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About the book
  • Published: 7 February 2019
  • ISBN: 9781473540828
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 560

Midnight in Chernobyl

The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster




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

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 western alliance’s 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 first-hand 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 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.

  • Pub date: 7 February 2019
  • ISBN: 9781473540828
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 560

About the Author

Adam Higginbotham

Adam Higginbotham writes for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, GQ, Businessweek, Smithsonian, Men’s Journal, and The Atavist. He began his career in magazines and newspapers in London, where he was the editor-­in-chief of The Face and a contributing editor at The Sunday Telegraph. The author of Midnight in Chernobyl, he lives in New York City.


Praise for Midnight in Chernobyl

“Superb, enthralling and necessarily terrifying . . . the accident unfurls with a horrible inevitability. Weaving together the experiences of those who were there that night, Higginbotham marshals the details so meticulously that every step feels spring-loaded with tension. . . . Amid so much rich reporting and scrupulous analysis, some major themes emerge. . . . Higginbotham’s extraordinary book is another advance in the long struggle to fill in some of the gaps, bringing much of what was hidden into the light.”

New York Times

“Superb, enthralling and necessarily terrifying . . . the accident unfurls with a horrible inevitability. Weaving together the experiences of those who were there that night, Higginbotham marshals the details so meticulously that every step feels spring-loaded with tension. . . . Amid so much rich reporting and scrupulous analysis, some major themes emerge. . . . Higginbotham’s extraordinary book is another advance in the long struggle to fill in some of the gaps, bringing much of what was hidden into the light.”

New York Times

“An invaluable contribution to history... tells a compelling story exceptionally well.”

Serhii Plokhy, Evening Standard

“An invaluable contribution to history... tells a compelling story exceptionally well.”

Serhii Plokhy, Evening Standard

“Higginbotham tells the story of the disaster and its gruesome aftermath with thriller-like flair. Midnight in Chernobyl is wonderful and chilling ... written with skill and passion. A tale of hubris and doomed ambition.”

Luke Harding, The Observer

“Higginbotham tells the story of the disaster and its gruesome aftermath with thriller-like flair. Midnight in Chernobyl is wonderful and chilling ... written with skill and passion. A tale of hubris and doomed ambition.”

Luke Harding, The Observer

“Adam Higginbotham uses all of the techniques of the top-notch longform journalist to full effect. He swoops us into the heart of the catastrophe.”

Oliver Bullough, The Guardian

“Adam Higginbotham uses all of the techniques of the top-notch longform journalist to full effect. He swoops us into the heart of the catastrophe.”

Oliver Bullough, The Guardian

“Utterly gripping and superbly researched… Higginbotham shows brilliantly how the tragedy contributed to the collapse of the whole Soviet system that had created it.”

BBC History Magazine

“Utterly gripping and superbly researched… Higginbotham shows brilliantly how the tragedy contributed to the collapse of the whole Soviet system that had created it.”

BBC History Magazine

“An account that reads almost like the script for a movie . . . Higginbotham has captured the terrible drama.”

The Wall Street Journal

“An account that reads almost like the script for a movie . . . Higginbotham has captured the terrible drama.”

The Wall Street Journal

“This is a highly detailed, carefully documented, beautifully narrated telling of this breathtakingly complex accident and its mitigation.”

Nature

“This is a highly detailed, carefully documented, beautifully narrated telling of this breathtakingly complex accident and its mitigation.”

Nature

“Secrecy, stupidity and farce: the full story of what caused Chernobyl. Surely definitive.”

Lewis Jones, Sunday Telegraph

“Secrecy, stupidity and farce: the full story of what caused Chernobyl. Surely definitive.”

Lewis Jones, Sunday Telegraph

“A gripping, miss-your-subway-stop read. Higginbotham captures the nerve-racked Soviet atmosphere brilliantly, mostly through vivid details about the participants.”

New York Times Book Review

“A gripping, miss-your-subway-stop read. Higginbotham captures the nerve-racked Soviet atmosphere brilliantly, mostly through vivid details about the participants.”

New York Times Book Review

“A nuclear thriller. Higginbotham has done some remarkable research... impressive.”

Julie McDowall, The Times

“A nuclear thriller. Higginbotham has done some remarkable research... impressive.”

Julie McDowall, The Times

“Midnight in Chernobyl is the most thorough and scrupulously reported book to appear on the greatest nuclear disaster of the 20th century. Attentive and humane, it is also a gripping read on the tragic intersection of nuclear and Soviet power.”

Keith Gessen, author of A Terrible Country and translator of Voices from Chernobyl

“Midnight in Chernobyl is the most thorough and scrupulously reported book to appear on the greatest nuclear disaster of the 20th century. Attentive and humane, it is also a gripping read on the tragic intersection of nuclear and Soviet power.”

Keith Gessen, author of A Terrible Country and translator of Voices from Chernobyl

“A definitive book. Adam Higginbotham has written a wonderful and chilling account of how the Chernobyl disaster happened, featuring protagonists and victims, party bosses and hapless engineers, confusion and cover up. The story of how the reactor exploded and its grisly aftermath are told with thriller-like flair. Higginbotham captures the scientific and the human, in a tale of hubris and doomed ambition.”

Luke Harding, New York Times bestselling author of Collusion and The Snowden Files

“A definitive book. Adam Higginbotham has written a wonderful and chilling account of how the Chernobyl disaster happened, featuring protagonists and victims, party bosses and hapless engineers, confusion and cover up. The story of how the reactor exploded and its grisly aftermath are told with thriller-like flair. Higginbotham captures the scientific and the human, in a tale of hubris and doomed ambition.”

Luke Harding, New York Times bestselling author of Collusion and The Snowden Files

“A masterpiece of reporting and storytelling that puts us on the ground for one of the most important events of the twentieth century. Adam Higginbotham opens a world nearly impossible to penetrate, then finds truths inside we weren’t supposed to discover. As readers, we could not hope for a more thrilling and visceral adventure. As citizens of the world, we ignore Midnight in Chernobyl at our peril.”

Robert Kurson, New York Times bestselling author of Shadow Divers and Rocket Men

“A masterpiece of reporting and storytelling that puts us on the ground for one of the most important events of the twentieth century. Adam Higginbotham opens a world nearly impossible to penetrate, then finds truths inside we weren’t supposed to discover. As readers, we could not hope for a more thrilling and visceral adventure. As citizens of the world, we ignore Midnight in Chernobyl at our peril.”

Robert Kurson, New York Times bestselling author of Shadow Divers and Rocket Men

“A chilling book.”

Mail on Sunday

“A chilling book.”

Mail on Sunday

“A riveting, deeply reported reconstruction of a catastrophe”

LA Times

“A riveting, deeply reported reconstruction of a catastrophe”

LA Times

“Adam Higginbotham's brilliantly well-written Midnight In Chernobyl draws on new sources and original research to illuminate the true story of one of history’s greatest technological failures - and, along with it, the bewildering reality of everyday life during the final years of the Soviet Union.”

Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag: A History and Red Famine: Stalin’s War On Ukraine

“Adam Higginbotham's brilliantly well-written Midnight In Chernobyl draws on new sources and original research to illuminate the true story of one of history’s greatest technological failures - and, along with it, the bewildering reality of everyday life during the final years of the Soviet Union.”

Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag: A History and Red Famine: Stalin’s War On Ukraine

“A colourful, well-researched book.”

Times Literary Supplement

“A colourful, well-researched book.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight at Chernobyl is a superb account of the catastrophic accident that occurred in the No 4 reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986. Higginbotham’s research is thorough and enlightening; much has emerged about what really happened following the fall of the Soviet Union. An experienced journalist, he makes the complex historical, political, technical and human aspects of this dramatic story intelligible. His book is a pleasure to read.”

Piers Paul Read, award-winning author of Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

“Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight at Chernobyl is a superb account of the catastrophic accident that occurred in the No 4 reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986. Higginbotham’s research is thorough and enlightening; much has emerged about what really happened following the fall of the Soviet Union. An experienced journalist, he makes the complex historical, political, technical and human aspects of this dramatic story intelligible. His book is a pleasure to read.”

Piers Paul Read, award-winning author of Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

“Here is a triumph of investigative reportage, exquisite science writing, and heart-pounding storytelling. With Midnight in Chernobyl, Adam Higginbotham gives us a glimpse of Armageddon, but carries it off with such narrative verve that he somehow makes it entertaining. One thing is assured: After reading this astonishing, terrifying book, you will never think of nuclear power in quite the same way again.”

