In Ascension

by Martin MacInnes

Paperback, 2024

Call number



Grove Press, Black Cat (2024), 512 pages


LONGLISTED FOR THE 2023 BOOKER PRIZEAn astonishing novel about a young microbiologist investigating an unfathomable deep vent in the ocean floor, leading her on a journey that will encompass the full trajectory of the cosmos and the passage of a single human life 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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Carmenere
A dreamy, sci-fi ish, novel. The story involves Leigh who grew up as an abused child but her adult years are filled with scientific explorations and discoveries.
I thought it a tad too long but felt it was very well written, often the prose is down right beautiful.
This novel was available to me on
Show More
audio, which seemed rather slow paced to me. I look forward to reading a hard copy when I see it in my area.
Personally, I think this novel would make a very good movie
Show Less
LibraryThing member ozzer
I had high hopes for this novel primarily because it was longlisted for the Booker Prize. Yet, I found it to be a disappointingly complex sci-fi story that just didn’t seem to fit smoothly with a family drama or a story about a woman’s scientific ambitions. Notwithstanding his efforts to tackle
Show More
big questions about the interconnectedness of humans the natural world and the universe, MacInnes’ ideas remained obscure. His settings in oceans, deserts, space, and the industrial city of Rotterdam were indeed evocative. His protagonist, however, was more nebulous. Clearly, Leigh was highly motivated by her science, yet her familial relationships, especially with her abusive father, don’t seem to be well explored or fit well with the overarching theme of the novel.
Show Less
LibraryThing member macha
an interesting and well written novel that to me does not really work, because it is caught between its imaginative near-future set-up about a space flight and bioengineering immortality and the very different inward-looking focus of a contemporary family psychological novel. so it moves awkwardly
Show More
between the momentum of an sf story and the more static inner issues of a psychological novel, and that complicates and ultimately compromises both impulses. at the same time both the author's attention to detail and the rhythms of his prose herald a gifted writer, but i'm not certain that this approach could ever work; perhaps he tried it as an experiment.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mykl-s
This is a good book. The story, mostly told in the first person, seemed at first to be mostly plot-driven the way sci-fi often is. Even though Leigh does describe growing up in her, close, caring, but not at all warm sort of family in Rotterdam, she speaks more about her early interest in biology
Show More
and her path toward a pHd, and eventually a job heading a lab that is an important part of a new space project.

But I gradually became aware that, in this complex novel, each step on her way was related both to her traumatic childhood, to her parents and sister, and to her adventures to come. The book is about people and emotions as well as scientific and engineering details There are also questions about how life on Earth, including we humans, came to be the way we are now and, what might happen in the future.

Only when she finds herself one of a crew of three on a spacecraft moving rapidly through the solar system, toward interstellar space, did I think the pace slowed and wander into maybe too much detail. But that doesn’t last for long, and in the rest of the book Macinnes skillfully describes what could be only day-to-day routine in ways that kept me entranced to the end.
Show Less
LibraryThing member spiritedstardust

Recommended to me by a guy I went on a date with.
It was so slow, and monotone and dull. I kept zoning out. Putting it down helped me ascend out of the boredom.


Booker Prize (Longlist — 2023)
Arthur C. Clarke Award (Shortlist — 2024)
Scotland's National Book Awards (Shortlist — Fiction — 2023)
Blackwell's Book of the Year (Shortlist — Fiction — 2023)




0802163467 / 9780802163462
Page: 0.3059 seconds