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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 (71 ratings)

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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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Excellent story

I got this book after watching the first episode of the new Chernobyl series to learn more about the nuclear disaster. This book explained the events so well. I will listen again

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Hair raising

The narration is perfect! I felt I was there.

The research done for this story is astounding. Truly a great chronicle of science, history, and the human condition.

I highly recommend this book

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Excellent!

Deeply researched, detailed and understandable for non-physicists. Adam Higginbotham's passion for the content and empathy for the victims of the disaster shine.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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loved it!

I really enjoyed listening to Midnight in Chernobyl and finished it in about three days. The complete account of the event from first-hand witnesses and various parties involved was eye-opening and had me sucked into the story from start to finish. if you're interested in learning about the events leading up to, during, and after the Chernobyl disaster, I would highly recommend this book.

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So many things I didn't know

I remember hearing of Chernobyl when it happened, but there was little information except for warnings about radiation levels in Europe. This is a fascinating story of all the little and big things that went wrong to cause the disaster. Even more interesting are the approaches taken, and the manpower used to remediate the site. Although I was unable to keep track of all the Russian and Ukrainian names, I was still able to fully appreciate the magnitude of what happened.

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You probably think you know about Chernobyl...

An absolutely riveting and tragic tale of sacrifice, disdain, crippling bureaucracy, fear and arrogance. Superb.

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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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  • N. H.
  • 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.

81 of 83 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.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Krista Mascavage
  • 2019-04-16

Wow, What a Listen!

I pre-ordered this book on a whim, having a curiosity about the Chernobyl disaster. I have a strict rule with myself about my new Audible books being listened to only in my car, so it about KILLED me every time I had to stop my car because this book really sucked me in. There were so many details that I didn't know and the author just kept feeding my insatiable curiosity! I highly recommend this book to anyone with any curiosity about the Chernobyl disaster and the people (and politics) surrounding it!!!

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • R. C. Kahrl
  • 2019-04-19

Gripping non-fiction technological thriller

This minute-by-minute account of the Chernobyl disaster, when a huge nuclear reactor went out of control in a couple of seconds, after several errors of mismanagement by a complacent night shift staff, makes a fascinating account of the clash between the need for science to publicize its failures as well as successes, and the need of the Soviet government to maintain the fiction that Central Management of the nation has created and maintained a mistake-proof society. I especially liked the way that this narrator maintains an even, steady and clear verbal recitation of this disaster in the face of one terrible incident after another. The author goes back to the beginning of the nuclear age in the USSR, showng how the demands of the regime for ever-bigger projects and the concomitant demands to show the West that the USSR can build everything bigger, faster and with more advanced technology, led to a series of bad decisions in developing civilian nuclear power resulting in dangerous reactors and inadequate disaster planning. The KGB and other organs of secrecy and disinformation concealed every nuclear incident so that relevant scientific and engineering people never learned from the mistakes that were being made, because mistakes were by definition impossible, therefore suppressed. So when the Chernobyl reactor disintegrated in an instant, at first nobody in the scientific community could believe what had happened. After the reactor exploded, it took days for the Politiburo in Moscow to get even partial accurate information about what had happened, since the entire bureaucratic system had been conditioned to suppress bad facts at every turn, even when reporting to superiors. Meanwhile, radiation poisoning was spreading to a broader population as the days turned into weeks. The people living in the most dangerous areas never did learn the truth of what happened. Although the book is written in matter-of-fact reporting, the tension brought forward by recitation of the facts makes this book into a real page-turner. I listened to this book in the car, and often sat in the garage after arriving home because I just couldn't stop listening.

10 of 10 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.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike
  • 2019-04-21

Amazing Book

I am old enough to remember this disaster. However, like many in the West I only gave it passing attention at the time. The author did a great job of putting together an excellent chronology of the events leading up to the disaster, the actual events of the the day, and then the extensive aftermath via great research and interviews. I found the author's telling of the stories of the people involved to be the best aspect of the book. He put a real human face on it. The thousands of people who worked risking and often giving their lives to contain the disaster, are real heroes the world should know about.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Stuart Woodward
  • 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.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • J in NB
  • 2019-04-16

Excellent insie look at a major catastrophe

Great inside look at a major catastrophe! I especially liked the setup for this major facility and how the accident (?) began. And the short-term and long-term after effects. It's hard to believe the many mistakes and the major sacrifices many people made to get this started and then under control. Again, short-term and long-term. Especially, the one ego-maniac that ignorantly caused this almost single-handletly, except for the poorly built facility, and the poor quality control and lack of proper finances and controls that should have prevented something like this; but actually helped cause it. However, they actually helped contribute to the mess. It was hard to stop listening to in most parts. BUt I did and was sad to hear it as the story was almost over. I highly recommend this audio book!

3 of 3 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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathleen Freeland
  • 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

6 of 7 people found this review helpful