Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel

by Jacqueline Koyanagi

Price: $6.99 / $14.95 (tpb)

Length: 336 pp.

Release Date: Aug 2013 / Dec 2013 (tpb)

A Tangled Axon Novel

Science Fiction

ISBN: 978-1-60701-400-3 / 978-1607014010 (tpb)

Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually-advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he’s a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can’t keep her eyes off her. But there’s little time for romance: Nova’s in danger and someone will do anything—even destroying planets—to get their hands on her!

Praise for Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel

Put simply, Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension is one of those books that marks a change. The cover alone seems to say, “this is science fiction unlike what you’ve read before.” After reading it I can attest that notion is fulfilled, although not exactly as I expected… Ascension is equal parts science fiction and romance…Koyanagi’s science fiction theorizes inter-dimensional rifts have allowed new technology to bleed into the galaxy… As a novel of Alana saving her sister from Transliminal and their machinations, Ascension is good, but not special. It is well written, but will not be remembered for its deft manipulation of genre tropes, or kicking off some new literary style in the genre. What it will be lauded for is Koyanagi’s insistence on serving an under-served segment of science fiction readers. Although I considered whether to even mention the gender make-up or diverse lifestyles Koyanagi deploys in Ascension, I came to the conclusion I had to. They propel what is otherwise middle-of-the-road science fiction into something more significant. Koyanagi’s depictions, along with a dramatis personae that flips genre expectations on their head (there is one male character), make Ascension stand out…

Staffers Book Review

This is what you need to know about Ascension, in a nutshell: a main character who is a queer woman of colour, grappling with a debilitating chronic illness in a context of poverty, who has a difficult relationship with her sister and starts to fall in love with another awesome female character who is polyamorous. IN SPACE. If the above is not the definition of “shut up and take my money”, I don’t know what is... this was a pretty good novel. I can’t wait to read more adventures with the Tangled Axon crew.

The Book Smugglers

An intriguing debut that brings characters and relationships all too absent in fiction front and center... BOTTOM LINE: A strongly distinctive and memorable debut novel.

SF Signal

...definitely for readers who enjoy good science fiction and varied characters, and is an entertaining read.

The Lesbrary

...even though the pacing lagged a little ...overall, I was so enamoured of everything else – the gorgeous, occasionally outright poetic prose; the excellent characterisation; the chemistry between Tev and Alana; the complex sisterly relationship between Alana and Nova; the narrative themes; the world itself – that my few complaints all paled into insignificance. Let there be no doubt: I genuinely loved this book, and can’t wait to read the next volume in the series.... At its core, then, Ascension feels simultaneously like a heartfelt subversion of, and tribute to, the classic SF films and shows we all know and love: subversion, in that Koyanagi replaces the traditional straight white male dominance of such narrative with, as she says in her author bio, diverse characters resembling “herself and the people she loves”; tribute, in the sense that her influences are rendered both clearly and lovingly in her own creation... It is, in other words, exactly the sort of book we need more of; and I can only hope the marketplace agrees with me.

A Dribble of Ink

There are a lot of really great ideas in this book and I definitely appreciate the refreshing take on certain elements within the genre. This was a very ambitious undertaking for a first novel. There is room for improvement in terms of pacing and extraneous wording in descriptions, but overall, a worthy addition to the science fiction universe.

The Bibliosanctum

In this sci-fi tale with romance mixed in, Koyanagi has created a character named Alana Quick, a dreadlocked sky surgeon in Heliodor City on the planet Orpim, whose life is fixing space ships with her aunt Lai and barely getting by... There are a lot of really great ideas in this book and I definitely appreciate the refreshing take on certain elements within the genre. This was a very ambitious undertaking for a first novel. There is room for improvement in terms of pacing and extraneous wording in descriptions, but overall, a worthy addition to the science fiction universe... Digging into Ascension was treat for me. I haven’t read many science fiction novels, and the fact that this book has a black lesbian protagonist was a big draw.

Sistahs On the Shelf

We learn in elementary school not to judge a book by its cover, but it might be worth it for Jacqueline Koyanagi’s debut novel. The woman on the front looks a bit like Gina Torres if Firefly had merged with Star Wars and it’s completely amazing. What’s inside is a completely entertaining science fiction adventure totally worth of the Gina Torres look-a-like on the front... Koyanagi’s built an interesting world with all the staples one would expect in a good sci fi... It’s a fun book. The action moves along at a nice pace and Koyanagi has a good sense for when to push the plot and when to let her moments sit. The relationship that blossom between Alana and the crew of Tangled Axon are the glue that holds the story together.


Jacqueline Koyanagi’s debut novel, Ascension, is beginning to generate a small amount of buzz, but it deserves much more attention. The hard Science Fiction world she’s developing, and the characters she’s created, are fresh and sharp. There’s a definite sense here of a writer who’s not afraid to think in grand strokes. If you’re going to announce your presence in a room as contentious as the SFF world can be, particularly these days, you’d be hard pressed to find someone taking as bold a step forward... Ascension is a strong debut, and I’m eager to see where she goes from here.


This book is definitely for readers who enjoy good science fiction and varied characters, and is an entertaining read.

Smart Girls Love Sci Fi

Lovers of science fiction and space opera will enjoy reading this clever, entertaining tale. The heroine is worn out and run down but she’s nothing if not a fighter, stowing away on a vessel in space. Koyanagi’s characters are unvarnished and realistic, driving the story forward with the force of their personal narratives.

