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3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  241 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Fascinated with the secrets still surrounding the Soviet Union's race against the Americans to put a man on the moon, Jed Mercurio proposes a compelling scenario: What if the Americans weren't the first? And with its inscrutable but intriguing hero, Yefgeni Yeremin, a brilliant Soviet cosmonaut, Ascent allows us to imagine what that terrifying journey might have been like. ...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published March 27th 2007 by Tantor Media (first published January 1st 2007)
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Alfred Searls
Jun 20, 2012 Alfred Searls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Now and again you come across a book that seems to intersect with so many of your own personal interests that you end up with the impression that the publishers have secretly focused grouped you to within an inch of your life, and then somehow wiped all memory of it from your mind (shakes fist at sneaky publisher conspiracy) and then published a novel to your exact specifications.

Jed Mercurio’s 2007 fascinating and excellent debut novel did just that for me;
well written literary fiction
Paul Samael
Judging from many of the reviews below, other people clearly got something out of this book, but it didn't really work for me - even though I felt that I should've liked it from the descriptions of what it was about.

In some places it has been described as a kind of "Right Stuff" done from the Soviet point of view, but if you are expecting Tom Wolfe (I wasn't) you will definitely be disappointed - stylistically this is very different. Where it is similar to "The Right Stuff" is in its subject mat
Mar 17, 2008 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008
Difficult to decide how many stars to give this one. The story was gripping, the characterization was impeccable, and much of the writing was moving to the point of tears.

But it needed a better editor, dammit. There's repetition that could have been excised without the book suffering, and a few phenomenally clunky phrases and repeated words that catapulted me out of the all-engrossing world of the book with an very ugly *thunk*. Sadly, this happened most in the third part of the book - the part
In the same league of hoax making with deleterious consequences as writing about North Korean footballers failing to win in the World Cup of 1966 in England and being sentenced to death. You may hate or fear 'Reds', but don't think they fools or cannibals. The real footballers actually continued their careers at home, while no one in the USSR would be mad enough to land such a prolific ace in GULAG around the Polar circle. At maximum he will be made a flight instructor to pass his superior skill ...more
Dec 14, 2015 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, 2015
Thanks to Peter for the recommendation!

Yefgenii Yeremin was orphaned by WWII and tapped for flight training by the Soviet government due to his exceptional math skills. He proves to be a remarkable jet ace, but his inability to stay within the lines leads to exile and a long road to being a cosmonaut. From there, well, read the book. It's great.

This book is the like an anti-The Martian, at least in tone. Yefgenii is completely humorless (but similarly competent) and is driven solely by the desir
Peter Kobryn
Jan 13, 2013 Peter Kobryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, space
A pacy and engaging read, perhaps shorter than it should have been that tells the story of the life of Yefgenii Yeremin through four key phases of his life.

Firstly in an orphanage during the Second World War surviving the brutality of life there and seeing a possibility of escape through his aptitude for maths, but only if he himself grasps the fleeting opportunity with a brutality of his own.

Having escaped this life and developed into a youthful fighter pilot Yefgenii is posted to the secret
Sep 30, 2012 Adair rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ascent begins with the biggest of ‘what ifs’—What if the USSR succeeded in putting a man on the moon ahead of the Americans but never told anyone about it? A premise so implausible that it doesn’t seem possible that Jed Mercurio (or anyone else) would pull it off. Curiously, however, Ascent soars.

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, Ye
Michael Caroselli
Short, fast paced, and action packed. I initially discovered this book when searching the internet for information about the lost cosmonaut conspiracy which alleges, among other things, that the Russians sent more men into space than they admit to.

The initial synopsis I read on the internet lead me to believe this would be a slow, heavy science fiction novel. I got a lot more than I bargained for and was pleasantly surprised. The novel is packed with conflict from the first chapter set in an or
Aug 10, 2009 Bruce rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jo Bennie
Aug 29, 2011 Jo Bennie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: m
Yefgenii Yeremin is orphaned by the Second World War, one of the few children to survive Stalingrad. He grows up with a world of kicks and punches in the casual brutality of an orphanage. There is a way out, but it is slight, only one child from all the orphanages in the area will get the opportunity of going to the academy to learn to fly. He makes it and becomes an ace flying MIGs against the Americans in Korea, but his achievements can never be recognised as officially the Soviets are not the ...more
Dec 25, 2010 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 27, 2013 Livinginthecastle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some people have all the luck, don't they? Jed Mercurio trained as a doctor, a pilot then managed to become a successful TV/Film screenwriter and novelist. Here he uses his aviation knowledge to produce quite a technical and dry book in places, early on I took the decision not to worry about understanding everything that happened in the jet fights or space launches, because I would be forever googling. However there is more than enough character and emotion to fuel the story of one man's struggl ...more
Jan 26, 2010 gargamelscat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, novels
Despite the off putting orphanage scene at the beginning this is a good story well told, I'd give it 3.5 stars if that was possible.

I am assuming the somewhat flat affect of the narration is designed to reflect the emotionally reined in nature of the protagonist. Then again this is the first novel of the author's I've read, being attracted to it because of the story and the enthusiastic recommendations in Amazon where I stumbled across it.

