Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin Paperback – May 1, 2011
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“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
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.
- Item Weight : 8.6 ounces
- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0802779506
- ISBN-13 : 978-0802779502
- Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.72 x 8.3 inches
- Publisher : Walker Books (May 1, 2011)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #924,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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While following the course of Gagarin’s exciting but all too brief life, the book provides a fascinating glimpse behind the Iron Curtain into the early days of the Soviet space program. Struggling to compete with the Americans for the greater glory of their country, the Soviet scientists stumbled toward greatness as they rushed to figure out how to put a man in space. A great deal of trial and error was involved, and safety was not always priority one. The same was true for the U.S. The authors periodically check in with the American side of the space race to illustrate each superpower’s competitive standing and how decisions on one side influenced those on the other.
One surprising detail regarding Gagarin’s road to space is that the Soviets trained two cosmonauts for that first epic spaceflight, waiting until very late in the process to decide their fates. Only a few days before the launch was Gherman Titov notified that he would be sitting this one out while Gagarin rode into glory. There is some great insight into all the politics behind the final selection, as well as the political struggles behind other decisions in the space program. After his brief rocket ride, Gagarin became phenomenally famous and was treated as a national treasure, carted around the world to make countless personal appearances. He shouldered the role as best he could, but his first love was flying. He wanted to go back into space, hopefully on a moon mission, but the Soviet government treated their cosmonaut heroes with surprising overprotectiveness, not only hindering them from further spaceflight but also severely prohibiting their piloting of aircraft. Gagarin’s rise to greatness is inspiring, but the subsequent aftermath is often surprisingly tragic.
The authors dug up a great deal of documentation from Soviet archives and interviewed many key players in the space program, as well as Gagarin family members. While the research is extensive, the writing isn’t always all it could be. Rather than taking their documents and interviews and distilling them into a compelling and cohesive narrative, Doran and Bizony at times make you feel like you’re reading a bunch of documents and interviews. The research really takes precedence over the writing. There is a sort of magazine journalism style to the prose that sometimes feels out of place within an authoritative account of a man’s life. I also felt like the foreword promised more mystery and controversy than the story ultimately delivered. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal from this book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Gagarin is a great hero, yet like all heroes—as the authors point out—he had his flaws. The authors go beyond the superstardom to expose the humanity beneath, thereby bringing this stellar hero down to earth for us to appreciate more fully his accomplishments and struggle.
Top reviews from other countries
I'm very glad I did. It adds plenty of colour to Gagarin's legend, and the book does a great job of painting Gagarin as just a normal guy who did an extraordinary thing. A very highly recommended book to anyone interested in 20th Century History or Space Exploration.
Astonishing depth and breadth, every angle was covered and covered well. I'm not only enlightened and charmed by the wonderful story of a true hero and decent bloke, human for sure but decent nonetheless, but I also feel really satisfied and appreciative of the research the authors have undertaken in what must have been an incredibly frustrating climate of typical Russian secretiveness.