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Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin Paperback – April 12, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“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.” ―

“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

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.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802779506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802779502
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 59 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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15 of 16 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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6 of 6 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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had been meaning to pick up this book since I first heard about it on NPR a few years ago.

I grew up a child of the seventies living in the United States, where the Russians only personality according to all the news I got, was that they were bloodthirsty communists and never as the humourous multidimensional people with rich cultural heritage I came to know them to be.

Having been born in the late sixties, from the time I was aware of space as a concept, we were already ahead of them. By the time I was two years old, the United States had already beaten the Russians in the space race.

Yes, we were taught about Sputnik and the fact that the Russians put the first man ( and woman) in space was something mentioned , but not discussed in detail. This book, takes advantage of archives only recently opened, and interviews the people close to Gargarin, and the orginal Soviet cosmonauts, the "little eagles"

Gargarins life after his brief time in space, made him a worldwide rockstar- with all the trappings and temptation that comes with a meteoric vault into superstardom. It humanises him as a man and legend. Additionally this book also does a fantastic job of discussing the life and times of those other fathers of modern space flight that were in orbit around him. People like Alexi Leonov . It's fantastically researched biographical material and does a great job of not only telling Gargarins story, but the stories, life and times of many fascinating people around him. If you're a space dork, this book should be in your collection. I highly recommend it, and at just under four dollars for the Kindle version , it's a bargain of epic proportion.

Buy this book!!!
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