One criticism - toward the end is a firestorm of unexplai
Meg Mundell
Aug 11, 2012 Meg Mundell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was riveting. The writing is spare yet descriptive, and really puts you right there in mid-air with the protagonist, Russian ace fighter pilot-turned-cosmonaut Ivan the Terrible. Set during the Korean War and the cold war-era space race, it's an exhilarating and sobering portrait of human ambition, obsession and tenacity. Would have been five stars, but in the latter parts of the book the author's extensive research is not worn quite as lightly as in the former, and I found this slightly di ...more
Sep 02, 2013 Isscandar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: da_biblioteca, owned
"Evgenij distolse lo sguardo. Era venuto in Corea per scrivere il suo nome nel cielo e si ritrovava a strisciare insopportabilmente verso l'oblio. La vita gli scorreva sotto come una pista, e il margine di manovra per il decollo diventava sempre più ristretto."

Qui ricorda il Deserto dei Tartari di Dino Buzzati.

Verso la fine è doloroso e angosciante.
Alex Rogers
Oct 17, 2012 Alex Rogers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book - the main character is driven to the point of monomania, is basically a sociopath in many ways, but you can't help but feel for him and the way he is treated. It is an unusual insight into Russia at the height of the cold war years, as well as a fascinating insight into their involvement in the Korean War and the Space Race. While a novel, it rings deeply true, and just feels like it should be right. Some beautiful imagery elevates it above just another interesting story - I re ...more
Oct 22, 2012 Gavin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not bad. The book certainly picks up after a shaky start. I have some issues with the way in which it's written both in terms of structure and style but on the whole it's a good survivor story. The arc of a man's life as he ascends from the squalor of a WWII destroyed Soviet Russia, through the hell of war and finally the hell of space is gripping.

The story is also nicely leavened with accounts of actual personalities from the time and this gives his story a nice ring of authenticity.

As such I
Jan 02, 2015 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The premise sounded interesting enough but I didn't find this that gripping, especially with the pacing issues. Pages upon pages describing planes in combat then a throwaway sentence about 3 years passing. Maybe the best part, to me, is the ending isn't a happy one because it seems like it'd be a wrong fit if it was.
Ash Day
Jun 11, 2015 Ash Day rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was brilliant, so well written it's hard to believe Yefgenii Yeremin wasn't a real man. After the horrific opening in post-WW2 Stalingrad that shook me a bit, the book soars into the Korean War and Yefgenii's journey there after. You really become invested in him and his mission. I loved this book.
Geoffrey Kleinman
Jun 22, 2007 Geoffrey Kleinman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Apollo 13
Extremely graphic and beginning leading into a middle section that is a lot like top gun and then a finish with Apollo 13. Jed Mercurio pulls all these elements together into a very readable and compelling book. Loved all the action in the middle of the book, and during that part of the read it was very hard to put down.
Rob Boffard
May 15, 2013 Rob Boffard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very few books are essential. This one is. Mercurio, a former aviation medic, tells the story of a Russian fighter pilot desperate to reach the highest peak of his abilities. Yefgeni Yeremin is one of the most complex, enjoyable characters you'll find anywhere, and Mercurio's measured prose is a joy to read.

I loved this book. Really and truly loved it.
Aug 23, 2011 Jimmy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tha parts about the Korean War (the battles between Jet fighters - as good as James Salter's The Hunters which i would recommend as a companion book) and Franz Josef Land are excellent, but I think that part about the Moon was so far-fetched it lost credibility. Still, well worth the read.
May 09, 2008 Garth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gripping read - I really begrudged putting this book down before I finished it. Even sensing how it would end took nothing away from it.
Definitely on my "read-again" list for a couple of months out.
Vincent Eaton
Oct 17, 2010 Vincent Eaton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Delightful. Sentences that spark, story that soars. Read this author's recent novel "American Adulterer", and was more than a little impressed. This, his previous (second) novel, just a good. Major fan made.
Dec 26, 2009 Jubilee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An orphan boy in Russia gets his break when he is accepted into a military academy giving him the ability to follow his overwhelming desire to fly fighter aircraft. Later, this driven man achieves levels of heroic recognition that only drives him further... to his Ascent!
Dec 07, 2011 Paul rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The early bits set in Korean War were gripping enough, the character set up nicely, then you could see what way it was going and just plodded through the last 100 pages. Nice idea, rather flat execution
Jan 02, 2010 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
I would never normally read books about flying but this one so brilliantly seems to capture the intensity of flying a fighter plane that it was a very gripping read indeed. The story about the moon shot also had sufficent detail and atmosphere to be very persuasive.
Ross Mckinney
Jan 05, 2014 Ross Mckinney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting premise. I got the feeling that it was heavily edited by the uneven pacing, but good overall. Definitely makes you think about the what-ifs...
Aug 26, 2013 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was a book on CD. It was not a book I would have chosen. A bit more military than my taste, but I enjoyed it none the less.
Martin Bradford
Jan 09, 2013 Martin Bradford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From the shocking and violent start, to the sad but triumphal ending, Mercurio retains your interest with a fast paced narrative. A great insight in to Soviet history.
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Jed Mercurio is a British author; TV and film producer and (non practicing) medical doctor.

He also writes under the name John MacUre. He created the television series Cardiac Arrest, Bodies and the sci-fi miniseries Invasion: Earth (1998). Bodies is based on his novel of the same name and earned him two BAFTA Television Award nominations and two RTS Award nominations. He has also written and direc
More about Jed Mercurio...

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“Yefgenii said, "The Americans spent millions of dollars designing a pen that would work in space. What did we do?" Gevorkian's head was down, his eyes were down. "What did we do?"
Gevorkian lifted his head "We used pencils."
"We used pencils.”
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