Ascension (2023) Book Review – Nicholas Binge blends Event Horizon & Everest in this fast-paced page-turner

Nicholas Binge blends Event Horizon & Everest in this fast-paced page-turner

Ascension feels like a blend of Event Horizon and Everest, with a touch of Annihilation thrown in for good measure. The end result is a proper moreish beach read; it’s not a particularly thought provoking read like The Ferryman, but it’s certainly not complete bilge either. What we get then, is a very enjoyable story but one you’re unlikely to return to in a hurry when you finish.

The story centers on Harold Turnmore, a man thrust into the middle of a world-changing event when a mysterious mountain suddenly appears in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. At least 10,000 feet higher than Everest, a group of scientists and experts from across the globe gather together and decide to investigate.

When Harold arrives at the mountain, his real intention is to be reunited with his old partner, Naoko, who scaled the mountain before on another expedition. Joining Harold are a bunch of wildly different characters, including a guy calling himself the Warden and a seasoned adventurer called Bettan.

As Harold’s team ascends however, things start to become all the more weird, as mysterious phenomena sees everything from the whispers of a shadowy organization pulling the strings, to time moving differently at higher heights. If that wasn’t enough, paranoia begins to consume the team and as the dangers increase, it would seem that they’re not alone on the mountain either.

With a format designed in the same way as Dracula, told through a series of diary entries and letters, Ascension essentially captures everything that takes place on the mountain, while simultaneously jumping back and fleshing out more of Harold’s past, including the reason why he left his partner and son behind.

While the flashbacks are clearly designed to break up the tension on the mountain, they actually flatline the plot on occasion, which is a shame. The final flashback sequence is incredibly revealing though and makes the payoff worth it, but leading up to that point does feel like unnecessary padding. I can’t help but feel the story would have felt better structured with about 50 or so pages cut out completely.

The action on the mountain is undeniably intriguing though, although anyone who has seen those aforementioned movies I referenced earlier will probably see some of the twists coming. However, the final 100 pages or so are full-on action and drama, which does make the slightly slow-burn opening all the more satisfying to reach.

The plot does have a few issues though, namely deriving from its format. During some of the more intense moments, it seems odd that Harold would just sit around and write these letters, with one particularly trying evening, where the group are hooked on adrenaline and potentially being hunted, one such example. Oh, and there’s one little twist at the end that feels a bit too cheesy involving a particular side character, but I’m not about to spoil that here!

Ascension is a decent read overall and certainly enjoyable, even with a few narrative wobbles along the way. It’s a fast-paced and easy page-turner that makes the most of its ensemble to deliver a compelling story. This is one mountain that’s worth the climb, even if there are a few jagged edges and unwelcome ravines on the journey.

You can check out more of our book reviews here!

  • Verdict - 7/10

Leave a comment