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Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham book review


Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham book review 

Midnight in chernobyl by Adam Higginbottom and the subtitle to this book is the untold story of the world's greatest nuclear disaster. 

So this is a non-fiction book all about the chernobyl disaster, if that wasn't clear. And this is a book i really, really enjoyed. 

I've heard really good things about this book in general and so i decided to pick it up from one of the bookstores last year. 

And i'm really glad that i did because i don't think i would have like bothered to read it if i hadn't bought myself a copy of it. 

That's just how i am sometimes with some books. Anyways i didn't know anything about the chernobyl disaster prior to picking up this book other than there was like a major nuclear event. 

But even like my knowledge of that idea was still pretty small. Like if you would ask me when the chernobyl disaster took place i probably would have said like the 60s. Definitely wrong there. 

And i also didn't realize it was like the biggest one that we've ever had. "We" meaning the entire world. 

so this book was like completely, completely fascinating to me. So in case you are like me and you aren't really aware of this whole situation, in 1986 there was a reactor that had a major meltdown at the chernobyl nuclear power plant. 

so what this book does is it basically chronicles kind of like the actual meltdown situation itself but it also obviously provides you with the history of the building of this plant because that has a lot to do with why things went so majorly wrong here. 

But it also deals with the aftermath of all of that too and trying to figure out what to do with this plant and kind of like what to do moving forward in general. 

I really think that like even someone like me who went into this really, really blind like you don't need to have any more background knowledge because this book is extremely, extremely detailed. 

Like Adam, Higgenbottom provides you with everything you would need to know and then some about this whole situation. So he explains the building of the plant and how this was supposed to be a major milestone for the USSR. 

But because of that as well, there were a lot of shortcuts that were taken or there were some like fudging of numbers and fudging in terms of like statuses and stuff like that. 

So like people would say things were going a lot better than they actually were. People would cut corners in order to meet deadlines. 

There was a lot of like bureaucracy sort of at play here that made a lot of sort of small decisions all add up to lead to this sort of major moment. 

And so he provides you basically with all of the backgrounds you would need to know about that event. But he also provides you with a lot of like technical, chemical, like physics knowledge that you would need to know. 

Like in this book he talks about things like atoms and isotopes and all of that stuff that you learn in like your high school chemistry class and kind of gives you sort of like the basic knowledge. 

That way you can kind of understand like the situation that was going on in this book that caused like this major meltdown. 

I will say like i wouldn't necessarily say i'm an expert by any means when it comes to any of that stuff, but i felt like i had a pretty good handle on what was happening because of the background knowledge that he provides you with in this book. 

But i will say that that might also be a downside for some people. Like i would say don't listen to this on audiobook because i can't imagine like being able to consume all of these details and all this information in audio form unless you're like really, really good at audiobook information processing. 

Like for me i could only read a chapter or two of this a day because it's so information dense that like if i tried to read more than that my eyes would sort of like glaze over and i wouldn't actually be processing the information that was in here. 

So like this is one of those nonfiction books that's like really, really well written, but because it's so information dense, you do need to slow down a little bit and take your time with it. Which some people might consider that like a 'con' of this book, 

so to speak, but i don't really think of books that way. Like a book that forces me to slow down is not necessarily a bad thing because i still found this story to be extremely engaging. 

And i think that's sort of what adam higgenbottom does so well and probably why this book is so popular is because, personally, i think he does a really good job of balancing kind of like the action scenes with like the information-dense scenes. 

He also provides like a decent amount of background on all of the different players that had their hand in here. 

Like he covers so many different people, there are so many names in here that i honestly couldn't tell you who all of them were. 

Like there's, uh, the epilogue basically goes through all the major players and he gives like a quick sort of rundown of what happened to them after this whole situation resolved, and half of the people i was like, 'i don't remember who that is.' 

And a lot of those people are sort of like generals or government officials who like had some sort of play in how this all wrapped up. And so they were sort of like minor players, so to speak. 

But there are just a lot of people in this book. But the really nice thing is that there's literally a cast of characters page in here along with like maps and stuff like that, too, which I thought was really great. 

