Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Jed Mecurio is one of those irritatingly talented people that could have had at least three rewarding careers.

A qualified doctor, he is also an RAF trained jet fighter pilot. But he's achieved fame and fortune in neither of those fields - instead he's a novelist and TV dramatist.

In 1992 he wrote and helped produce the best medical television drama ever; Cardiac Arrest. Some years later came the second best medical television drama ever; Bodies. If you've never seen either of these series, I suggest you buy the DVDs and then draw the curtains and forget about going out next week-end.

Both series were written with a high degree of expert knowledge, and it's this sense of technical accuracy that links them with the novel Ascent. It is a beautifully written, terse and yet harrowing story of a fighter pilot who becomes a cosmonaut just as the United States is finally drawing ahead in the race to put a man on the moon. The most unexpected effect of the book was the admiration I began to feel for the Soviet space program.

Built literally on the rubble of a smashed country (26,000,000+ dead in 1941-45), unable to draw upon great financial or technological strengths and handicapped by a cruel and stupid political system, the program relied on inspired engineering and tremendous courage.

Amazingly, for the over a decade the system worked; from Sputnik 1 (1957) to Soyuz (1966) the U.S.S.R was "the" space nation with a string of firsts and record breaking missions.
Ascent celebrates and commemorates technology and people, both of which manage to transcend the vile system that nurtures them. There's also a great sense of reality, whether it's the feeling and effects on the body of pulling 6G in the cockpit of a MiG 15, or the sensation of sickness and disorientation while performing an EVA in the cold blackness of outer space.



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