Ascension by Victor Dixen

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Ascension by Victor Dixen

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Alex Mitchell
Reviewed by Alex Mitchell
Summary: A compelling tale of love, lies, friendship and secrecy set in a well-researched and reasonably believable near-future setting.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 496 Date: June 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1471406843

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Twelve teenagers - six girls and six boys - are living in two bays of a spacecraft on its way to Mars, their entire lives recorded by the cameras placed throughout the craft. For six minutes of every day, they try to seduce each other in speed-dating session. Such is life for participants in the Genesis programme, a reality TV show based around building a colony on Mars. 18-year-old Leonor has signed up to this programme, desperate to leave Earth behind and start afresh. However, things are not well with the Genesis programme, a sinister conspiracy moves in the shadows, forming plans a wider-reaching impact than merely deciding the outcome of a reality TV show...

Each of the characters has their secrets. Among the crew of the Genesis program, the protagonist, Leonor, was an orphan who survived a fire that left her with a horrific scar (that she calls 'the Salamander'), which also manifests as a voice of self-doubt in her head. Down on Earth, the executives in charge of the Genesis Program all have a shared secret that they are desperate to prevent becoming public knowledge. Meanwhile, they are being hunted by Andrew Fisher, a student of Physics at Berkeley, seeking to uncover the conspiracy and the disappearance of his father (who was one of the executives of the program).

It is quite clear that Dixen has done his research in terms of the science. The Cupido (the Martian colony ship) is powered by a Nuclear Thermal Rocket (a method of propulsion utilising the heat of nuclear fission to super-heat propellant, which has recently been considered by NASA in their plans for a manned mission to Mars), and uses centripetal force to generate Mars-level artificial gravity, even the signal delay is taken into account, with some chapters even noting exactly how long the delay is. The book is also full of technical diagrams of the spacecraft, the habitat modules and the journey to and from Mars, which is a very nice touch. The Genesis Program as a whole also bears quite a strong resemblance to the controversial Mars One program, a plan by Dutch billionaire Bas Lansdorp to put 24 people on Mars by the 2030s, and make a reality TV show about their journey in order to recoup some of the profits. So, kudos to Dixen, he has definitely tried to make his world as believable and realistic as possible.

The novel is split into different plotlines each indicated by a different cinematographic term. 'Shot' follows Leo's story aboard the Cupido, and the trials that she faces. 'Genesis Channel' is a transcript of the speed-dating sessions. 'Reverse Shot' follows the conspiracy perpetrated by the executives of the Genesis Program, and their attempts to keep it all under control. 'Out Of Frame' follows Andrew Fisher's investigation into his father's disappearance, and attempt to uncover the Genesis Program's conspiracy. This presents an interesting comparison between the people the characters are on the surface, and the people they are underneath, and it is certainly very effective method of storytelling.

Overall, the book is a compelling tale of love, lies, friendship and secrecy set against a well-researched and believable near-future setting.

Other books you might enjoy:

Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman – A similar young adult science fiction novel by one of Britain's most esteemed writers.

Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds – A science fiction novel recommended for young adult and up, with a similar vein of conspiracy, weaving multiple plotlines together.

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Buy Ascension by Victor Dixen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ascension by Victor Dixen at


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