If you are interested in the history of the Soviet space program, this is THE book, along with its continuation, "the Soviet space race with Apollo". Everything you wanted to know about mankind's first effort to reach outer space is in here. It's full of thousands of previously unknown facts and stories, covering everything from the first pioneers to the efforts in the late 70's. However, be aware that this is not a book for the beginner or as a casual reading. If you're not familiar with the subject, it may be too exhaustive. On the other hand, if you are looking for blueprints or engineering details about Soviet rockets and spacecrafts, look elsewhere (NPO Energia's book, full of pictures, is the perfect companion). The only thing I didn't like were the (few) small black and white pictures and diagrams. Although interesting, such a book deserves better. Also, the small typeset makes the reading a difficult task. The ultimate book on the early Soviet space program.
Most histories of the Soviet space program gloss over the details but Siddiqi gives us every single step that Korolev and his many followers took along their journey. Siddiqi edited the Boris Chertok series of books but this work brings a much bigger perspective than even Chertok could offer. Siddiqi doesn't let us get overwhelmed by the details and the end result is a new appreciation of the huge scale of technical, political and personal challenges that were overcome. This is a scholarly but very readable book and highly recommended for anyone with a serious interest in the subject.
The book is a dream to anyone who wants to know in great detail the story of the Soviet Space Challenge, however I found it really hard to get into this book because it contained a lot more detail than I was interested in.
This book is the first of two volumes, the second volume being "The Soviet Space Race with Apollo". I would recommend reading this book before volume 2 as the second book continues at Chapter 12.
These books appear quite daunting at first with their small type but most pages have a large reference section at the bottom so there's not quite as much text to read as first meets the eye.
This book starts at the very beginning of Russian amateur rocketry & theory. It then describes in detail how the USSR were beaten to the best of the V2 rocket program at the end of WWII in Germany by the USA & Great Britain.
The story continues with how the Soviets learned from the Germans & developed their own space program & Sputnik. It then describes the testing with dogs (I loved the reason why chimps weren't used) & shows the bravery of people like Yuri Gagarin & how the USSR developed this program into multiple crew missions. I found the Soviets' concern for the safety of their animal & human pilots surprising & quite touching.
This book also describes in detail the remarkable hardships & work of Sergey Pavlovich Korolev & goes some way to showing us an insight into the person who was the "chief designer".
Asif Siddiqi does tend to produce long lists of names of the personnel involved, which to be honest I tended to skip over when reading. There are only so many Russian names you can read.
My other criticism of the book was the sparsity of pictures & photographs. While there are photos & illutrations in the book, Siddiqi often describes details or machinery that I really wanted to see. In fact I often found myself looking for rockets & ships on Google to help me to understand exactly how things looked & worked.
These books do require some work but anyone interested in the Space Race will find them rewarding. While I found the book a little sow to get going, it really gathers pace once the Soviets start launching "proper" space rockets & ships.