Review of Ascension by Victor Dixen

Read: 11th June 2018 – 14th June 2018

Rating: ⭐

Spoilers in review: Mild, but this book isn’t worth reading in the first place

12 teenagers are sent on the first mission to Mars, with the aim of colonising it. Six girls and six boys from all over the world. The girls and boys are kept separate, except for once a day, where one girl chooses one boy (or one boy chooses one girl) to talk to for six minutes. These ‘speed dating’ sessions are in place with the idea that they would have all paired up by the time they reach Mars. The sessions, along with the rest of their lives aboard the spaceship, are televised on Earth in a Big Brother style program.

The writing of this book let the concept down immeasurably.

I can forgive dialogue sounding clunky at times because this novel has been translated into English. That means that slightly unrealistically sounding dialogue isn’t the fault of the author, so I can let it go. However, characters were barely able to talk to one another without monologuing, which got annoying very quickly. Teenagers don’t talk like that. Especially not if they’ve only got six minutes to have a conversation.

Even worse that this was the villain, Serena. The first couple of chapters revealed information to the reader in a slow, measured way, that makes you want to keep reading and put together the rest of the puzzle. However, I can only imagine that Dixen got bored, because this approach is quickly abandoned in favour of Serena explaining everything about her plan in great detail to a group of people who already knew about it. Exposition should be far less conspicuous than that. At one point I thought to myself, at least this isn’t being littered with the phrase ‘As you know…’ because that really is the calling card of lazy writing. Guess what started being used every few pages not long after I’d had that thought?

Even the US presidential elections got this treatment. The electoral college system doesn’t need explaining, it doesn’t make a difference to the story, and yet over half a page was dedicated to it, complete with an ‘As you know…’ I’m firmly convinced that anyone who cares about the distinction isn’t looking to learn about it from a YA novel. It was completely unnecessary and frankly, it was irritating.

In addition, my suspension of disbelief was shattered early on when it was mentioned that NASA was sold off to private investors by the ‘Ultra-liberal’ party. Dixen, please, it takes about three seconds to Google the views of different areas on the political spectrum. Rampant privitisation is a right wing policy, not a liberal one. NASA being privately owned didn’t even need explaining. This novel is set in the future. I could have just accepted that this had happened at some point and moved on.

Finding yourself mentally rewriting the majority of the book you’re reading is not a good sign.

Another thing that bothered me was the love triangle that sprung up. It was entirely unnecessary and I’d have much preferred it not being there. Also, the protagonist’s attraction to one of the boys made no sense to me. He annoyed her, and had no respect for the way she wanted to conduct herself through the speed dating game, and yet suddenly she was in love with him???? I’m fully aware that my standards for romance are high, but even so, that entire situation was just baffling.

I really liked the concept of this book, and the first few chapters were well done. But the writing went so downhill that I spent the last third just wanting it to be over already, so I can’t in good faith recommend it to anyone.

I received an e-arc through Netgalley in return for an honest review. Quotes may differ in the published version.

Review originally written in 2018

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