Sunday, July 7, 2019

Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

Title: Midnight in Chernobyl
Author: Adam Higginbotham
Read by:  Jacques Roy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 13 hours and 55 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster.  Thank-you!

I’ve just started to watch Chernobyl on HBO and my immediate thought was, how could something like this happen?  Luckily there is a non-fiction book, Midnight in Chernobyl, that explains the details on how exactly an accident like this could happen.

Midnight in Chernobyl was an excellent audiobook.  Jacques Roy was a fantastic narrator.  I enjoyed listening to his voice and his style led me to think I was listening to an old friend telling me the story of Chernobyl.  The book started with an in-depth look at how nuclear reactors worked, and how Chernobyl was built.  It was very interesting to me as an engineer how different the process was in the Soviet Union compared to the U.S.  The focus in the Soviet Union was to complete items on time even if they were wrong and declare victory. If you didn’t complete items on time, you could find yourself exiled to Siberia or executed. Therefore the focus was on speed rather than accuracy. This way of doing things ultimately led to this tragedy.

Midnight in Chernobyl also went into detail into what exactly happened the night of the disaster and the aftermath.  The HBO miniseries started after the explosion had occurred and I was confused.  Luckily, I had already listened to the book so I knew what had happened.  Midnight in Chernobyl gave the human side of things by focusing on several key individuals. There were a LOT of people to remember.  I was happy that the audiobook repeated the entire name of the individual and their role.  This helped a lot to keep track of the action and the final fate of people over time.

The non-fiction book often read like an action novel.  There was one incredible scene where specialists were flying in a helicopter to the scene measuring the radioactivity when the levels suddenly spiked – one of the men shouted, “you have killed us all!”

It was also very disturbing that the USSR kept the secret after the accident and didn’t warn anyone so that Europe was exposed to the radiation outfall.  The way this section was written was lyrically beautiful in nature as it explained the weather patterns and storms that carried the radiation away from Chernobyl across Europe.

This audiobook haunted me.  It was often hard to listen to the toll this took on the workers, fire fighters, and people who lived nearby.  It was an important story that did talk about what caused the incident. Hopefully we can use those lessons to never have another Chernobyl again.

Overall, Midnight at Chernobyl was a great non-fiction book that gives all of the details of the Chernobyl incident.  The book was non-fiction, but read like fiction at times and was very readable (or listenable to me on audiobook). This gives you the “rest of the story” that was not included in the HBO miniseries.


  1. This sounds very absorbing, Laura. In truth, I don't know many details about the Chernobyl accident. This book (or audio book) would be a good way to learn more about this disaster. Terrific, thoughtful review!

  2. Another book I really want to read!

  3. I didn't know many details about this accident either - and this was a great way to learn about it. I highly recommend it!