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Summary

A stunningly imaginative novel about the Cold War, the Russian space program, and the amazing fraud that pulled the wool over the eyes of the world.

It's 1964 in the USSR, and unbeknownst even to Premier Khrushchev himself, the Soviet space program is a sham. Well, half a sham. While the program has successfully launched five capsules into space, the Chief Designer and his team have never successfully brought one back to Earth. To disguise this, they've used twins. But in a nation built on secrets and propaganda, the biggest lie of all is about to unravel. 

Because there are no more twins left. 

Combining history and fiction, the real and the mystical, First Cosmic Velocity is the story of Leonid, the last of the twins. Taken in 1950 from a life of poverty in Ukraine to the training grounds in Russia, the Leonids were given one name and one identity, but divergent fates. Now one Leonid has launched to certain death (or so one might think...), and the other is sent on a press tour under the watchful eye of Ignatius, the government agent who knows too much but gives away little. And while Leonid battles his increasing doubts about their deceitful project, the Chief Designer must scramble to perfect a working spacecraft, especially when Khrushchev nominates his high-strung, squirrel-like dog for the first canine mission. 

By turns grim and whimsical, fatalistic and deeply hopeful, First Cosmic Velocity is a sweeping novel of the heights of mankind's accomplishments, the depths of its folly, and the people - and canines - with whom we create family.

©2019 Zach Powers (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Powers’ writing style is delicate and almost otherworldly; as in his collection of stories, Gravity Changes, each word is carefully chosen, every sentence deliberately flowing into the next.... Scenes centered on the characters’ emotional lives are touching, and the dreamy tone brings a touch of fantasy without pushing too far into whimsy. A lovely and hopeful story from a promising writer.” (Kirkus Reviews)

"Cleverly conceived and beautifully delivered.... The darkness and gravity of the narrative is mixed with stirring prose and dialogue that make First Cosmic Velocity a novel of ideas from the Cold War era.” (Associated Press)

“[An] entertaining and winning debut novel.... Through [the intriguing premise] Powers refracts glimpses of the competitive Soviet space program and its personnel [and] the sometimes absurd politics of the Khrushchev era.... Powers’ deadpan depiction of the ruse that drives his tale and the historical figures duped by it will give readers pause to wonder if it really is that improbable.” (Publishers Weekly)

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-07-20

ok

it ended right when it was getting good. :( I think it has great characters and bones, but Its almost like the author ended the story because he was tired of writing it.

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  • Matthew Hubbard
  • 03-10-19

YES! SO GOOD!

I never wanted this book to end. I loved it all.
Fascinating pretense, I could actually believe it was true.