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  • Beyond

  • The Astonishing Story of the First Human to Leave Our Planet and Journey into Space
  • By: Stephen Walker
  • Narrated by: David Rintoul
  • Length: 15 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Russia
  • 4.9 out of 5 stars (205 ratings)

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Summary

9.07 a.m., April 12, 1961. A top-secret rocket site in the USSR. A young Russian sits inside a tiny capsule on top of the Soviet Union’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile - originally designed to carry a nuclear warhead - and blasts into the skies. His name is Yuri Gagarin, and he is about to make history. 

Travelling at almost 18,000 miles per hour - 10 times faster than a rifle bullet - Gagarin circles the globe in just 106 minutes. While his launch begins in total secrecy, within hours of his landing he has become a world celebrity - the first human to leave the planet.

Beyond tells the thrilling story behind that epic flight on its 60th anniversary. It happened at the height of the Cold War as the US and USSR confronted each other across an Iron Curtain. Both superpowers took enormous risks to get a man into space first - the Americans in the full glare of the media, the Soviets under deep cover. Both trained their teams of astronauts to the edges of the endurable. In the end the race between them would come down to the wire.

Drawing on extensive original research and the vivid testimonies of eyewitnesses, many of whom have never spoken before, Stephen Walker unpacks secrets that were hidden for decades and takes the listener into the drama - featuring the scientists, engineers and political leaders on both sides and above all the American astronauts and their Soviet rivals battling for supremacy in the heavens.

©2021 Stephen Walker (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"The very best account of Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering space mission - vivid, thoughtful, and respectful of the characters in the story. A wonderfully rendered story of an epochal event." (Asif Siddiqi, author of The Challenge to Apollo)

"Beyond has the exhilaration of a fine thriller, but it is vividly embedded in the historic tensions of the Cold War, and peopled by men and women brought sympathetically, and sometimes tragically, to life." (Colin Thubron)

"Suddenly, every previous biography of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and his epic Earth-orbiting flight - and there are many - has been superseded [...] A spellbinding and completely authoritative account [...] It is rare for someone to tell such a monumental story with the narrative skill, research and suspense one usually expects to find in a James Patterson thriller, but this book is a guaranteed gem. It will intrigue and enlighten any reader who wants to know more about a humble man named Yuri Gagarin and his perilous and near-fatal journey into the then-largely unknown sensations and terrors of the cosmos. Simply put, Beyond is, in my opinion, the finest, best researched book ever written on the subject and thoroughly deserves the ongoing plaudits of space historians and interested readers alike." (Colin Burgess)

What listeners say about Beyond

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A refrigerator and silk undies for the Hero of the Soviet Union

Pacy informative and revelatory. Perfect balance between the two centres of the Cold War. It puts into context what was happening in the world alongside the space race. The juxtaposition of the Bay of Pigs and Gagarin’s space flight is telling. In the epilogue, there is a frightening insight into how controlling the USSR was in its citizens' daily lives: Gagarin was given by the state a specified number of suits, silk underwear, a refrigerator and his wife two handbags.

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Excellent

This really is a stunning piece of history where much of true detail of what happened during the few months to the build up to the launch is not something that is commonly known. It's brilliantly researched leaving no stone unturned presenting all of the - I guess you could say - hidden history. It's not only informative, but also suspensive and you may be surprised to hear very funny at times. In fact there is a point at which things are unfolding very fast with much tension and suddenly you're hit with pure comedy that utterly endears you to Yuri Gararin. This is actually my first audio book and I feel with the reading being so good it did carry me through much of the detail as it builds where as if I had been reading it myself my poor attention span may have got the better of me and I may not have stuck with it. However as the book rode it's crescendoed I was so deeply immersed that I could have just as easily been reading myself as apposed to having the events so excellently acted and read back to me.

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So good

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So well narrated. It is very easy to listen, 10 out 10

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Absolutely brilliant, a must read!

They say truth is stranger than fiction and in this case it certainly is! If you saw the story in this book in a film, you would say, that would never happen!! However it did and the story is superbly brought to life by the narrator either the pace and emotion he reads the story with, apart from the odd part where he whispers and makes that part quite difficult to heat.

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Superb

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. The description of the race between the superpowers to get a man into orbit was gripping. There was also excellent development of the key characters as the story unfolded. One key message for me was the fact that the United States' drive to put the first man on the moon seemed to be entirely based on being annoyed at the USSR getting to Space before them, We really are stroppy children at the most fundamental level.

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Fascinating

Walker’s book will shock, surprise and captivate anyone with an interest in the history of space travel and its origins.

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Brilliant 👍

Absolutely Brilliant. Of the scores of Audible books I’ve enjoyed, this has been among the best, enhanced even more by the narrator. Thank you. I finished it minutes ago, on the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gargarin’s space triumph.

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Flawless

To say that Stephen Walker's research exceeds his writing would be to split hairs. This is a truly staggering account of the early days of the space race and Walker's brilliant story-telling, full of fascinating details, little ironies and deadpan wit, does it's subject matter justice. The narration is also superb, with Rintoul's theatrical delivery bringing the right level of gravitas and humour to the text. All-round faultless work and I'm sorry to have got to the end of it.

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highly highly recommended!

Brings the excitement and the awe of the race to get the first man into space. Peaks at Yuri Gagarin's flight into the unknown and how the Soviets cut so many corners to win the race. David Rintoul superb as always.

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Beyond is excellent

Thoroughly enjoyable from every aspect. Anyone who has the slightest interest in space flight must add this to their library.