Chernobyl
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Chernobyl : History of a Tragedy

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WINNER OF THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION 2018

'An insightful and important book, that often reads like a good thriller, and that exposes the danger of mixing powerful technology with irresponsible politics' - Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens

'As moving as it is painstakingly researched. . . a cracking read' - Viv Groskop, Observer

The gripping story of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, from an acclaimed historian and writer

On the morning of 26 April 1986 Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Soviet Ukraine. The outburst put the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation. In the end, less than five percent of the reactor's fuel escaped, but that was enough to contaminate over half of Europe with radioactive fallout.

In Chernobyl, Serhii Plokhy recreates these events in all of their drama, telling the stories of the firefighters, scientists, engineers, workers, soldiers, and policemen who found themselves caught in a nuclear Armageddon and succeeded in doing the seemingly impossible: extinguishing the nuclear inferno and putting the reactor to sleep. While it is clear that the immediate cause of the accident was a turbine test gone wrong, Plokhy shows how the deeper roots of Chernobyl lay in the nature of the Soviet political system and the flaws of its nuclear industry. A little more than five years later, the Soviet Union would fall apart, destroyed from within by its unsustainable communist ideology and the dysfunctional managerial and economic systems laid bare in the wake of the disaster.

A poignant, fast paced account of the drama of heroes, perpetrators, and victims, Chernobyl is the definitive history of the world's worst nuclear disaster.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 432 pages
  • 162 x 240 x 38mm | 705g
  • ALLEN LANE
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0241349028
  • 9780241349021
  • 53,468

Review Text

An insightful and important book, that often reads like a good thriller, and that exposes the danger of mixing powerful technology with irresponsible politics Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens
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Review quote

A meticulous account of the disaster - and how the Soviet authorities tried to cover it up. . . A worthy winner of this year's Baillie Gifford prize for nonfiction -- Robbie Millen * The Times Books of the Year * Serhii Plokhy is uniquely qualified to tell this tragic story: he writes not only as a major historian, but also as someone who was living with his family under the cloud of the Chernobyl disaster at the time. The result is as riveting as a novel -- Mary Elise Sarotte, author of The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall An important work that offers a clear-eyed assessment of the disaster and its consequences. . . Plokhy tells the story with great assurance and style, and the majority of his material appears here for the first time in English -- Tobie Mathew * Literary Review * Plokhy, a Harvard professor of Ukrainian background, is ideally placed to tell the harrowing story of Chernobyl. . . he has an immense knowledge of Russian and Ukrainian history and maintains the highest standards of scholarship -- Tony Barber * Financial Times * Plokhy's range, from scene-setting and character-sketching to hard science and political analysis, is near-Tolstoyan. His voice is humane and inflected with nostalgia -- Roland Elliott Brown * Spectator * A compelling history of the 1986 disaster and its aftermath. . . Plokhy's well-paced narrative plunges the reader into the sweaty, nervous tension of the Chernobyl control room -- Daniel Beer * Guardian * This history reads like an academic thriller written by Malcolm Gladwell. Without losing any detail or nuance, Plokhy has a knack for making complicated things simple while still profound. As moving as it is painstakingly researched, this book is a tour de force and a cracking read -- Viv Groskop * Observer * A work of deep scholarship and powerful stroytelling. Plokhy is the master of the telling detail -- Victor Sebestyen * Sunday Times * The first comprehensive history of the Chernobyl disaster. . . here at last is the monumental history the disaster deserves -- Julie McDowall * The Times * An insightful and important book, that often reads like a good thriller, and that exposes the danger of mixing powerful technology with irresponsible politics -- Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens
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About Serhii Plokhy

Serhii Plokhy is Professor of History at Harvard University and a leading authority on Eastern Europe whose previous books include Lost Kingdom, The Gates of Europe and The Last Empire. At the time of the Chernobyl explosion he lived behind the Iron Curtain less than 500 kilometres downstream of the damaged reactor.
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Rating details

608 ratings
4.2 out of 5 stars
5 38% (232)
4 46% (280)
3 14% (86)
2 1% (8)
1 0% (2)
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