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Publisher's Summary

At 01:23:40 on April 26th 1986, Alexander Akimov pressed the emergency shutdown button at Chernobyl's fourth nuclear reactor. It was an act that forced the permanent evacuation of a city, killed thousands, and crippled the Soviet Union. The event spawned decades of conflicting, exaggerated, and inaccurate stories.

This book, the result of five years of research, presents an accessible but comprehensive account of what really happened - from the desperate fight to prevent a burning reactor core from irradiating eastern Europe, to the self-sacrifice of the heroic men who entered fields of radiation so strong that machines wouldn't work, to the surprising truth about the legendary "Chernobyl diver", all the way through to the USSR's final show-trial. The historical narrative is interwoven with a story of the author's own spontaneous journey to Ukraine's still-abandoned city of Pripyat and the wider Chernobyl Zone.

©2016 Andrew Leatherbarrow (P)2016 Tantor

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Outstanding Listen and Read

I thoroughly enjoyed this title and would highly recommend to anyone who wants a better understanding of the actual events of the Chernobyl Power Station as they happened told in a well researched very accessible way. I was fascinated by the book and in fact also ended up getting the ebook which makes the research citations easier to follow.

The author is a very experienced urban explorer and his account of traveling to and photographing Pripyat was both entertaining and informative. Leatherbarrow does not claim to be a scientist or that this is a scientific overview of events but it is very well documented and allows those of us who have an interest in this area without a science background to gain a better understanding of the event.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Lost in his own navel

What disappointed you about Chernobyl 01:23:40?

There is a great and tragic story to be told here. Pieces of it shine through, but they are tangled in a bewilderingly banal narrative of self that utterly distracts from the story.

What does Michael Page bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Michael Page valiantly struggled with shoddy material; I have no fault with his performance.

What character would you cut from Chernobyl 01:23:40?

The Author!

Any additional comments?

There is a grand tradition of using one's personal interaction with historical events as a lens for understanding the story and significance of those events. For an example of how this can be done in a way that enhances the story, see Norman Maclean's "Young Men and Fire," the story of the Mann Gulch fire that killed a smoke jumper team, as well as Norman Maclean's personal effort to come to understand that story. Maclean manages to weave these narrative threads into something greater than either would have been on their own.
I think this is what Andrew Leatherbarrow sought to do, weaving the story of the Chernobyl disaster together with the story of how he came to be on a tour of the site, and how that affected him. Sadly, Leatherbarrow's personal narrative is self-indulgent, boring, and really does not touch on the events of April 26, 1986. Instead, we are treated to a series of regretful chapters about not being able to compose camera shots, being rude to Ukrainian workers, and pedestrian descriptions of what must have been a haunting panorama. We learn more about Leatherbarrow's angst than about Chernobyl.
The chapters where he deals with the accident itself are incisive, interesting and filled with the sense of how inevitable some tragedy was. These are well enough written to rescue my rating from a one star. But, it is telling that, having fallen asleep for the last half an hour of the book, I did not feel the need to go back and listen again.
Save your credits, this one's not a good buy.

19 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

A Historical Account with An Unnecessary Travelogue

So much potential! I was so excited for this book, I read everything I can about Chernobyl, but was so disappointed when half the book ended up being about the author's trip. It felt like I was trapped in a room with a friend who shows me an insanely long winded slideshow presentation of their latest vacation...in short, not the desired feeling from a historical novel. :(

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Brandy
  • Durham, NC, United States
  • 11-10-16

Maybe better as a physical copy

I enjoyed the parts of this book that were about the actual events of Chernobyl. Very informative and interesting, but it doubles almost as a travelogue that I would probably have appreciated more with a tangible book. When the chapters switch from the past historical information over to the present-day author's journey, it frustrated me from a listening perspective. Definitely worth a read, but only worth half a listen. Good narration.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Modern Trip to Chernobyl Almost Ruins a Great Book

First off: the author does a fantastic job of making the science and history come alive. The physics are easy enough for any high school grad, the people are fleshed out wonderfully, and the whole story is clear and interesting... Except he insists on breaking up there story by interspersing each chapter with a chapter describing his own trip to Chernobyl. I'm sorry, but it just goes on too long! I want to get back to the good parts, not hear about your traveling buddies! It would have been great as a single chapter to put the history in perspective, but it's just too much. Reader is consistently great though! Worth a listen, but if you find the modern chapters as frustrating as me, skip them. It's worth a listen even without them.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good detail, quiet good physics

I liked the book. Their are a whole lot of details in it regarding the accident, convering the before, the during and the after.
I am nuclear engineer, I think it is safe to say that the physics the author uses to explain the accident is straight, simply explained, and correctly detailed (not too much, and not too few)
The author seemed to have been young when he did his travel to Chernobyl, and did not seem to be an experienced traveler at the time. Hence, he shares his meaningless experiences about his trip that the reader quiet frankly does not care about (I remember for example 5 minutes of blaberring about how hard it is to shoot gun). but we are talking about here only 10 to 15% of the book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Was Leatherbarrow getting paid by the word?

What disappointed you about Chernobyl 01:23:40?

I do not care about Leatherbrow's insecurity about writing about the subject matter or his problem with coming up with cash to get to Chernobyl.

What could Andrew Leatherbarrow have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Removed the details of his life from it and talk about the subject matter.

What about Michael Page’s performance did you like?

That was ok.

What character would you cut from Chernobyl 01:23:40?

Details of Adam Leatherbrow's life.

Any additional comments?

Going to try to return it.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A fantastic & thoughtful travelog/history hybrid

What made the experience of listening to Chernobyl 01:23:40 the most enjoyable?