Hampton Sides, author of In the Kingdom of Ice and On Desperate Ground

“Here is a triumph of investigative reportage, exquisite science writing, and heart-pounding storytelling. With Midnight in Chernobyl, Adam Higginbotham gives us a glimpse of Armageddon, but carries it off with such narrative verve that he somehow makes it entertaining. One thing is assured: After reading this astonishing, terrifying book, you will never think of nuclear power in quite the same way again.”

Hampton Sides, author of In the Kingdom of Ice and On Desperate Ground

“Written with authority, this superb book reads like a classic disaster story and reveals a Soviet empire on the brink....[A] vivid and exhaustive account.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Written with authority, this superb book reads like a classic disaster story and reveals a Soviet empire on the brink....[A] vivid and exhaustive account.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Midnight in Chernobyl is top-notch historical narrative: a tense, fast-paced, engrossing, and revelatory product of more than a decade of research....a stunningly detailed account....For all its wealth of information, the work never becomes overwhelming or difficult to follow. Higginbotham humanizes the tale, maintaining a focus on the people involved and the choices, both heroic and not, they made in unimaginable circumstances. This is an essential human tale with global consequences.”

Booklist

“Midnight in Chernobyl is top-notch historical narrative: a tense, fast-paced, engrossing, and revelatory product of more than a decade of research....a stunningly detailed account....For all its wealth of information, the work never becomes overwhelming or difficult to follow. Higginbotham humanizes the tale, maintaining a focus on the people involved and the choices, both heroic and not, they made in unimaginable circumstances. This is an essential human tale with global consequences.”

Booklist

“The most comprehensive, most thoroughly detailed history yet to appear ... a compelling, panoramic account of the disaster set in its broader context.”

Christian Science Monitor

“The most comprehensive, most thoroughly detailed history yet to appear ... a compelling, panoramic account of the disaster set in its broader context.”

Christian Science Monitor

“Spellbinding ... profound ... an excellent, enthralling account of the disaster and its fallout.”

Book Page

“Spellbinding ... profound ... an excellent, enthralling account of the disaster and its fallout.”

Book Page

“Gripping... brilliantly dissected in this electrifying account. The power of Higginbotham's book is its layered detail and driving narrative, but also in the context.”

Irish Independent

“Gripping... brilliantly dissected in this electrifying account. The power of Higginbotham's book is its layered detail and driving narrative, but also in the context.”

Irish Independent

“The most frightening book you’ll read this year, or next... the story of humanity in both its best and worst iterations. Higginbotham has told it with a calm regard for the balance between history and journalism, momentousness and human simplicity. If it’s the most frightening book you’ll read this year, it is also one of the most uplifting.”

The Herald

“The most frightening book you’ll read this year, or next... the story of humanity in both its best and worst iterations. Higginbotham has told it with a calm regard for the balance between history and journalism, momentousness and human simplicity. If it’s the most frightening book you’ll read this year, it is also one of the most uplifting.”

The Herald

“Highly readable . . . Higginbotham [is] a skilled science writer. . . . Mr. Higginbotham’s book reflects extensive on-the-scene research. . . . and vividly describes the futile attempts of engineers to bring a runaway reactor under control.”

The Washington Times

“Highly readable . . . Higginbotham [is] a skilled science writer. . . . Mr. Higginbotham’s book reflects extensive on-the-scene research. . . . and vividly describes the futile attempts of engineers to bring a runaway reactor under control.”

The Washington Times

“In fascinating detail, Higginbotham chronicles how the drama played out, showing that Soviet hubris in part led to the accident and Soviet secrecy compounded it.”

Newsday

“In fascinating detail, Higginbotham chronicles how the drama played out, showing that Soviet hubris in part led to the accident and Soviet secrecy compounded it.”

Newsday

“The book reads like an adventure novel, but it’s a richly researched non-fiction work by a brilliant storyteller. . . . Get and read this gripping account to understand why people are still so afraid of nuclear power.”

Skeptic Magazine's Science Salon

“The book reads like an adventure novel, but it’s a richly researched non-fiction work by a brilliant storyteller. . . . Get and read this gripping account to understand why people are still so afraid of nuclear power.”

Skeptic Magazine's Science Salon

“Midnight in Chernobyl is a master class in reporting.”

The National Book Review

“Midnight in Chernobyl is a master class in reporting.”

The National Book Review


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