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on 20 April 2017
I think I have read this before and even visited the town in the man's name. I really terrific book on the space race.
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on 2 June 2003
I found this biography of Korolev to be very well researched and equally well written. It does a lot to put one of the least known, but most important scientists of the 20th century into perspective. The book has a few flaws though. It is very, very detailed on technical information, but is somewhat lacking in more personal details about Korolev's life. This small flaw makes to book a little less interesting, but also could have been unavoidable for the author. Undoubtedly Korolev, having lived under Stalin's rule and having spent time in the Soviet prison camp system, knew how to keep personal opinions to himself. Therefore, there just might not be much "personal information" available about Korolev for a historian to dig up. The book does bring out Korolev's excellent scientific and administrative abilities - the two keys to his sucess as a scientist and the early dramatic sucess of the Soviet space program. The book also shows why the Soviet space program faltered following Korolev's death. If you're interested in the history of space exploration or the Soviet Union, I highly recommend this book.
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on 6 January 1998
In the movie,"The Right Stuff," there is a scene where Lyndon Johnson is in a briefing room, viewing stolen film footage of the Soviet space program. As head of a White House Committee to get America's own space efforts back on track, Johnson seethes with frustration as he sees a smiling image of the mysterious Chief Designer. "Get that moron off the screen," he cries, as he can no longer take any more of what certainly appears to be gloating.
The man on the screen is Korolev, subject of Harford's exceptionally researched biography. As it turns out, Korolev was indeed "off the screen" of world events of the time. The very idea is so contrary to American impulses -- having a huge role to play in the glamourous, headline-grabbing battle of superpowers -- and remaining anonymous. This story is one of keeping what could have been a justifiably enormous ego under excruciatingly tight wraps. Perhaps it is a story which Americans now need to hear, in this age of media hype and instantly manufactured celebrities.
Harford tells of Korolev's rise to prominence in the Soviet space program with real passion. He does not, however, idealize, as he is careful to present many diverse opinions from many sources. Most of these come from deep within that bureaucratic enigma of Russian space engineering and research organizations. All told, however, the Chief Designer's life and times invoke tremendous respect and admiration. The pressures this man faced, developing the manned space flights as well as military missiles as well as spy sattelites ... as well as coping with a paranoid leadership which insisted on optimum results with far from adequate resources. Job stress redefined on a new level!
Harford's one miscue is that he often dwells too heavily on the technical details, citing scads of information which would most likely interest only the most devoted of space travel enthusiasts. Nevertheless, the book offers perhaps the best look yet into the people who "scared America" in the early days of the space race, developing a human drama every bit as intriguing as our own Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo efforts. It also stands as a late in coming, but necessary vindication for one man who willingly accepted being overlooked by the world -- as his cosmonauts soared in both the heavens and the world's imagination. Harford finally allows those of us who never knew anything about Korolev to say, "Hail,Sergei! We never knew how brilliant you were!"
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on 8 March 2010
Some fascinating insights into Korolev and the cosmonauts but a bit too much on the internecine machinations of the engineering crowd in the USSR made it a bit dull and repetitive. There wasnt much about the really interesting stuff regarding how he handled the politicians and got resources. It just tended to say "Sergei Pavlovich got the money somehow...".

There might be better Korolev biographys around but it you cant find any and are interested in the subject then read this.
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on 24 October 1997
Many thanks to Mr. Harford! Even russian aerospace specialists red the book with great interest.
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on 8 April 1998
This is a must have for any person who has looked into the history of the Space Race. Sergei Korolev is one of the few persons in the Space Race that we know very little of; before reading this book there was very little that I knew of the man. However, this book clarified all rumors about Korolev and his life and gave a large amount of insight into the man who very few knew by his actual name.
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on 9 August 1998
I strongly recommend Contest for the Heavens, by Claus Jensen - The Road to the Challenger Disaster. This is gave me a fascinating perspective from the other side - i.e. what was happening in the USA in reaction to what Korolev was doing in Russia. And where those events would lead.
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