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  • A standalone novel
  • Focuses on the Genestealer Cults and the Adeptus Mechanicus
  • Published by Black Library in 2022
  • Grimdark SF
  • 196 pages
  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Ascension Day nears, and the Adeptus Mechanicus are ready to enjoy their moment of triumph. But their control over the forge world of Morod is not as secure as they believe. In the darkness, beneath the ground, something inhuman is about to break free . . .

Adrian Tchaikovsky has written a lot of very different books in his career so far, but one element has remained consistent throughout. Put simply, there is no one who writes non-human characters the way he does. Whether it’s hyper-advanced spiders, or dogs bred to fight as soldiers, Tchaikovsky’s non-humans are the highpoint of already very strong books. Given his success with original fiction, and how busy the man’s publishing schedule is, it’s more than a little surprising to see him venturing into the worlds of Warhammer 40,000. A surprise, to be sure. But a welcome one. Because if you want to pitch cybernetic tech-priests against a cult of mutants descended from tyranids, I can’t think of a better author for it than Tchaikovsky.

The first thing that stands out about Day of Ascension is that it absolutely nails the horrors of transhumanism in the grim dark future. A lot of Tchaikovsky’s works have involved some aspect of transhumanism, but this is by far the most pessimistic outlook. I have to say, it’s also the closest to my own thoughts on the matter. Because what we have here are two divergent routes that are essentially headed for the same goal. The goal is the perfection of humanity (for whatever perfection may mean in this context). The Adeptus Mechanicus pursue perfection through technology, replacing body parts with machinery until there is little flesh left. But in ridding themselves of fallible skin and bone, the tech-priests also lose some of what it means to be human. With the exception of our protagonist, they lack any real sense of creativity. the fall into the same stagnant patterns as the rest of the Imperium. The Adeptus Mechanicus is devoted not to creating new technologies, but rather to rediscovering old ones. And while their is value in that, it’s a backward-looking worldview that ultimately dooms them.

Not that their rivals are any better. The genestealers embrace change. All of them carry the mark of their xenos heritage, some to the extent that they cannot venture out of their homes for fear of being executed. But they actively seek to become more than what they are. the interesting part for me is that they genuinely believe that they are faithful to the Emperor, and that they will one day join the ranks of His angels. Even when confronted with the fact that these ‘angels’ are in fact brutal, ravenous monsters, their faith is unshaken. After all, in this bleak world, why could monsters and angels not be one and the same? Yet whatever their convictions, they are becoming something other than human. Something alien. And that’s a very dangerous thing to do.

Day of Ascension is a short novel, but hopefully not the last we see of Tchaikovsky in the forty-first millennium. Even when working within the constraints of an existing universe, he finds a way to bring his own uniquely alien perspectives to the table. Accompanying all of this grotesque goodness is a brisk, gory, and ultimately quite tragic tale of what happens when humanity is forgotten in the pursuit of higher power. Because whether they seek advancement through xenos genetics or unearthed technology, the grim dark future is not a place for happy endings. And in the end it doesn’t even matter what you strive to achieve, because flesh and blood and steel alike, everyone is destined to be ground up by something or someone more powerful than you.

Did you enjoy this book? If so, you might also like:
Cult of the Spiral Dawn, by Peter Fehervari
Cage of Souls, by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Great Devourer, by Various Authors


One response to “BOOK REVIEW: Day of Ascension, by Adrian Tchaikovsky”

  1. MONTHLY ROUNDUP: March 2022 – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

    […] Day of Ascension, by Adrian Tchaikovsky […]

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