Black Cat
Black Cat
Black Cat

In Ascension

by Martin MacInnes


An 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

  • Imprint Black Cat
  • Page Count 512
  • Publication Date February 27, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6346-2
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $18.00
  • Imprint Black Cat
  • Publication Date February 27, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6347-9
  • US List Price $18.00

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:

A New Yorker Best Book We Read in 2024
A Locus Magazine Recommended Reading Pick

“A thrilling, thought-provoking celebration of the marvels and mysteries of the universe . . . The novel is beautifully constructed, each of its parts snapping together satisfyingly, like Lego bricks . . . Few novels toggle so beautifully between the minute and the vast, the personal and the theoretical, the quotidian and the extraordinary, the knowable and the unfathomable. In Ascension raises big questions about the universe and humanity’s place in it. Even better, it evokes wonder at every turn.”—Heller McAlpin, Wall Street Journal

“Martin MacInnes’s third novel, In Ascension, is a searching, deeply empathetic work of literature—a story about one woman’s struggle to find connection in a world that is tearing itself apart. In this cross-genre epic, MacInnes seamlessly blends grand tropes from science fiction…with probing philosophical meditations about what gets lost when we lose contact with one another and the natural world around us.”—Jonathan Hahn, Sierra Magazine

“An elegiac voyage through these questions, a vaulting exploration of the interplay between the micro and the macro, the human and the otherworldly . . . Leigh’s connection to, and reverence for, the natural world is profoundly moving. MacInnes’s descriptions are lush, almost devotional at times.”—New York Times Book Review

“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

“A substantial work, carefully paced and plotted . . . There is an elegant symmetry to the novel, which balances Leigh’s stratospheric career against the collapse of her personal relationship . . .  [MacInnes’] novels have an unusual sobriety, a serious atmosphere, and a searching quality. The prose is clean and spare but rarely designed to impress; there’s wisdom rather than cleverness in the storytelling.”—Daisy Hildyard, New York Review of Books

“[A] capacious, broody work of speculative fiction.”—New Yorker

“Mind-altering . . . On nearly every page, details arise from the novel and demand their own attention, rather than only contributing to a scene . . . In a book filled with substantial literary achievements, In Ascension’s primary achievement is sustaining this appreciative sensitivity throughout its pages, inviting readers to be fascinated by every detail in its world, and then equally fascinated by the world around them.”—Dan Kubis, Brooklyn Rail

“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

“Readers of speculative fiction will appreciate this intellectually rich addition to the canon, which considers what new discoveries might tell humans about ourselves and the planet we inhabit . . . An interesting investigation of home and interpersonal responsibilities through deep-sea and far-space travel.”Kirkus Reviews

“Extraordinary . . . Thought-provoking, elegant, and riveting, In Ascension frames the search for our beginnings as a challenging voyage into the unknown.—Bridget Thoreson, Booklist, starred review

“A thought-provoking story of underwater and outer space exploration . . . The familial dysfunction mirrors one of the book’s major concerns: that the relationship between people and the natural environment has been damaged almost beyond repair. Despite the lingering sense of doom, MacInnes ensures readers never lose sight of what Leigh calls “the generosity of porous life.” This brims with humanity.”—Publishers Weekly

“One of the best science fiction novels of the year.”—Niall Harrison, Locus Magazine

“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