Have read the first polyamorous SFR story, here is the report, might have some spoilers so watch out!

Screen%20shot%202017-04-10%20at%2018.09.Humans live on several planets and have space travel technology to transport themselves from one planet to another in time measured in weeks. But it's not all plasma and copper in Ascension world – there are also spirit guides, who facilitate their clients' mystic journeys and have supernatural skills. Protagonist Alana is a spaceship engineer, a "sky surgeon", who's slowly going out of work, as completely different technology is making her and her kind obsolete. This new sort of technology comes from a parallel universe, whose inhabitants can do magical things: heal incurable diseases, make people grow new limbs, change their appearance with fins and third eyes and shimmering skins. All that comes with a hefty price tag, and money seems to be hemorrhaging out of Alana's universe into the Otherside, causing widespread poverty and some hotspots of wealth for those doing business with the othersiders. (This scenario perhaps inspired by what may happen with AI and increased robotization; those who own these superior technologies have an economic super-advantage comparable to having magical powers from another universe, and end up leeching all the money, since most people's skills and time are no longer worth anything in the market. There is no mention of AI or any kind of advanced computers in the book at all, so the technology is something out of pulpy SF in the 50s or 60s.)

Alana sneaks into a spaceship after the crew of that ship comes looking for her sister, who is one of the mystical but professional spirit guides. She also has an instant connection to the ship, Tangled Axon, and hopes a bit irrationally to be accepted as one of the crew in exchange for locating her sister. This stow-away thing is stretching credibility a bit far, like how can it be this easy can it be to sneak and hide into a spaceship! Everyone would be doing if it was that simple. But to get the story started, she needs to end up on that spaceship, so what can I do but swallow this tedious plot device?

Alana and her professionally succesful sister Nova have a difficult relationship, maybe due to Nova's snobbish ways, maybe something else. If the Nova character seems exaggerated and grates on your nerves, just please keep going, it'll get better. To make matters more complicated, Alana suffers from a painful illness, and she needs constant medication to function, or an othersider cure, which is too expensive – in contrast to Nova, who is healthy, but treats her body as an annoying inconvenience to her spirit guide activities. Alana's resentment at this is understandable, if unfair.

So where's the romance? It's on its way, for the ship is owned by cool and sexy Tev, to whom Alana is instantly drawn, even if the situation is hostile. But this book is ultimately more a novel about family than about romantic connections. This would perhaps be less obvious for me, if I had picked the book up without knowing it is going to be about polyamory. Lots of emotional suspense is drawn from Alana not knowing her love interest Tev is polyamorous, and wondering about the mixed signals she's receiving from Tev. But since I knew from the beginning how that's going to work out, there was no mystery except why didn't Tev or someone in the crew explain earlier what was going on. The withholding of information even gave the story an eerie, horror-like vibe, as if the spaceship was some kind of Christine the Killer Car, moulding her crew into a hive-mind of sorts without them even maybe knowing it was happening. Luckily – for romance – the explanation was more benign, though now I'd like to read something about a half-sentient spaceship invading the brains of the crew!

However, the biggest emotional change has to do with how Alana views her sister Nova and how their strained and distant relationship is healed. Biggest losses have to do with family, and family relations make the plot move. The relationship between Alana and Tev comes as a nice bonus. Of all the characters, Tev is the most likable and solid. The crush Alana has on her feels very understandable, if a bit sudden – but people's emotions probably go double speed in those cramped spaceship quarters and under threat.

Ascension is written in the first person, which I didn't like since it obscured much of the worldbuilding – best parts of the book were those where Alana listened to the stories of the crew she was getting to know, which was near to having third person narrative. Writing was at times really nice and at times basic minus, it would have benefited from stricter editor work-out. And the plot overall was holey, although the big reveal was satisfying, but otherwise people's actions just did not make much sense (like why destroy that planet, I just never understood that). Ascension is Koyanagi's debut novel, I hope she writes more books, since I feel she has a lot to give to SFR, if she'd just keep on writing. Wonderful cover art btw!


As a side note, at times I'm reminded of how SF-y our age is. In the book a huge gas giant planet suddenly disappears, and I started to wonder would it not upset the orbits of the other planets, messing up the whole system, so I switched from iBooks to Safari on my portable information device, and wrote "what would happen if Jupiter disappeared", and got an answer in 2 seconds. That's future yeah! So cool! I almost pity the kids these days since for them this is all normal.