MIDNIGHT IN CHERNOBYL
Written by Adam Higgenbotham
Published by Simon & Schuster, February 12, 2019
My star rating – 5 stars
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 No.4 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. Find it on Goodreads
I feel really uncomfortable rating and reviewing a non fiction novel. Admittedly, I don’t read many non fiction at all, so I feel like I’m the last person on earth to judge one! Can I rate or review the events? No. It’s real life; it’s what happened. I feel like the only thing I can talk about with any opinion at all is the writing. So, here it goes.
Me not having read non fiction isn’t for lack of trying. I LOVE gaining new knowledge and learning the in’s and out’s of specific topics. I really should have been a researcher – the more I know, the more obsessed I get. BUT – non fiction novels are soooooo boring for the most part! Well, at least the ones that i’ve picked up in the past. This one though? Not the case. Not even close. This was one of the best written and least dry non fiction i’ve ever read.
I think that what had me interested the most was the pace. It was perfect. He didn’t draw out the chapters too long and found a way to present the information to you in short bursts. He would be explaining a scenario, sprinkle in some details and facts that would otherwise be boring if they were presented on a list, and then get back to forward movement of the events. It starts off a little dry with some background basics of nuclear power and how reactors work, but even then, it was filled with facts that had my jaw on the floor. From there we move through the disaster itself, the control of the reactor, the clean up, the sickness, and the aftermath. It was really well paced!
I know nothing of nuclear power. I hated science in school (mainly because my teachers spoke in monotone voices and taught directly from the pages of a text book) so I was fearful going into this that the science of nuclear power would go right over my head. Luckily, it was like a dumbed down version of nuclear power, laid out in a way that walked you through it and held your hand. But it wasn’t so dumbed down that a grade 1 student would get it – it was just the right amount of laymen terms lol.
I’ve been obsessed with the Chernobyl disaster for quite some time now – even before I knew there was an HBO mini series. I’ve watched all the YouTube videos that I can find, searched blogs, and so much more. Then, just before picking up this book, I watched the mini series. Almost everything that was in the mini series was in here as well. But it also included things that I never knew or expanded the stories even further. As in things I never knew – I had no idea that the government transported people back in busses in small waves so that they could go back to their houses and reclaim some of the effects. Not everything was allowed to leave Pripyat though – it was all tested for radiation before leaving the 30K zone, but at least some people could get the things they left behind. Going back after so long, into a place that was left deserted, must have been eerie as hell!
This book also went a little more into the politics of the time. I know that they wanted it covered up to save their own asses but, by doing so, it endangered so many people!! No one wanted to admit just how screwed they were and how bad the disaster actually was. People weren’t evacuated in a timely manner, and so many participated in the clean up and control without proper protection. It’s terrifying!
I think the main reason for me being so obsessed with Chernobyl is that this all happened when I was 3 years old and I don’t remember it even happening. It’s insane that something so catastrophic can happen but, in my little bubble, life was just fine.
If you’re at all interested in Chernobyl and looking for something factual and detailed, then this is the non fiction you need to choose! I was never bored and didn’t think that it was dry in any way!
Until next time, happy reading!