Ascent : Inspired by the secrets still surrounding the USSR's race against the United States to put a man on the moon, Mercurio asks the chilling question, What if the Americans weren't first? Ascent takes us on the perilous journey of its singular hero, the brave and determined Yefgenii Yeremin. Yefgenii rises from the privation of a Stalingrad orphanage in 1946 to the heights of the cosmonaut corps. During the Korean War he joins an elite Soviet squadron conducting a secret air war against the famous aces of the U.S. Air Force. Dubbed Ivan the Terrible, he amasses more jet kills than any fighter pilot in history, but his feats must remain unknown to his countrymen, his victories un-celebrated. After the war, his achievements are scrubbed from the records and he is exiled to a base above the Arctic Circle, where he flies patrols on the edge of American airspace. There he learns that Yuri Gagarin has become the first man in space, the greatest of all heroes. And then, as America's Apollo astronauts prepare to reach the Moon, he is given a new name and sent into cosmonaut training. Throughout his career, he has craved a place in history, in the climactic clash between the two great powers. At last his country calls him. And somewhere between the Earth and the Moon, Ivan the Terrible finds his mission to create history, to exceed his own life. With one of the most fascinating heroes in recent fiction, Ascent builds a terrifying scenario within the shadowy history of the space race. Haunting, tragic, boldly inventive, Ascent is a tour de force of imagination.