Midnight in Chernobyl : The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster
by Higginbotham, Adam

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

When Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering the world’s worst nuclear disaster, tens of millions of people as far as mainland Europe feared deadly contamination. Over the last thirty years, this singular industrial accident has lodged itself in the collective nightmares of the world, a symbol of progress gone mad, the costs and consequences of which remain unclear even today. Chernobyl was and has remained 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 its citizens and the entire world. The real story of the events of April 26, 1986, clouded by the secrecy and deliberate confusion created by a Soviet state that excelled in propaganda, remain in dispute, a confusion only compounded by the fear and distrust of the rest of the world.

Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham has written a harrowing and compelling account of how Chernobyl came to be, what went wrong, and what the disaster’s legacy means today. The result is a masterful nonfiction thriller, and the definitive account of an event that changed history: a narrative of events that is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth.

A chronicle of astonishing heroics and maddening incompetence, a study of the promise of science and also its potential to lure us into hubris and danger, Midnight in Chernobyl recreates the story of Chernobyl in vivid and astonishing detail. This masterful work of narrative history brings Chernobyl to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand, revealing the contours of the disaster with unrivalled fidelity and immediacy. From the ambitious young director who first envisioned the plant in a snow-covered field in rural Ukraine, to the control room engineers who unwittingly prompted its destruction; from the city officials and government ministers who oversaw the evacuation and clean up, to the ordinary citizens who struggled through it all to keep themselves and their families safe: the men and women of this book confront an enemy that’s as terrifying as it is invisible, creating an indelible portrait of the last days of the Soviet Union, and how those who lived through it endured one of the greatest disasters of the twentieth century. This is a story 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.

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