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THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
'Superb, enthralling and necessarily terrifying . . . every step feels spring-loaded with tension... extraordinary.' The New York Times
The story of Chernobyl is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth. Adam Higginbotham has written a harrowing and compelling narrative which brings the 1986 disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it first-hand. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently-declassified archives, this book makes for a masterful non-fiction thriller.
Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world: shorthand for the spectral horrors of radiation poisoning, for a dangerous technology slipping its leash, for ecological fragility, and for what can happen when a dishonest and careless state endangers not only its own citizens, but all of humanity. It is a story that has long remained in dispute, clouded from the beginning in secrecy, propaganda, and misinformation.
Midnight In Chernobyl is an indelible portrait of history's worst nuclear disaster, of human resilience and ingenuity and the lessons learned when mankind seeks to bend the natural world to his will - lessons which, in the face of climate change and other threats - remain not just vital but necessary.
Now, Higginbotham brings us closer to the truth behind this colossal tragedy.
'Tells the story of the disaster and its gruesome aftermath with thriller-like flair . . . wonderful and chilling ... written with skill and passion.' The Observer
'An invaluable contribution to history.' Serhii Plokhy, Evening Standard
LONGLISTED FOR THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE ONDAATJE PRIZE 2020
Journalist Higginbotham offers a crash course on the Soviet "Era of Stagnation" and the development of the U.S.S.R. nuclear complex in this busy account of the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown. Struggling to unravel the complex story behind the tragedy, Higginbotham piles detail upon detail: the amount of champagne one worker consumed that critical April night; insights into the cultural cravings of Soviet Man ("Dyatlov had fulfilled every autodidactic expectation of the Soviet Man, dedicating himself to his work by day and steeping himself in culture by night") and other tidbits. The result is an exhaustive history that is neither definitive nor harrowing, and repeats much of the mass of information already published on the subject (for example, that Soviet engineers knew of the weaknesses of the reactor model used in Chernobyl and that authorities tried to downplay, even deny, the disaster). Packing in 10-plus years of research and interviews, the author zigzags between cities, countries, and time zones in a disjointed attempt to recreate the doomed reactor's last hours. He devotes dense chapters to the West's reaction, the elaborate cleanup, and the even more complex Soviet cover-up, but fails to provide a deep and clear understanding of the human error and heroism that are at the heart of this story. Readers looking for a definitive account of this disaster may want to look elsewhere.