenomena from across the world, each piece linking up to suggest a pattern beyond human understanding. Leigh knows that to continue working with the agency will mean leaving behind her declining mother and her younger sister, and faces an impossible choice: to remain with her family, or to embark on a journey across the breadth of the cosmos.
Exploring the natural world with the wonder and reverence we usually reserve for the stars, In Ascension is a compassionate, deeply inquisitive epic that reaches outward to confront the greatest questions of existence, looks inward to illuminate the smallest details of the human heart, and shows how - no matter how far away we might be and how much we have lost hope - we will always attempt to return to the people and places we call home.