And also in this version, there's like pictures included of some of the people. Not that that really made a difference for me because seeing a picture once isn't going to make that much of a difference. 

But it is really nice to have all of that information provided. One of the things that I found to be the most surprising or sort of informative was just how much secretiveness was surrounding this whole situation from the construction of the building and the beginnings of the project through this major event and how little information still kind of exists out there in the world. 

Like i really enjoyed the second half of the book and how it talks about basically like the consequences of this major event. The first half of the book is all about the building of this nuclear power plant as well as the meltdown. 

So it takes you through like the — I don't remember how many days — but basically like the week I think it was that it was like the peak of this reactor meltdown while everyone is still trying to get a handle on all of this situation and trying to figure out a) 

what exactly was happening and then b) how to stop it from creating more damage. But then the second half of the book is all about the after-effects. So it's about them continuing to figure out how to contain the situation which ends up creating this thing that they call the sarcophagus, which is like really an apt name. 

And even like the image of it I'm like oh yeah that looks like terrifying, something straight out of a dystopian. But also like sort of the consequences in terms of like all of these people who had to evacuate their homes and even like the effects beyond just like Ukraine. 

How the smoke drifted all the way up to like Switzerland and how like they saw their, you know, reactor levels or whatever they're called sort of increase. 

And it's kind of like that like major global scale is something that i, again, personally didn't really have a grasp on. 

Like to me the chernobyl reactor meltdown was like a very isolated incident in my head. Like i thought of it as something that just affected that specific area but it really was a much more massive event than anyone really still knows about.

Adam Higgenbottom goes into this in the book as well but he talks about how like little work and research was done sort of after the fact even to kind of see what the effects are or just like the limits that we have still in seeing sort of the after effects of it. 

Because, unlike plants or other animals, like there's only so many like generations that have been created in humankind since the chernobyl accident. 

It's still too early to tell like what the long-term effects are for the people who lived in this area and the people who like worked at the plant and stuff like that. So yeah, this book was really, really well done. 

I would say like the biggest sort of downside to this book is just like all of the names and all the details, which again i can see some people getting really bogged down by that stuff. But i don't think you're supposed to necessarily like memorize everyone and keep track of all of the little details. 

I think he's just really trying to provide you with a sense of like how big the scale of this was and how many people were pulled in and how many different people had to try to figure out how to solve this major, major problem that no one saw coming. 

Something like this is sort of akin to like reading about the titanic sinking or reading about 9/11 and stuff like that, where it's just like one of those things that like no one could have predicted. 

I guess you could have predicted it if you had all the right information but because that information wasn't provided, like in a lot of these situations, no one thought it was possible.

 But also like the process of trying to first figure out what the problem actually is and then trying to figure out a solution to that problem is so difficult. And watching sort of like that process was really, really fascinating to me. 

And i think like that's sort of what adam higginbottom was trying to do with this book, is not necessarily have you as a reader know all of these people at the end of this book and like be completely aware of like who was married and who survived and all this stuff. Like you know it to a certain extent but you don't need to know everyone. 

So if you're reading this book and you get like really bogged down by like the names that are in here and like the number of people who are involved, i would say like don't let that stop you from enjoying what this book is actually trying to do, which is like provide some sort of like wrap up of this like massive, massive event that occurred and to provide you with a sense of scale of how major it really was. 

So yeah, overall i really, really enjoyed this book if it wasn't super clear. Like again i went into this really blind not really knowing anything about the chernobyl situation. 

So like if you watch like the hbo mini series or something like that, you might have a different experience with it. But for me this book was like really gripping and even at times like kind of anxiety-inducing because i didn't know like, was anyone gonna live? 

I don't know. Was everyone gonna have like major health issues afterward? I didn't know. And so like reading through this book and watching these people like put their lives at risk because they're trying to stop the situation and not knowing like whether or not they were going to live at the end of that was like really you know anxiety-inducing at times. 

So like maybe don't pick it up if you can't really handle that at the moment. But also like this is just like a really, really well-put-together piece of nonfiction in my opinion. So those are my quick thoughts on midnight in Chornobyl. 

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