I’ve always has an affinity for mutants and Greek mythology. Well, pretty much any mythology, be it Greek, Roman, Finnish, Native American, you name it. Imagine my delight in reading Ascension by Jeannie Van Rompaey which combined the two. I received an advance copy of this novel in-exchange for a fair and honest review.
Without spoiling much of the novel, I’ll attempt a synopsis: At some point in the near future, the Earth’s environment has been destroyed through a combination of environmental neglect, war and scientific meddling into genetics (of plants and humans). The result is a fairly medium-sized population of mutants living in sheltered domes, protected from the harsh environment. These mutants are not your ordinary super hero variety; they have two heads, four eyes, wings, multiple arms, etc. Their character traits are based loosely on mythological beings (Mercury, Heracles, Siti, etc.) and they spend much of their time performing mindless tasks of preserving the culture of Past Earth. Through a series of events the mutants in one sector learn that non-mutant humans, or Completes, are living in a utopian society on satellites that orbit the Earth. Our adventure continues from there.
Told in short, engaging narratives from the viewpoint of several main characters, Van Rompaey did a great job of keeping me interested in their development as she moved the plot along at a fairly quick pace. A definite plus is van Rompaey’s richly drawn characters and the believable dialogue between them. One challenge I did have was the lack of real threat for our main characters. Yes they have all lost something in either the past or the present, but as the conflict picked up, some of the resolution seemed glossed over only to move on to the next part of the story. I never really sensed any “danger”. At times it felt I was reading parts of several novels, each based in the same “universe”. Ascension is a part of an ongoing series of novels, which may be why this feels the way it does.
Who we are and how we think of ourselves is a prevalent theme in the novel. In a world filled only with mutants, the three-eyed-three-legged man is a sex symbol, right? How comfortable we are in our own skin defines who we are. What happens when we find out we can change? Van Rompaey deftly navigates these questions and conflicts and creates a relatable morality tale.
As the plot progresses, Ascension seemed more like a novel that put a twist on office politics and social interaction than about identity. It definitely finds its own footing, turning managerial shake-ups, an office sexual affairs, quotas and competition between other offices into excruciating yet hypnotically funny rituals of humiliation. Readers who have spent any amount of time in an office setting will identify with our crew of colorful characters. Some situations may seem utterly implausible (even in a post-apocalyptic world filled with mutants) but its easy to overlook after investing in each of our characters.
This is a fun read; it evokes a subtle satire of the everyday workplace but its appeal is far broader. Readers will find something to enjoy in this very human tale of being comfortable in your own skin.
Van Rompaey tells an astonishing good tale, mixing up pop culture references and diverse myths into a tale you will identify with. There are enough plot twists to keep you surprised. Definitely worth picking up.
3-1/2 Stars out of Five for Ascension by Jeannie Van Rompaey