Book: The Ascension

"The Ascension" by Michael CarrollThey’d done it. Not only had Roz, Abby, Lance, and Thunder survived their first battle with a supervillain, they’d defeated him. Krodin was dead, and they had saved the world. Now everything could go back to normal–good old boring normal. School. Parents. Friends.

But three weeks later, the world suddenly changes. The United States is under martial law, the people are little more than drones, and where Central Park should be, there now stands a massive glass-and-steel building, home to the all-powerful Chancellor.

In Michael Carroll’s follow-up to the acclaimed Super Huiman, the world has been remade in the Chancellor’s image, and it’s about to get much, much worse. Only this young band of heroes has a chance of stopping him, but can they return the world to what it was, or will they be stranded in this alternate world forever?

If there is only one thing I can say about Super Human, it’s this: it made me pick up The Ascension as soon as I finished typing my reaction to that first book.

In The Ascension, we both pick up right after the battle that ended Super Human and three weeks later, when things start to go way wrong for our protagonists. And just like the last time, I preferred to stick with Lance McKendrick, our non-powered protagonist who continues to provide the funny in an otherwise very dire situation. But I have to say, Michael Carroll really stepped it up in humanizing our other heroes: namely Roz and Thunder, who we get to know more here in the second book than we did in the first book. We also get a bit more of the superhero Paragon and Max, the mind-controlling older brother of Roz.

In this book, we are given a world run by fear. No one in their right mind would break the rules as the littlest things get punished–yes, even skipping a few classes of school. So guess what happens when our heroes are transplanted from a world much like our reality, to this militaristic Utopia? Chaos ensues–the kind that the much-feared Chancellor is looking for to further expand his reign in the known world.

The novel tackles the idea that fear can drive people to do things they normally wouldn’t do. Which I think is a great topic for a superhero story to take on, as it’s a great showcase for why a certain person becomes good or bad. In Harry Potter, we get Death Eaters who proclaim that they were coerced, cursed or forced to do bad by Voldemort. But in The Ascension, it’s not as clear cut as that. Our protagonists are given opportunities at every turn to make a choice: do the right thing, or follow the easy path being offered by the villain? Sometimes, they get a third choice: justifying means by the end result. And it’s interesting how the characters become truly whole, and how we get to know them more clearly, as they make these decisions.

Another theme The Ascension presents is nature versus nurture. I don’t know about other people, but growing up, one of my favorite past times was to wonder how different I would be if so-and-so happened or didn’t happen. In the book, we get something similar when we meet the alternate versions of characters we met in the first book. In certain cases nature wins out, and we get the same character. But in two particular cases, we get a distortion of who the characters were in the “real” world and who they are in the alternate one. In this case, nurture wins out. It’s a fascinating exercise. And I like the nuances the author gave the characters that tells you that they are, essentially, the same ones we’ve met before.

Overall, I liked The Ascension way more than I did Super Human. Which is awesome, considering the fact that I really, really liked Super Human. Now though, I’m left wondering if Michael Carroll, the author, plans to write a third novel. I sure hope so. And I’d be okay with a non-immortal villain. At this point, I’m along for the ride not because of the adventure (though that does play a part), but I’ve already come to love the characters.

Check out what other people online have said about The Ascension:
Good Reads reviews
Kirkus Book Reviews
Whatchamacallit Reviews

10 thoughts on “Book: The Ascension

  1. Hi Jason,

    Just discovered your blog… Glad you liked the books – many thanks for the positive reviews!🙂

    There will indeed be another book… It’s already done, and should be out next summer. Lots more info on the series on my website!

    I’m tempted to read through the rest of your blog, but as it’s now 04:21 in the morning here in Ireland I think I’d be best to just bookmark it and come back fresh tomorrow!

    Cheers,
    Mike

    • … How do I start?

      Wow.

      Okay. (Deep breaths.) First of all, thanks for dropping by! And awesome news that there’s another Super Human book coming out!

      And I did end up on your website sometime after I posted my reactions to both Super Human and The Ascension. I just never got round to editing my posts to say so. But, still, thank you for dropping by! (No, I still haven’t gotten over that.)

      Also… I do hope you enjoy reading through my other entries. Or at the least, you know, not think they’re a total waster of time.😀

      Thanks again for dropping by!🙂

      • Hi again, Jason!

        I’m a little upset that you only thanked me for dropping by *three* times – what could I have done that so offended you? Whatever it was, please accept my apologies. Wait, why am *I* apologising? I’m the victim of an “only three times” snubbing! My lawyer will be in touch shortly.

        I’ve been browsing through your site and thoroughly enjoying it, even though you’re wrong about the stuff I don’t agree with (though you are right about the stuff I do agree with, so that’s something).

        That said, I’m still of two minds whether to read your reports on books I haven’t yet read… Which brings up a reading dilemma that I like to believe other writers in my position also experience from time to time: do we read the books written by our more successful peers, or do we ignore them?

        The “logic” behind the dilemma works like this… If I read a best-selling book by a writer who’s aiming at the same audience as I am, then if it’s really good I’ll be consumed with jealousy. But if it’s really bad, I’ll be even *more* consumed with jealousy… So what’s the best approach? I still haven’t worked that out!

        Anyway, the point is that this is a darned good blog and you should be very proud of it! But pride comes before a fall, so, y’know, watch out for potholes and tripwires and the like (which is of course good advice at any time).

        Cheers,
        Mike

      • … I have no idea how many more “thanks for dropping by” I can fit into this reply, but I’ll try my best to exceed three. Haha.

        “do we read the books written by our more successful peers, or do we ignore them?”

        I say read them. But this is coming from someone who writes about books, and not write the actual books. I am of the belief that reading other people’s works does help in knowing what to do, or what not to do–and what to avoid so as not to be sued for plagiarism, or for stealing ideas–also, thanks for dropping by. Then again, how can one even know if an idea is stolen, or if it was just coincidence?

        That, of course, opens a whole different discussion. So I’ll leave that and go back to the dilemma you presented. Before I do that though, I just want to say thanks again that you dropped by this tiny spot in the blogosphere.

        “But if it’s really bad, I’ll be even *more* consumed with jealousy…”

        I don’t know what to say to that one. Haha. I’m guilty for being jealous of really successful TV writers who are worse than I am and have high-rating programs. I guess all I can say is, I can relate–even if we’re not talking about the same medium?

        I guess we just hope that the people who made them bestsellers would find your works too and realize it’s better. We can also just be happy for them, and hope that the universe is paying attention and is about to dispense some good karma your way… Or is that too much “The Secret”?

        Thanks for taking the time to browse through the blog! And for dropping by! Again! I am proud of this, but I also do know that I have ways to go to make it better. Still, thank you for saying it’s a “darned good blog”.

        Also, thanks for the advice–and the dropping by! =)

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