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text 2018-08-01 18:33
Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel - Jacqueline Koyanagi

ok so, finding good books with diverse casts is often a bitch.


and then i stumbled across this one


queer female poc chronically ill lead


sign me up for the rest of this series

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review 2016-06-01 18:27
Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel - Jacqueline Koyanagi

I’ve been meaning to read this one for awhile and I ended up really liking it. Koyanagi builds a complex and fascinating world, and the main character, Alanna, is wonderful. It’s also inclusive–Alanna is described as Black, has a chronic illness, and is gay, and some other spoilery stuff. I’m not an authority on any of those identities, but they seemed to be well handled. This is a nice science fantasy kind of book, and I’m happy to recommend it.

Source: bysinginglight.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/may-2016-round-up
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review 2015-08-27 03:16
Review: Ascension
Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel - Jacqueline Koyanagi
No idea if this is a series (as the "A Tangled Axon Novel" subtitle implies), but it functions just fine as a stand alone novel. Would read a sequel if there was one.

The inspiration for the universe seems to be "Kaylee finds her first ship in a universe where diversity means something more than white people swearing in Chinese," There's even a scene that feels like it was lifted directly from Serenity.

This is Space Opera, but not to my mind Hard SF. Sure it has rocket ships and aliens, but the presentation is more celebrating technology as awesome and beautiful than concerned with accuracy or technical detail. And spirit guides do magic. There is a scene that revolves around wiring, but that's as close to Hard SF as the book gets. Nobody in this book is going to address how gravity exists on spaceships, what distances are traveled at what speed, or how an engine actually functions. It does, it is, and it does.

Don't take this as a complaint, I love the aesthetics of this universe. Just, if you walk into this book expecting hard sf, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. If you're looking for Hard SF in space with romance, I suggest Falling Free.

And if you haven't picked this up because Hard SF isn't your thing, that bears reconsidering.

The characters in this book are all great. Individually, and in terms of interpersonal relationships. Ascension nails character development. It is a thing of beauty to see this band of misfits, each with their own form of damage, bang about the universe facing increasingly dire prospects.

Action packed sequences, explosions, and loving descriptions of wires and plasma abound, but there are some pacing issues at times. There are also some wonderful conversations woven into the narrative. The entire plot is a discussion of how intention and reality interact. The characters are sex positive and race and sexuality aren't barriers for individuals, while privilege in terms of economics and health are discussed repeatedly. The narrator is managing a chronic illness while pursuing her dreams, and nobody treats her like that means she doesn't belong there.

In terms of worldbuilding, I have some specific complaints, but nothing that actually ruined the joy of reading this. I mean, my biggest worldbuilding complaint is kinda lame and might just be a lack of imagination on my part:

Why do sky surgeons all wear really long braids? I like that there's a visual cue for the field. That's very cool. I just don't understand why it's something counterproductive to their function. When Alana performs engineering tasks, there are two constants. First, that she works through the pain caused by her chronic illness. Second, that she has to tie back her braids, or form them into an awkward bun in order to actually work. And yet it is the braids that mark her passion and chosen profession. Something as simple as storing wire lengths in braids to ensure you always have some to spare, or marking bands and regular intervals so you always have a flexible measurement tool would have fixed this, but no. When not working, braids mean you're a sky surgeon. When working, they are in the way. This is so ridiculously impractical that I find it hard to suspend disbelief for.

In terms of plot, I'm going to need a spoiler tag.

The act of genocide committed was for what reason, again? To make sure Nova wasn't harmed? How does that make any sense? How does strapping a giant bomb to the ships she's on, and designating it as a target sought by law enforcement not to THE EXACT OPPOSITE of ensuring her safety?

This attack was completely counterproductive to the stated goals of the person actually responsible. The crew was already dedicated to doing EXACTLY THE THING SHE WANTED DONE. And yet the attack hindered their ability to do it by forcing them to fly under the radar, damaging their ship which further slowed them down for a detour first to avoid damage and then to repair it, and made permanent enemies of them.

