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.
Praise for In Ascension:
“Astonishing . . . Beautifully written, richly atmospheric, full of brilliantly evoked detail, never sacrificing the grounded verisimilitude of lived experience to its vast mysteries, but also capturing a numinous, vatic strangeness that hints at genuine profundities about life.”—Guardian
“I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was as profound and moving at every scale – the cell, the family, the universe. A remarkable, expansive, stunning achievement.”—Karen Joy Fowler
“A shattering investigation of nothing less than humanity’s place in the cosmos.”—Daily Mail
“The richness of the novel is endlessly rewarding. In Ascension is a far-reaching epic that blends a deep scientific knowledge with a wide-eyed wonder at our place in the universe.”—Financial Times
“In Ascension finds as much poetry in the human microbiome as it does in the grand revolutions of the planets. It is a love letter to life… a primer to marvel.”—Times Literary Supplement
“A gorgeous, sombre epic, worthy of its precursors in Stanislaw Lem, J.G. Ballard, Olaf Stapledon and Stanley Kubrick. It will be of commanding interest to all whose ears prick up at those names, or any reader hungry to see the novel’s cosmic and intimate dimensions reconciled with seemingly effortless grace.”—Jonathan Lethem
“Martin McInnes’s imagination knows no bounds: he unites the unplumbed depths of the oceans to the infinity of interstellar space in his bravura, breathtaking, audacious In Ascension. Like Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life, and Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, this is an instant classic. Read it and feel awe and wonder.”—Neel Mukherjee, author of A State of Freedom
“Monumental . . . In Ascension rarely slips from G-inducing pace. It’s that rare thing: a big, brawny novel of ideas that’s actually readable. And for that considerable achievement, MacInnes deserves praise. It’s no small thing, after all, to reach for the stars.”—Telegraph
“One of the best sci-fi novels I’ve read for ages . . . Transcendent.”—New Scientist
“Its intellectual daring is formidable. This is fiction which is both stellar and grounded; an exemplar of what the novel alone can still do.”—The Scotsman
“In Ascension is strewn with jaw-dropping ideas . . . I’m still chewing over them.”—Spectator
“A wondrous, hypnotic book.”—Ned Beauman, author of Venomous Lumpsucker
“Laura Jean McKay, Colson Whitehead and Emily St John Mandel are serious novelists . . . crafting extraordinary and original speculative fiction. To that list, add Martin MacInnes.”—SFX (UK)
“An absorbing, serious, and wonderful novel. It will stay with you.”—Daisy Hildyard, author of Emergency
“An extraordinary novel – planetary and beyond planetary. The salt and blood, the tide and the bloom, the stuff of the world, will haunt you.”—JM Ledgard, author of Submergence
“Truly incredible. Beautiful and moving. A masterpiece.”—Lee Rourke, author of Glitch