Ascent asks us to imagine the possibility that, unbeknown to the west, the Russians managed to send a cosmonaut to the moon before the Americans. Yefgenii Yeremin, whose parents were lost at Stalingrad, is condemned to life in a brutal orphanage until he wins a scholarship to air school. Having trained as a pilot, he fights in the Korean war, shooting down so many American jets that he soon earns himself the nickname "Ivan the Terrible". However, the Soviet Union's involvement in Korea must be kept secret, so while the American aces who are his counterparts become famous the world over, he must fly an unmarked plane and his identity must never be discovered. He is, then, a ghostly figure, for all that he is seemingly invincible.
With skill in mathematics and a willingness to drown his competitor in raw sewage, the boy Yefgenii Yeremin is chosen for training as a fighter pilot in post war Russia. A few years later over Korea, Yefgenii becomes the ‘ace of aces’. Because the USSR wasn’t officially involved in this war, however, heroes like Yefgenii could not be acknowledged. In one operation he foolishly risks capture by UN forces and is disgraced, exiled to a frigid Arctic base where he expects to live out the rest of his days. After an act of bravery thrillingly cinematic, Yefgenii is again plucked from obscurity and invited to become a cosmonaut in the Soviet’s space race against the Americans. When engineers lament that the Americans have more money, more industry, better vehicles, Yefgenii throws back that the Americans spent millions designing a pen that worked in space while the Soviets used pencils. This idea serves as a battle cry, and the race is on.
Orphaned by the Great Patriotic War, Yefgenii Yeremin is raised in an orphanage. He stoically studies mathematics, does hard labor in the ruins of devastated Stalingrad, and endures brutal assaults by the bullies in the orphanage. He wins a scholarship to an air institute, and when the Korean War breaks out, he becomes the ace of aces in his MIG-15--even though, officially, no Russians are serving in the war. He is posted to an air base in the Arctic as the cold war grinds on before being selected to become a cosmonaut. Mercurio's U.S. debut is haunting, powerful, and mysterious. His nearly skeletal prose spends no words to illuminate Yefgenii's stoic endurance of loss, privation, isolation, and pain, but the style works and has an austere, icy beauty. In scenes of aerial combat, Mercurio breaks from spareness to create vivid descriptions of tactics and the physical stresses of G-forces on the human body, and Yefgenii's ride into space, though equally vivid, is cluttered with the nomenclature of Russian rocketry and astronomy. All in all, a stunning debut from a writer who bears close attention.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.