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Chernobyl

History of a Tragedy
Narrated by: Leighton Pugh
Length: 13 hrs and 35 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy by Serhii Plokhy, read by Leighton Pugh.   

Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize.  

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 5 percent of the reactor's fuel escaped, but that was enough to contaminate over half of Europe with radioactive fallout.   

In Chernobyl, Serhii Plokhy re-creates 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.

©2019 Serhii Plokhy (P)2019 Penguin Books Ltd

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

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Profile Image for C Vernon
  • C Vernon
  • 02-07-19

Fascinating

I already knew a fair bit about the technology and accident itself. This book contains an excellent, if a little light on technical details, account. What was new and most interesting to me was the description of the political framework it all occurred in.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Dave
  • 05-28-19

Excellent

The narration here is really good. The narrators pace and voice is perfect for the subject matter.
It may not be the most in depth history of the Chernobyl disaster but its the only one I've read and I found it read like a novel more so than a history book. The book serves as a lesson in what we could have learned and a warning in what we continue to refuse to learn. Well worth a read.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Simon Francis
  • 02-19-19

Intriguing right to the end

Incredibly well researched and presented account of a tragic but fascinating period of history.
Great thought and detail has gone into writing this and I enjoyed it right to the end.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-11-19

best ever!

the best account of the tragedy and aftermath of chernobyl ive read. couldnt stop listening.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Matt
  • 05-23-19

Great story

Well researched and well told,especially on the political and plant management sides.

Some disappointing scientific inaccuracies. Nothing major and they don’t affect the story, but wouldn’t have been difficult to correct. EG mixing fusion and fission, power and energy.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Angus
  • 04-28-19

A crystal clear retelling. .

Shocking and haunting, the author and reader keep the emotions low, and the impact high. Recommended

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ginny Irvine
  • 04-07-19

The facts, the people and their sacrifice.

Well researched, history and the story of people that lost their lives to save others.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • MR
  • 05-23-19

The narrator can't pronounce "nuclear"

First of all, this is a stunning piece of work. The level or research, detail and clarity in the storytelling is incredible. To be able to cover the context, the technicalities, the human stories and the geopolitical and historical implications of the Chernobyl disaster in one, gripping text is an admirable achievement and I would recommend this book to anyone.

There is a "but" though, and this might seem like a very pedantic thing to say; but how could they have picked someone to narrate this book, who cannot pronounce the word "Nuclear"? The word is in every other paragraph!

Surely at some point in the process (if not in an audition but at least in the first recording session), once you've heard "Nucular", "Nuculalalar", "Nuclurar" and "Nuclear" used interchangeably, you'll call "pause" and ask the guy to go and practice a bit more? It's indescribably annoying and almost ruined the book for me. As it was, every time the narrator mangled the word (which he does 50-60% of the time), a voice in my head silently screamed "NUCLEAR" in protest. It's like listening to a piece of music being played by an orchestra with one particularly loud instrument out of tune. Every time you hear the bum note you wince.

I'd recommend this for the subject matter, the quality of the material and the skill with which the story has been written. Just be prepared for the possibility that you'll spend the many hours you'll spend listening to this book intensely annoyed with the narrator (who is otherwise excellent).

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Interested in Books
  • 06-06-19

Great book, but...

You had one job.

There are many people who can’t pronounce the word nuclear, and instead say something that sounds a bit like newkiller.

No big deal in day to day life, but maybe when you choose someone to read a book about a nuclear energy disaster, and have to hear it MISPRONOUNCED EVERY THIRTY SECONDS...

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Wras
  • 07-14-19

The heroic people, in spite of Communism.

One more example of the communist failure to defend the people it supposedly was representing and how it considers them canon fother at best, at worst slotter animals how this evil ideology has managed to scape the tainting nazis and fascist suffer; is beyond my understanding. This book exposes again so many of the horrors of an ideology that has no scrutiny or criticism from anyone and the danger that it has created on the world.
Also, it exposes the worst consequences of nuclear power and the devastating reality of creating poisons that will survive longer than human history.
A devastating document of a terrifying catastrophe that we are still suffering and will continue to suffer for thousands of years.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful