Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

I’ve been slowly reading more science fiction as the years go. I took a Women in Science Fiction class with Jane Donawerth at UMD the summer between freshman and sophomore year, and that opened my eyes to some really excellent fiction. Then, beyond reading Frankenstein every year until I knew it backwards and forwards (not really), I didn’t really read much sci-fi until the year I worked at the used book warehouse. That was a terrible job, but I did find a lot of fascinating obscure books. I found a copy of David Weber’s A Beautiful Friendship, with its cover depicting a cute teenage girl and an even cuter cat-like alien. Fantastic book. Since then, I’ve been giving sci-fi more of a chance, especially because I’ve found that sci-fi is the perfect setting to play with social norms. No matter what the Sad Puppies may say (I had the pleasure of explaining to my old housemate why Chuck Tingle was Hugo-nominated).

At first blush, Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi is everything a social commentary science fiction space opera should be. The majority of the characters are black or brown, the main character, Alana, has dreadlocks and an auto-immune disease, I’m pretty sure everyone is at least bisexual in this universe (nice!), and the story itself very polyamory-friendly. The future the liberals want, you might snobbishly call it, if you wanted to ignore the fact that these kinds of people actually exist! In real life! Whenever I read a story like this, the only way I can describe it is “refreshing.”

Anyway, so the main point is I really liked this book, though I wish there had been more action. I actually just wish the book had been longer. The romance felt a little lackluster. Either not developed enough or not enough chemistry, either way, I think that could have been written better. I also just don’t jive with polyamory (tried it once, just not for me). Though the philosophy is incredibly lovely. I liked the idea of the Transliminal folks, and how they go through different realities and colonizing them. Would have liked more of that. I think a more thorough exploration of spirit guides would have been nice as well. But the characters are awesome.

Some comparisons could be made to Firefly I guess, but I certainly won’t be making them.

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