Oh, and when the crew finds out why they were framed, none of them seem even remotely aware of just how counter productive it was to the stated goals of the villain. Meanwhile I might have yelled, "lady, we'd have been here two weeks ago if you hadn't gotten in our way by killing an entire species and the family of the person you want to join you and then framing us for it." Well, that or something with more cussing.
(spoiler show)

For a lesser work of fiction, this amazingly poorly constructed plot point would have completely ruined the reading experience for me. As it is, while I had to put down the book and walk away for a bit, I still finished it and was left wanting to read more.
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review 2014-12-07 21:19
Not perfect, but enjoyable
Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel - Jacqueline Koyanagi

Alana Quick loves working on spaceships - and she's good at it. She can feel the hurts of the machinery, tune it up, make it run smoother, salve its pains. But stuck planetside working with her aunt in a world where independent space flight isn't bringing as many customers their way and the bills are piling up. So when someone comes looking for her sister, Nova, Alana sees an opportunity and stows away.


Space is everything she dreamed it would be - and also a number of things she never imagined, good and bad. But the biggest bad is in unravelling the desires of an enormous corporation which has affected every aspect of their universe, and which will stop at nothing to find Nova.


Alana is an interesting main character, unusual in almost every aspect. She's an older woman, in her 30s, who works as an engineer. She's also a black lesbian with a chronic pain disorder, who has to take meds regularly to manage the pain. Had a friend, when I was talking about this book, say "sounds like someone's pushing an agenda."


But... no. No, the main character happens to be all of those things, and all of those things define her, but there's nothing of crusading and pushing-in-your-faceness unless you're the sort of person who interprets "I can't pretend that this thing doesn't exist" as "this thing is being shoved in my face and flaunted all over." And if that's who you are, the problem is not with the book.


So, I love the main character, who's a bit impulsive and in her attempts to do what she feels she should, can sometimes make real problems for other people. Problems she then needs to deal with.


I wish I could say I love this book and recommend it unabashedly. But unfortunately, this is a first book, and comes with many of the problems that a new author can have. The plot isn't really solid, and meanders a good deal, especially in the first half. There's also a LOT of overwriting early on, and I had to force through some sections because there was enough good there that I wanted to get to the next scene and see if it improves. At some point, the book shifts gears almost entirely into a romance, hangs out there for a while, and then shifts back. It feels a little poorly integrated, and I wish it didn't feel like everything else got put on hold for that subplot.


But by the final third or so, I felt like the book had found its groove and gave us a solid if somewhat anticlimactic ending because of the previously mentioned looseness of the early narrative. Most of the characters felt sort of poorly described - I still don't get what was up with the other engineer, for instance - but as I said, I liked the main character enough to let that go.


I will probably be giving the second book a try if/when it comes out. There was enough good in this to make me feel like the greater experience of a sophomore writer could really put something strong together.

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review 2014-07-28 02:43
Yes to everything...
Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel - Jacqueline Koyanagi

Yes to the healthy lesbian relationships, yes to the polyamory, yes to the wolf-in-human skin, yes to the fact that this book hit on my interests in more than the 'Alana Quick loves ships more than humans most times' way.   


I read mixed reviews, and I believe it was the pacing that people had a problem with.   To be honest, I can see this: it isn't exactly quick moving all the time.   It takes a couple detours to explore background and characters, but I also loved that.   I can, however, concede it dragged a bit in one or two scenes, but it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of this novel. 


I though I'd like Alana best, because she keeps waxing poetic about ships, but it turns out my favorite is Ovie Porter, another sky surgeon - read engineer/mechanic - who feels as if he's a wolf in a man's skin.   There is a lot of tension, especially when a glimpse of his childhood is shown, but he was incredibly endearing to me. 


Beyond this, there were plot twists at the end that I simply didn't see coming.   Two major ones, concerning two members of the Tangled Axon's crew.   One also involves the villains, Transliminal Solutions, a corporation that comes from, well, not the universe that Alana lives in.  And the thing is that if you read the back of this book, there's so, so much that's left out; this book is dense, full of philosophy, religion, all without being obnoxiously pushy about it.   Mostly because it's not necessarily religion the way that most people think about it these days, but it was more a spiritual religiosity.   It goes beyond characters, beyond plot, and becomes meaningful in the way it expands definitions of normal, and tries to make the reader see that the only normal is being true to yourself. 


And while there are horrifying things that happen, this book is about hope, and determination, and finding yourself.   It was a gorgeous love song.   


I could cry, though, because I can't find any evidence of a sequel, and the cover shows 'a Tangled Axon novel.' It was only published December 2013, though, so hopefully this upcoming December will bring another one.   *crosses fingers*

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