From Publishers Weekly
Cadbury (Dreams of Iron and Steel
) focuses on two men "obsessed by the same vision... locked in an unparalleled contest" to reach outer space: one is the cold, charismatic Wernher von Braun, but the soul of this finely honed, consistently compelling tale (the basis for a National Geographic channel series to air in June) belongs to Sergei Korolev. Korolev survived Stalin's gulag to become the mythical chief designer of the Soviet space program for 20 years. Driven to beat the Americans, Korolev and his team of long-suffering scientists and technicians, working with inadequate funding, threw together spacecraft of dubious quality and launched them into space. While von Braun's reputation has suffered immeasurably from the release of secret files revealing his use of slave labor under the Nazis, Korolev, though unacknowledged in his lifetime, today remains a hero in Russia. In the end this is a cautionary tale, a story of what happens when the dreams of humankind are hijacked by the darker aspirations of politics: the space shuttle still flies and the ICBMs still wait in their silos, and we are left to wonder at what price we soar to the heavens. 8 pages of color and 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW
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*Starred Review* Cadbury traces the development of rockets and spaceflight from German experiments before World War II to the manned moon landings, telling the story in layperson's language (though with a fine glossary appended) and in the process providing powerful biographies of the two outstanding designers, Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev. Korolev began as a supervisor of the efforts of German technicians captured during and after the war but later achieved outstanding results with his own designs by launching Sputnik
and the first manned orbital flights. Von Braun's history included winking at the use of slave labor but also a succession of breakthroughs that led to the historic day in July 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped out on the moon. Both Soviet and U.S. programs were plagued with failures and outright disasters that Cadbury graphically though evenhandedly describes, and Korolev literally worked himself to death. The true monument to both designers is the last two generations of manned spaceflight. Appealing to everyone from the generation who listened in high school to the early launches to high-school students today who want a keen-sighted view of the spacefaring past, this outstanding volume is likely to be one of the standards on its subject for years to come. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved