Heat buffeted my face, whipping my locs behind me.
–Jacqueline Koyanagi - Ascension - c.2013
A Tangled Axon novel : #1
Part of my Diverse Universe reading.
Alanna Quick is a sky-surgeon and she loves her job. Repairing spaceships, getting to know their beating hearts, is what makes her come alive. The only problem is that there is less and less work for her. The new technology of Transliminial Solutions is making her obsolete. Less work means less money. Less money means less chance of her and her Aunt Lai saving enough to get their Mel’s Disease cured. They can barely scrape enough together to afford the medication that eases the symptoms and delays its onset.
So when a ship comes looking Nova, Alanna’s sister, Alanna seizes her opportunity to leave the dirt behind and fly off into the Big Quiet. What she’d always dreamed of doing.
There is a lot to enjoy about this book. It gives off a Firefly vibe when talking about the ship, The Tangled Axon and her crew of misfits who have become a family. Alanna is the outsider trying to become a part of the crew. And if you are looking for protagonists who aren’t your usual white men then this is the book for you. There is a diverse cast of mostly women1 with a variety of sexual orientations. Not that the book is purely about anyone’s sexuality, it is simply that sexuality does to making up who people are. And Alanna likes women. She likes ships and work more, but in a different way. And she really likes the Captain of The Tangled Axon.
It was also refreshing to read about a character who wasn’t at peak fitness. Alanna has a degenerative disease. It causes pain and eventually it will kill her. She must constantly battle against it’s symptoms and try to live her life the way she wants.
I enjoyed the read. It kept me entertained and there are some parts that really work. The main problem I had with the book is that while Alanna is so well drawn and so alive the supporting cast is less so. At first I was wondering if my lack of engagement in the love story element to the plot was down to the fact that it was a lesbian love interest. And frowning at myself. But then I realised that I didn’t really engage with any of the character interactions in the way I would have had they been as well defined as Alanna herself was. That is always a risk when you read a first person narrated story, the narrator can only tell you what she sees/hears and so we don’t get as much character motivation and development from the others.
Still, on the whole Ascension is a well told, enjoyable science fiction story, and if space ships with hearts and technological threats and space mystery are your thing you should give this one a go. It is, however, not hard sci-fi, so be prepared for the focus to be on character rather than the science.
This is my first read2 for this year’s Diverse Universe, the author Jacqueline Koyanagi was born in Ohio to a “Japanese-Southern-American family” and her twitter profile describes her as “Queer, biracial, FMS, autism spectrum, non-monogamous.”