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Starman: Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin Hardcover – March 26, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An extraordinary and accessible examination of this enormous contribution to space exploration, supported by riveting first-hand anecdotes. Essential to any air and space collection." – Library Journal (starred)

"Well-written, engaging, and brow-raising in many ways."—SpaceCoalition.com

"This excellent narrative will keep you enthralled and give you new perspectives on an old name we’re all familiar with." – Astronomy Magazine online

"This extraordinarily intimate account of the 1967 death of a Russian cosmonaut appears in a new book, Starman, by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony, to be published next month. The authors base their narrative principally on revelations from a KGB officer, Venymin Ivanovich Russayev, and previous reporting by Yaroslav Golovanov in Pravda. This version — if it's true — is beyond shocking."—Robert Krulwich, in his post on NPR.org

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Piers Bizony is author of the award-winning 2001: Filming the Future a detailed account of the making of Stanley Kubrick's film, The Rivers of Mars: Searching for the Cosmic Origins of Life and Island in the Sky: Building the International Space Station. He also lectures and organizes exhibitions on space-related subjects.

Jamie Doran of Atlantic Celtic Films is an international award-winning documentary producer. After seven years at BBC Television, he went into independent production, where many of his films have concentrated on lifting the lid of secrecy within the former Soviet Union.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; 1St Edition edition (March 26, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747536880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747536888
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,171,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It is a very well written book.
Amazon Customer
Even if Gagarin's life is described against the backdrop of the trials and tribulations of the early Soviet space program, more is made of what made the man tick.
Christopher Crossley
The authors wrote this in a very engaging style and the topic really came alive for me.
James D. Crabtree

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Crossley on February 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I had first heard about this book through watching the associated BBC TV program in a short series called "Reputations". It examined the myths and realities behind the personalities of some of the world's best-known figures. The book turns out to be an eye-opening account of a quite ordinary man, fated to be feted the world over for having achieved the world's first (and, indeed, shortest) orbital flight by a human being, only to find himself unable to live the life expected of him - as well as the victim of utter jealousy within the highest levels of the Kremlin in the USSR in the 1960s.

Gagarin had no pedigree whatsoever, yet the distinct lack of it made him perfect for the Communist idea that anyone, no matter how humble, had the opportunity to rise to new heights (in his case, quite literally, albeit briefly) within a so-called egalitarian society, which, as the First Cosmonaut (as he was known) found out to his cost, was nothing of the kind.

Born in 1934, Gagarin entered training as a foundry-man at the age of 16, and it was then that he discovered a new love - flying. His first flight was on board an old Yak-18 trainer, and that made quite an impact on him. In 1953, he was accepted for pilot training in the Soviet air force and he later met and married his wife, Valentina, a nurse. It was when he had been posted to Nikel, a base near the Arctic Circle, that he was asked questions by some mysterious doctors. Within a few weeks, he and a host of other fighter pilots underwent a series of utterly demanding physical tests until eventually he and 19 others were declared the Soviet Union's first cosmonauts.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By James E. Oberg on April 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
An American edition has been released, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Gagarin's flight, and some sections of the book have ignited a media firestorm that has even upset the Russians as they prepare to honor Gagarin.

But the flap is peripheral to the book itself, which I found to be a well researched and well written treatment of one human being who was the focal point of humanity's breakout into space. I wholeheartedly recommend it for yourself or family members with even only a vague interest in the subject.

The authors bring up some new material from recently published memoirs from people who have yet to be accepted by space historians [including myself], and perhaps that reluctance is prudent -- time will tell, since there are still deep secrets in Moscow archives that we are not allowed to see, that could knock our socks off. This controversial material of profoundly uncertain reliability is treated fairly by the authors and cautious readers will not be misled.

For telling an old story in a grand new way, for taking advantage of the hindsight that several decades now allows, and for integrating material only recently reaching the public, this book has earned respect.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brian Teeter on April 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a boy, I was shocked by the news that the Soviets put a man in space first. It took a generation to understand the brave audacity of what Yuri Gagarin accomplished not just for his mother Russia, but for the whole world. What I found fascinating about Starman was how a young peasant boy from rural Russia could become a hero to people around the world. Gagarin's optimism allowed him to triumph over any fears or shortcomings that he might have had, and win over the world with his smile.

What was so amazing and sad was how Yuri Gagarin was treated in the years following his epic first flight into space. Too much of a national treasure to be risked for further flights, he became a toy of Soviet propaganda. Yet Gagarin risked all that he had gained to confront Leonid Brezhnev and the Soviet Politburo leaders with the dangers they put other Russian cosmonauts under to fulfill impossible obligations, one that cost the life of fellow cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov with the launch of Soyuz 1, all in the name of a Soviet space spectacular to coincide with Lenin's birthday.

Even the cause of Gagarin's death may have been covered up to suit Soviet politics. He died doing what he loved best - flying - and now, more than ever is a legend.

Starman brought me insight not only to what it was like to be a space pioneer, but illuminated me about life in the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. It's an excellent book, one that tells a larger story than the larger-than-life central figure of Yuri Gagarin. I highly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James D. Crabtree VINE VOICE on January 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read about the Soviet space program and something of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, but almost everything I read ended with something like "... but Gagarin would end up dying in an airplane accident in 1968." As the authors make clear there was more to the story than that.

Yuri Gagarin was from a simple peasant family and he himself became fascinated with flight at an early age. He became one of the Soviet pilots screened from the armed forces to become a cosmonaut, one of thousands of men interviewed and tested for a purpose they would not be told until they had a small number of candidates. Out of the original group of candidates it would come down to Titov and Gagarin and at the last minute (almost) just down to Gagarin.

As the first man in space Gagarin became a celebrity in the USSR (something almost unheard of) and even around the world. He was an optimist, a positive person but the pressures of being Yuri Gagarin, First Man in Space started to wear down Yuri Gagarin, Soviet Air Force officer. His life ended tragically flying an old (even by Soviet standards) MiG trainer and the exact circumstances have never been explained to all concerned.

An interesting discussion of an icon of the Space Race Era. The authors wrote this in a very engaging style and the topic really came alive for me.
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