Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2023. Exploring the natural world with wonder and reverence, this compassionate, deeply inquisitive epic reaches outward to confront the great questions of existence, while looking inward to illuminate the human heart

Leigh grew up in Rotterdam, drawn to the waterfront as an escape from her unhappy home life. Enchanted by the undersea world of her childhood, she excels in marine biology, travelling the globe to study ancient organisms.  

When a trench is discovered in the Atlantic Ocean, Leigh joins the exploration team, hoping to find evidence of Earth’s first life forms. What she instead finds calls into question everything we know about our own beginnings, and leaves her facing an impossible choice: to remain with her family, or to embark on a journey across the breadth of the cosmos.   

The Booker Prize 2023
Published by
Atlantic Books
Publication date

Buy the book

Martin MacInnes

Martin MacInnes

About the Author

Martin MacInnes is a Scottish author, who has written three novels to date. These include Infinite Ground, which won the Somerset Maugham Award
More about Martin MacInnes

In this strange and wonderful world, every outward journey – whether to space or the depths of the ocean – is an inward one, as Leigh seeks to move beyond her troubled childhood. In Ascension is a Solaris for the climate-change age

— The Booker Prize 2023 judges

Martin MacInnes on writing In Ascension

I wrote this one pretty quickly compared to earlier novels. I had a reasonably well developed draft about a year in, and then worked on it for another few months. I’ll generally work on something every day – writing in the morning, reading and planning in the afternoon, editing late in the evening. It’ll take me a while to really push through to what I want to do, so a lot of the early material – tens of thousands of words – will be discarded.  

It really depends on my living conditions at the time. I wrote my first novel in public libraries, my second at my brother’s place in Panama City. In Ascension is the only novel I’ve written from home, at a butcher’s block in the front room from 5-9am every day, wearing ear-plugs and using roller-gel pens on narrow-ruled writing pads, battling either the early glare from the east-facing window or the near-freezing indoor conditions in winter. 

I wrote In Ascension during a period when travel wasn’t possible, which was bound to influence the novel both positively and inversely: from the claustrophobia and regulation of domestic space in the novel’s ships, to the dramatic and expansive voyages they sail on.

Read the full interview here

In Ascension by Martin MacInnes