Ascendance by Sadhna Shanker
by Enakshi J
Author: Sadhna Shanker
Publisher: Rupa Publishers
Sci-fi genre is that one genre in which most of the characters, settings and situations are the figments of imagination. Seldom the situations are relatable but most of them are flights of fancy. However, we all love this genre because it gives us a chance to escape the usual hackneyed routine and chaos of life. ‘Ascendance’ is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller that aims to make your jaws drop with its plotting and mysterious sequences.
Set on an alienated planet called Elone (the one that has three moons unlike the Earth), this story traces the death of one of the inhabitants. The planet inhabits two species, both in search of achieving immortality. Seeni, one of the creations of Elone, goes missing and is claimed to have been ‘Taken’ (meaning death). Since the Fence separates the two species on Elone, Seeni’s people believe that she has been taken by the people on the other side (the Men). As each layer over the hidden secrets peels off, we are introduced to plenty of new names and places as well.
The story has an overloaded cast of characters like Promly, Tioni, Iwe, Tara, Ultur, Maya, Seeni, Ime, Radul, Blum, Durk, Odex, Phatix and many more. Strangely, only a few of them make an impact on the mind. I could understand the character of Tioni and Iwe more than I could understand Seeni or Maya. Too many characters with difficult names and even difficult personalities did not impress me and made it difficult for me to understand the story in one go. I wish there was a map or a flowchart connecting all the dots and relationships so that I
did not have to turn back pages and try to remember who was who! Footnotes with the glossary would have helped too.
Nevertheless, the plotting is strong and the narration is gripping. The author’s prowess to switch scenes without changing the chapter is commendable. I would also like to compliment the author on executing such a difficult story so smoothly. Her though-process is fantastic. Thinking of so many aspects and naming them differently proves that she was never at her wits’ end. Terms like Syned confused me a bit. I found it a fictional equivalent of a Government body that is presided over by the Olders and the suggestion by the young people is unacceptable.
There are small typing errors like the spelling of Vihan (spelt as Vihaan on several pages). But these can be overlooked. There are other deeper elements in the story that should be taken note of. For instance, I found the story a commentary on the position of women in today’s society- where they are fierce, independent and more responsible. They can run a nation on their own. Another striking feature of the book was the mention of terms like clarent, tobok/tobot, lex/tag, enab and craw. Wonders of imagination will never cease!
Overall, the story, very subtly, reflects our own uncertainties and the no-win situation with nature. It transports the readers to a different time and place - to a land that is mystical and introduces us to the characters that can only exist in our dreams! With a good vocabulary but complicated characters, the book does justice to the title. For the readers who like such stories and like challenging their reading buds, this is the book!
Best wishes to the author!
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