Hello, my hearts! I hope your weekend was spectacular. For my American friends, I hope the sportsball team of your choice won the annual championship. I don’t pay attention to that kind of thing, as you can see.
What I did over the weekend was think about this book I just finished: ASCENSION POINT by Dan Harris.
The book is a science fiction novel, and Harris’ self-published debut. Now, before you go around finishing that cringe-smirk, let me tell you this. ASCENSION POINT holds its own against the mainstream science fiction market–it’s well plotted, well-edited, and most of all, fun to read.
That said, it is not for the beginning science fiction enthusiast. The first few paragraphs are a barrage of science fiction terms and ten-dollar words. Which is not a bad thing, necessarily, but if you’ve been reading YA books or books where the narrator communicates primarily in profanity (like I had been reading recently), it’s a bit of a struggle to get into the swing of things. If you aren’t a sci-fi fan by nature, this won’t be a good first book for you to read. Experienced nerds only.
ASCENSION POINT follows four key players: Luc, a genetically ideal Titan; Neela, a senator of the Commonwealth; Abe, half human, half machine, a Collective; and Ariadne, a psychic Seryn. They are called to assist the Athravan, a legendary branch of humanity that is on the brink of extinction.
These four people are all natural enemies at first, and must overcome centuries of social stigma to work together in finding what the Athravan need, to save that race, along with the rest of the galaxy.
I really did enjoy this book. At times, it was hard to keep up with the politics, but that may have been because I was reading it in fits and snatches on the commuter bus over the course of a month. I was a little scared that the non-human races our heroes encounter on their journey would be humanoid, and humanoid only. But I was pleasantly surprised–there are silicon-based lifeforms, arachnid-based lifeforms, and energy-based aliens as well.
My favorite thing about the non-human races were that they communicated differently. Granted, everything ran through the ships’s translator, or an interpreter, but the speech patterns were always different, indicating alien thought processes. I thought that was a nice touch by Harris.
Speaking of ships, our heroes’ vessel–the technologically advanced Athravan ship, Mournstar–totally steals the show. Most of the ship technologies are artificially intelligent in this book, which amuses me, but Mournstar has the jokes, people. It’s kind of like the Enterprise’s computer combined with R2D2. Technological perfection with ‘tude.
Now, Collective seemed eerily close to the Borg of Star Trek fame, at first. But as you read you discover they are not aggressive. Simply curious, which makes Abe really easy to relate to as the reader. He is constantly exploring his surroundings, and provides an excellent foil to explain the politics of the book, as well as give you an appreciation for some of the sweeping vistas of space Harris presents you with.
Abe is my favorite character, as luck would have it. Close second being Mournstar.
The one thing that I had trouble with was the romances in the story. There are two, one established before we begin the adventure, and one that grows with the book. The established romance feels just a tad stiff from time to time. The romance that grows with the book felt a little underdeveloped. I would have liked to see a few more interludes between the people who make up the couple to help build the romantic storyline for the reader.
Harris is a very concise writer. If you aren’t paying attention, you may miss something, which may account for why I felt the romantic story lines were a tad off. However, this economy of words helps to keep the book moving quickly, even during plotted “down time.”
There are some interesting twists Harris will surprise you with, but they fit seamlessly with the overall plot. I find that sometimes plot twists come from left field and have no connection to the story, but not so in this book. Everything fits neatly together.
I can’t wait to read the next installment, VENUS RISING, when it comes out–theoretically, sometime this spring.
Find out more about Dan Harris and his adventures in storytelling by following him on Twitter, @sailingthevoid, or reading his blog: dan-harris.net.