Too many to mention. I enjoyed this dang book so much. I loved the mixing of current conditions of the site and Leatherbarrow's observations as a traveller. The hindsight the author has, is never used as a blunt instrument to lecture the world about the perils of nuclear power. Though he mentions the benefits and risks, in the end he approaches both aspects thoughtfully and respectfully.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The author, meaning the person experiencing everything was my favorite character. I am a Reddit user too - so I really could imagine myself in his place and that was just one aspect of why I enjoyed the book so much.

Which scene was your favorite?

The exploration scene where the group encounters the much-photographed swimming pool, referencing it in Call of Duty, taking about how his pictures will look like everyone else's was one that stuck out but I also liked the part near the end when he discusses the illness & death rates among Chernobyl survivors.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Chernobyl 01:23:40 - A Modern Journey
....or just let American Experience do the film and they'll pick an even more boring title and turn out the best documentary on the topic that you've ever seen.

Any additional comments?

The concept of putting all the pics online, referencing Reddit and some other modern touches give it a contemporary feel and a nice demonstration of technology meeting historical literature. Brilliant concepts. I'd read an Andrew Leatherbrrow travelog any day of the week. Also, I wish this book was 3 times longer and yet it was perfect the way it was. I hope this author keeps writing.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Very informative!

Could not stop listening to this! Sheds light on a horrific disaster that took place just 32 years ago. Book is perfect for the person interested in a brief glimpse of this event with not getting buried in tons of tech details.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

It’s not worth it.

The narrator is terrible. Usually I like a British accent but this guy was just annoying and kept referring to Cher-no-bill. As for the book it was ok. It’s funny how the author bashes other authors for giving their opinions in historical books but literally within 5 min is doing the same himself. He gives a lot of numbers and sounds at times like he’s writing more of a journal entry about a trip to summer camp except that summer camp happens to be in one of the most inhospitable places on earth. But there’s all kinds of references to him and his little posse of friends walking around Pripyat and the Chernobyl factory taking pictures and how they’ve all got experience as “urban explorers” whatever the f%#k that means, though it sounds a lot like a nice word for trespassing in abandoned places. It’s ok for a first book but it just seems more like as I said a journal mixed with a term paper citing a lot of other people’s work.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Chanatron78
  • 08-11-17

Interesting story

Interesting story but I had to check that it wasn't being narrated by Apple's Siri.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Rob
  • 11-26-16

Interesting content but terrible delivery

Any additional comments?

If you are interested in Chernobyl then this is certainly an interesting listen, but for me it was really spoiled by the terrible narration which I found really annoying, especially as the guy couldn't really pronounce Chernobyl! Repeatedly hearing cheer-knob-eel becomes pretty frustrating in the end.The description of the guys visit to the exclusion zone struck a chord with me as it turns out he visited just months after I was there myself the first time round, and its interesting to hear his take on things.It also brings together some interesting information and facts from other sources, but as the author states many books on the Chernobyl disaster contain the odd 'fact' which is not 100% accurate, I think this is also true of this book too, but it does not detract from what I found to be an otherwise good book.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sean
  • 11-06-16

great read/listen

for his first book it's great, well written and thought out. enjoyed every chapter. interesting facts and story's that have been researched well. The author is also objective and non-biased.

recommend to anyone interested in this disaster or any atomic one and even man made

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • ligsy
  • 11-17-16

Disappointing

What would have made Chernobyl 01:23:40 better?

A better narrator would have helped

Would you be willing to try another book from Andrew Leatherbarrow? Why or why not?

No. He can tell a tale but he's not a writer

Would you be willing to try another one of Michael Page’s performances?

Never

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Very disappointing. I was looking for a more scientific exploration of the event.

Any additional comments?

I appreciate the author,s explanation for the manner in which the book is written but its a bit tedious and dull.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Frank R.
  • 08-03-17

Amazing book-every engineer should read it.

Amazing book-every engineer should read it - especially if working in AI. It highlights both the technical and human causes of the disaster. It also presents the history factually with many different, often contradicting, sources.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • John
  • 07-31-17

Informative and entertaining

A great look at this disaster mixed with knowledge you can only get by seeing the place first hand. The writer is unbiased and provides some chilling detail and insight. His passion is clear and keeps your attention.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Miss L ttophi
  • 02-26-17

a good book

enjoyable lision well wrote learned a lot there not many books on this subject a good book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • M
  • 02-09-17

Very interesting and well read

I don't know what some people are on about when they review these books and go on about the person reading it rather than the book.
I am glad I ignored all those folks, this book is very interesting and the delivery is excellent.
a great story written by a guy who has done a lot of research.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Christopher
  • 07-08-18

Deep, Insightful and very much enjoyed

This book, if I may say so, is probably the most concise description of the Chernobyl disaster and it's aftermath I have ever listened to. the author makes no wild or cavalier assumptions and stays as true to the description of the events and details of the calamity.

A must-listen-to for anyone of the modern age:-)

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jonathan
  • 11-24-17

Excellent Account of the Disaster and Aftermath

This book is just right for those with an interest in the Chernobyl Disaster but do not have a very technical background. There is plenty of detail about what happened and how it happened but no too technical that it reads like a text book or a report. I like technical detail (I'm an engineer) and this was just right.

It also gives a good insight into the people involved in many different ways and juat how far the effects stretched.

The narrative is nice as it is from a point of view of someone who is not a nuclear engineer but wants to know what happened, like many readers I imagine.

Don't let some other reviews put you off about the narrator's tone of voice. I am super fussy about narrator's and have even stopped several books due to bad narrators alone... But this one is fine. It's not a novel so doesn't require getting into character or anything. It's clear and easy listening.