So this book is a unique take on how the soviets could have gotten to the moon and its the story of a man who despite everything that happens to him he never gives up. I had a lot of admaration for the lead charictar. Jed here definately did his research on the Korean war in regards to Russian pilots flying as north Koreans ( that was a known fact) his technical knowledge is excellent as well. He tells an interesting story regarding historical evidence too he skillfully weaves the failure of the Soviet N-1 moon rocket into his story as well. Without giving too much away I would recommend this book if your into historical fiction and some conspiracy mixed in
I'm a Historian with a huge interest in space, so this really scratched both itches there. Written in a very blunt and easy to follow style. - 1 star for grammar and spelling issues and some historical inaccuracy (other than the obvious).
While I do with there had been a little more meat to this story, it was fascinating to read from a Soviet POV instead of American for a change. Great story, very immersive technical details and accurate depictions of aircraft.
I don't want to tear this apart, I was thrilled to read a story as presented of the fictional life of a Russian aviator during Korean war, etc.. The technical details provided by the writer, a doctor , on the effect of high physical stress during aerial combat were exceptional. And the insight into the fictional Soviet moon mission was great. I felt I understood why that man was doing what he did.
Much of the following review will try to compensate for the negatives I've seen in the other reviews.
You know what it's about - the synopsis not only tells you exactly what the basic story is about, it basically eliminates all surprise. However, for the faulst that other reviews here have aptly cited, "Ascent" is still a worthy read. Much as the flap describes, "Ascent" follows the unlikely life of a Soviet orphan who finds his way to the Cosmonaut program. Yefgenii first tangles with glory flying MiG-15 jets in the skies over Korea, one of the "Honchos" of the Soviet VVS who fly their Soviet-built jets in North Korean markings. His job is "to kill jets" of the UN forces, mostly Sabres and some RAF Meteors, an occupation with which he will excel with murderous precision. After rising to the pinnacle of "Ace of Aces", often crossing oaths with future astronauts, Yefgenii's final flight will see him returned in ignominy. He will spend the next 15 or so years patroling the Soviets' arctic frontier in a MiG-17PFU against western spy -planes. All but bereft of hope for a new war which might return him to glory, Yefgenii regularly patrols the arctic skies until "min-fuel". At the last moment (for his age) Yefgenii is virtually rehabilitated - under an assumed name, he is allowed to join the Cosmonaut core. It's 1968, and a series of mis-steps have allowed the Russian space effort a fighting chance of beating the Americans to the moon. In Russia, the moon is worse than an avowed lost-cause: the Soviets, knowing the moon is already an American footstool, proclaim that there was never a race to begin with. Secretly, they ready their slip-shod hardware (a dangerously over-engined launcher, and a lunar-ship stack that cannot be traversed without EVA) for one final stab at beating NASA. Yefgenii - already a man who technically doesm't exist - is the perffect candidate for a mission that need not be reported if it fails. In the wilderness of cislunar space, Yefgenii's emotional shell will be pealed like an onion, and he will learn the true meaning of survival.
This was an especially frustrating book. Yeah, the .22 shell was a minor error, but an unneccessary one that highlights what's wrong with much of the combat sequences. The author didn't have to say what kind of shell it was - but this was only one example of much of the unneeded and often intrusive information that the author jacks in. Maybe Mr. Mercurio doubted his grasp on he science of air combat, and decided that the only way to maintain his "street cred" in aviation was to toss in repeated reminders of more famous pilots and their histories - reminding us that Yefgenii was sharing the skies with John Glenn, Neil Armstrong & Ted Williams. The effect was pretty nifty the first time, but Comrade Mercurio abuses the privilge. When he's not reminding us about the legends patrolling the skies on the other side of the Yalu, Mercurio makes other needlessly histrionic leaps, ramming into the story all sorts of historically important tidbits that would be relevant if "Ascent" wasn't supposed to be an intensely personal story. Mercurio so compulsively leaps to the Astronautica website for filler that Yefgenii is frequently shunted aside in his own story. (No wonder he's emotioanlly remote.)The error is even more glaring because Soviet censorship likely meant that Yefgenii was entirely in the dark about much of the information that Mercuior uses to fatten his story. This means that Yefgenii is sharing a book with a story for which he has no frame of reference. Readers who were frustrated by the lack of focus in "Flyboys" will find all-too familiar airspace in "Ascent". Yefgenii himself is an especially weak character around which to form a story of survival - he's basically a big blank, lacking any concrete motivation.
Admittedly, this wouldn't be a problem were "Ascent" not the effectively personal book that it finally becomes in its final chapters. Even the flight scenes, admittedly imperfect, are at least as absorbing as those of vets routinely hailed for their realism. If "Ascent" is not an exhaustively researched book on the technology of Apollo-era spacecraft, it manages an epic-performance as one. Mercurio leaves "The History Channel" behind, weaving technology and human drama into a heartfelt inquisition of the human spirit and the nature of heroism. "Ascent", in its flap asks "what if the Americans weren't firsat", typifying the question as "chilling". By "chilling" Mercurio doesn't mean that the result of the moonrace would have fundamentally changed the course of history beyond Apollo's iconic value. Rather, Mercurio wonders about what sort of world harnesses immense desperation, and then casts it out into the cold void.
This was a thin book that consumed an entire afternoon. All throughout, I knew it was a frustrating read, and one I never put down.
I won't bore you with re-capping the plot. It's all there in the synopsis and in some of the other reviews. The novel is broken into sections, with each one detailing some portion of the protagonist's life. The first section, dealing with his youth, is, well, "disgusting" springs to mind. The main section of the book deals with Yeremin flying in Korea and becoming the highest scoring jet ace of all time. The air combat sequences are pedestrian at best but when the author has "Ivan the Terrible" in combat with F-86's and is wounded by a ".22-caliber"(What?! How'd THAT happen? F-86's had .50 caliber guns. Was Yeremin wounded by some plinker in Korea?). Obviously no one edits for facts any more.
Mercurio throws real people into the fray and does a creditable job in the afterword straightening out the record that he altered. All in all, the story had promise, but the execution was flawed and Yeremin is easily one of the most unsympathetic characters I can recall in recent fiction.
But if there's redemption,it's the dedication: To those who actually did the jobs. In any event, this is another flying novel that ends with controlled flight into terrain. I'm beginning to think that writing good flying novels is a lost art. Sad.