SOCIAL SCIENCES

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster

S. & S. Feb. 2019. 560p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781501134616. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781501134647. HIST
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OrangeReviewStarIn 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in modern-day Ukraine made headlines around the world. Journalist Higginbotham writes a detailed account of the disaster, complete with firsthand interviews and an extensive bibliography of secondary and primary sources. The narrative tension builds as the author documents what led up to the accident, describing the technology involved in running the plant and how the Soviet Union cut corners when it came to nuclear safety. The heroics of the story are revealed through the actions of ordinary Soviet citizens who fought the resulting fires and cleaned up the radiation sites, which leaves a profound impression on readers. While Chernobyl often gets portrayed as a small piece within the larger collapse of the USSR, this work aims to reset that notion by pointing out that the disaster solidified mistrust toward the Communist Party and Soviet system and that the recovery costs bankrupted the Soviet economy.
VERDICT This gripping nonfiction account is highly recommended for Russophiles and fans of real-life dystopias.

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