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Midnight in Chernobyl

Written by: Adam Higginbotham
Narrated by: Jacques Roy
Length: 13 hrs and 55 mins
5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 37.53
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Publisher's Summary

The definitive, dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, based on original reporting and new archival research.

April 25, 1986 in Chernobyl was a turning point in world history. The disaster not only changed the world’s perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planet’s delicate ecology. With the images of the abandoned homes and playgrounds beyond the barbed wire of the 30-kilometer Exclusion Zone, the rusting graveyards of contaminated trucks and helicopters, the farmland lashed with black rain, the event fixed for all time the notion of radiation as an invisible killer.

Chernobyl was also a key event in the destruction of the Soviet Union, and, with it, the United States’ victory in the Cold War. For Moscow, it was a political and financial catastrophe as much as an environmental and scientific one. With a total cost of 18 billion rubles - at the time equivalent to $18 billion - Chernobyl bankrupted an already teetering economy and revealed to its population a state built upon a pillar of lies.

The full story of the events that started that night in the control room of reactor number four of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant has never been told - until now. Through two decades of reporting, new archival information, and firsthand interviews with witnesses, journalist Adam Higginbotham tells the full dramatic story, including Alexander Akimov and Anatoli Dyatlov, who represented the best and worst of Soviet life; denizens of a vanished world of secret policemen, internal passports, food lines, and heroic self-sacrifice for the motherland. 

Midnight in Chernobyl, award-worthy nonfiction that reads like sci-fi, shows not only the final epic struggle of a dying empire, but also the story of individual heroism and desperate, ingenious technical improvisation joining forces against a new kind of enemy. 

©2019 Adam Higginbotham (P)2019 Simon & Schuster

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  • ron
  • 2019-04-04

Fascinating

I heard about this book one night while listening to my science pod casts. I immediately checked for it on audible as I had a credit to use.

Without hesitation I jumped right in.

I am very pleased with it.

It’s entertaining from an educational perspective. Well written and well read. It’s an interesting glimpse into a time capsule of the past.

If you are at all interested in Chernobyl this is a must have.

Cheers.

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  • Stuart Woodward
  • Yokosuka, Japan
  • 2019-02-21

A detailed account of the Chernobyl accident

A detailed account of the Chernobyl accident and the aftermath.

I found the story of the individual members a little confusing because of the large number of Russian names. I think this may be easier to follow with text. The story was compelling and I learnt a lot of new details about the accident which I thought I was familiar with before.

The most interesting revelations for me were the details of the design of the reactor and how unstable it was under certain circumstances. I had assumed operator error but there were scenarios where the reaction could become unstable under fairly normal operation. Even the operators knew it was treacherous compared to other reactors that they had worked on.

Coverups, corruption, bad design, bad workmanship all played a part. Over all it is a good read for both pro and antinuclear readers as the dangers are well explained.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Johnson
  • 2019-02-22

A sad tale, well told.

A great story, terrible, but great. In-depth and riveting, I had a hard time walking away from it. An important lesson about the importance of transparency and motivation.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Christopher
  • 2019-03-22

This is a profoundly scary book

The story of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986 is one that rhymes with other chronicles of human disaster, such as the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters. In each of these stories, a constellation of institutional inadequacy, human error, heroism and the distortions of after-action investigations to serve institutional needs become the bones that are dressed out by accounts of terrible events that leave a thoughtful reader haunted by questions of how we allowed things to get to the point where people died.
Midnight in Chernobyl is a deft and powerful example of this genre of investigative writing. The book weaves the personal stories of those who lived through the horror of the accident with the story of how political considerations contributed to the conditions that led to it. The author also makes sure to highlight the heroism of relatively unknown men and women who sought to mitigate the disaster, to save lives, often at the cost of their own. The ticktock of what happened gives way at times to utterly haunting descriptions of the extreme phenomena that occurred at the epicenter of a nuclear catastrophe.
Midnight in Chernobyl leaves the reader with many questions about how we manage societies, large scientific projects and how we live in the world that are as apposite now as they were in 1986.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • N. H.
  • United States
  • 2019-03-21

Midnight in Chernobyl is the book to listen to.

I have been interested in the Chernobyl incident since it first occurred. My interest came from living less than 15 miles SW of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant at the time of that accident. Chernobyl was so much more than what was reported at the time because of the USSR secrecy. I have attempted to read or listen to one or two other books on Chernobyl. Higginbotham's is the one I finished and finished in a few days. The information is presented chronologically. People are identified with their name and their position in relation to the disaster. The book gives a short history of the USSR Nuclear history, including the other accidents that were never disclosed to the USSR populace. It also traces what happened to the people involved in Chernobyl in the months and years after. The author spoke to several survivors or family members as recently as a few years ago. Jacques Roy does a fantastic job narrating the book. He handles the Russian vocabulary with ease. This book is informative. It is by turns angering and heartbreaking. Midnight in Chernobyl is the book to read or listen to about the Chernobyl disaster.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathleen Freeland
  • Saba Island, Netherlands Antilles
  • 2019-02-18

So the truth is revealed

This book is very interesting especially for bringing to light concealed facts and the progress up to date.
Narrator has the perfect voice for this history lesson
The book is well written
I shall find more books by both author and narrator

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • David Z
  • 2019-04-11

A fantastic “page turner” from beginning to end!

Wow! What a great read. This book was truly a page turner from start to finish. What makes it very cool in that regard is that the entire book is fact, not fiction. The depth of information and the way it was presented was on believably informative and thoroughly entertaining. Definitely five stars!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • D. A Butler
  • Nashville, TN United States
  • 2019-04-11

A blow by blow account that seems to miss out

This book is a faithful blow by blow account of the accident and aftermath of the disaster, however I felt like it missed on going over more detail of the accident events itself in both an explanatory way and on a technical level. This is instead more glossed over and focus is more on the people involved and all the impacts of the released radiation. Nothing that a decent documentary hasn’t already covered.

But there is one detail that astonished me, and it was the authors declaration of who pressed the Az5 button. To my knowledge both who pressed it and why was a long unresolved mystery, although the cast of characters limited the options. Still, the author mentions nothing about this issue and how he resolved it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • BamaState
  • Raleigh NC
  • 2019-04-08

Great book

What a catastrophe. I knew it was bad but nothing like this. Of course because the USSR lied to the world and its own people no one had a real good idea. Well researched and told in a personal way so you got a real idea of what happened and the efforts to contain. A MUST READ

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  • Foreverunited
  • SALEM, OH, US
  • 2019-04-08

interesting and informative

I know nothing about nuclear science but this was easy to follow and listen to. Still saddens me that so many were affected but at the same time I want to know all the info. I appreciate the personal stories shared from people that lived through this.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-03-23

Frightening

One of the most frightening books I've ever read. The arrogance and stupidity that lead to so many deaths is almost as scary as the accident itself.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful