Woohoo! Done with Pandora! It was a ridiculous series that almost didn't feel like having any continuity. The origin book was about a small crew on a starship, then the trilogy that followed felt like a completely different beast, with each of the books in it different from each other, as well. Was there a common thread? I guess the evolution of humanity, but unlike something like Dune, the Pandora Sequence was random, cruel, overly pompous, with pointless religious overtones that went nowhere and with inconsistent characters. Worst of all, the ending of all of the books came out of nowhere, nullifying the meaning of most of the beginning.
The Ascension Factor is like that, as well. We start with a world ruthlessly ruled by a man just 25 years after the events of the previous book where things were left off with a society that was building spaceships to get to the hibernation pods in orbit. And now it's a quasifeudal fiefdom in which people are controlled with fear, surveillance and famine. When the authors need technology, it's suddenly there, when they need people to be poor and starving, they scramble to have a line to throw in illegally in the sea to catch a fish. I guess in a way that's plausible, considering I am complaining about this on a laptop after having read the book on a smartphone and knowing that there are people in the world somewhere living in abject poverty, but Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom want me to believe this happens at the same time with the same people. And the ending, oh God, should be the textbook definition of Deus ex machina!
Bottom line: I thoroughly disliked the three main books of the "sequence" and I couldn't wait to finish them. Now I did! I have no explanation on how I ended up remembering this series as good reading it 30 years ago.