RT Book Reviews

Ascension...manages to be one of the better purely genre SFF debuts that I have read in the past couple years. It offers something different and needed and something that I really, really want to see more of. It is well worth reading and I recommend that you do so.

Lazy Bastard Press

LESBIANS. POLYAMOUROUS LESBIANS. IN SPAAAAAAAAAACE. The main character has an invisible disability. But it’s not an issue book. Or a romance – the thematic freight is about family and belonging. In mood it reminds me of Firefly, or the dingy Mos Eisley scenes of Star Wars: A New Hope. Writing possesses solid turns of phrase, occasional vivid description. Mark your calendars, people. This is good shit...

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Heat buffeted my face, whipping my locs behind me. Sweat and dirt stung my eyes as I held my breath.

Please let their waveguides hold. We can’t lose another ship.

Aunt Lai and I watched the Series IV Greenbelt disappear into the atmosphere, carrying a team of biosynths with it. They couldn’t even think about seeding the universe with new species without a working ship, and that’s where we came in, the engineers: stitching together humanity’s lifeline out in the Big Quiet.

The biosynths could only cover half the labor costs for repairing their damaged waveguides, but we took the work anyway. Money was money in this economy. Even when it wasn’t enough money.

The team had cast impatient glances toward the sky while we worked, as if those naked planets might bioform without them. I knew that look. That craving to break free of the ground. Dirt doesn’t feel right on the heels of someone born to be in the sky.

I’d had my hands in the entrails of so many ships I’d lost count, but even after over thirty system-years of life on Orpim, I’d never set foot off-planet. An entire universe carried on without me out there in the silence while I kept everyone else flying. I couldn’t tell you how many nights I lost sleep imagining tendrils of electromagnetism arcing through the cosmos, holding together the galaxies and planets our biosynths ignited with life. And there I was, a woman who yearned so hard for the sky there had to be stars in my blood, yet I was stuck in Heliodor City, missing it all.
Neither Lai nor I said the obvious as we stood with dust in our hair and mouths, watching the place in the sky where the Greenbelt had disappeared into the upper atmosphere.

Our last pending job.

Maybe solar winds would blow in another one tomorrow, but we never knew, and debt didn’t pay itself back. When the economy tanked twelve years ago, the freelance shipping industry took the biggest hit. Ships and pilots alike fell into disrepair when manufacturers and medical facilities started outsourcing to Transliminal Solutions in a desperate attempt to save their businesses. Starship surgeons like Lai and me? We struggled along behind everyone else, taking whatever repairs folks could afford to throw at us. Half the ships out there probably floated along in the silence on a spirit guide’s prayer, hoping their sails and waveguides and thrusters held for just one more month, one more year, instead of coming in for the tune-ups that could save their engines when it counted.
During times of need, it was always the people with the least to give who ended up sacrificing the most. Hardly a building remained in our sector that wasn’t a palimpsest of closed businesses.
“Well,” Lai said with one heavy slap on my back, mouth forced into a smile. “That’s that.”

I twisted a copper wire around one finger, coiling and uncoiling it needlessly. A leather tool belt hung heavy at my waist, like old hope gone slack. “Yeah. That’s that.”

She winked at me, gripping my shoulder with a rough hand. Despite her smile, the tension in her muscles betrayed her true feelings. I’d been watching her grow more frightened with every launched vessel. Seemed like the time between jobs got bigger by the day.

“Supposed to get warmer overnight,” she said, heading to the entrance of the shop and inputting the security code. Her hands shook: age and disease catching up with her faster than it should have.

There was so much we weren’t saying as we stepped inside, door whispering closed behind us. So much about our empty shipyard. About the chronic meds we couldn’t afford. About the gear we needed to replace. About the back rent we still owed my sister Nova, and the magnanimously offered debt forgiveness she continued to hold over my head.

“I heard Bran closed shop yesterday,” Lai said. “Took a job at Translim.”

“Yeah, she told me that was coming.” I sat on the counter at the front of the shop, picking at the grime under my nails. Did we have to talk about this? What good did it do to be reminded?
Lai dropped her tool belt onto the rusted table and dabbed the sweat from her face with a towel. “At least they’re paying her decent. Got the shift supervisor position.”

Tension drew the air drum-tight between us at the mention of Transliminal. Quietly, Lai tied back her locs, avoiding my gaze. She traded her cargos and boots for slacks and a tie, and called a transport to take her to her second job at the call center. I wanted to tell her to quit, to have more faith in her work. If all the fringe folk folded, there’d be no one left to hold up our cities.
No point in saying it again. As much as the sight of Lai in that damned costume gnawed at me, I just let her put it on without comment. Old arguments tasted sour, anyway.

Within five minutes the shuttle arrived, the letters “TS” slicing across its black hull in sharp, iridescent white. As the transport attendant grabbed Lai’s hand and helped her up, I caught a glimpse of the face below the pilot’s helmet. My heart stuttered before I could ice it over.

Kugler, my friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-ex-wife. The girl I grew up chasing around the Adul research station on our school breaks, three planets away, while our parents worked on translating an alien language. The woman I’d thought I’d fallen for until I realized the difference between love and nostalgia....