Ennui in Space

A review of James Alan Gardner’s Ascending (Open Road Media)

By Derek Newman-Stille

Ascending is James Alan Gardner’s discourse on boredom wrapped up in science fiction. Gardner’s narrator Oar is from a genetically modified species that at the age of 50 literally just becomes bored with the world and lays down to sleep for eternity…. and Oar has just reached the age of 54. They refer to it as having a “tired mind”. In order to keep going, she needs to stay stimulated and keep her mind active. She already has moments when her mind is tired and she loses minutes and hours as she spaces out. She finds herself losing time and becoming disconnected to the world around her even as she sets out on a galactic adventure full of action-packed excitement and new challenges.

Oar was first introduced in Gardner’s Expendable, when Explorer Festina Ramos was dropped off on her planet and changed the world that Oar had known. Now, Oar has sought out Festina again and the two are plunged into a galaxy of conspiracies, advanced paranoid aliens, and secret discoveries.

Although Oar is 50 and that is normally the end of her species time awake and active, Ascending is a coming of age story for Oar as she faces the reality of the universe around her, challenges her pre-existing ideas, and grows up. Growing up is never easy and Oar’s coming of age is one that involves painful awakenings.

Through the lens of Oar, Gardner presents an examination of the social meaning of boredom and writes a discourse about ennui through an exciting sci fi adventure.


To discover more about Ascending, visit https://openroadmedia.com/ebook/ascending/9781497612259

To find out more about James Alan Gardner, visit https://jamesalangardner.wordpress.com


Reviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD (They/Them)

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