Adam Higginbotham was born in England in 1968. He lives with his family in New York City. Over the years, he has established himself as a writer for various reputed newspapers and magazines. His articles have been featured in GQ, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. He also has previous experience of working as a former US correspondent for The Sunday Telegraph Magazine and the editor-in-chief of The Face. Many of his stories have been optioned or are being adapted for film and TV.

Midnight in Chernobyl is the recipient of several awards, including The New York Times Best Book of the Year, Time Best Book of the Year, and Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year. The book also won the 2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence and was labeled as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2019.


In Midnight in Chernobyl, Adam Higginbotham exposes the behind-the-scenes events of the Chernobyl disaster. He was able to delve deep into the Ukrainian and USSR Government secrecy to expose one of the deadliest man-made disasters in history.

The book is divided into three parts and is also rich with images and maps depicting the overall plant structure as well as of the geographical expanse surrounding Chernobyl.

In the first part, Higginbotham explores the city of Pripyat and the optimism among the people and scientists who believed that they had unlocked the secret to nuclear technology. Built in the 1970s, the Chernobyl nuclear station got its name from a nearby medieval town.

The plant had a total of six reactors with four reactors which were already ready, while the fifth and sixth reactors were under construction. However, beneath the glittering luxury was a corrupt system with no clue on how to build the nuclear plant, much less harness its power efficiently.

Glaring errors were made by those in power under the garb of cost reduction and in a hurry to make the Soviet Union stand tall among a host of other nations who were either trying to or had already achieved the feat of generating nuclear power. Not wanting to be left behind in the race, several security procedures were overlooked, structural elements of the plant compromised, and people who actually understood the massive loopholes given the cold shoulder. To say that the Soviet Union was sitting on a ticking time bomb with its eyes closed would be an understatement. Corruption was rampant, and people with absolutely no clue of nuclear science were given top positions.

It was only a matter of days before all the horrendous mistakes sidelined under the pretense of Soviet secrecy would blow out of proportion, and sadly, they did. On April 26, 1986, reactor number 4 was shaken with a blast so powerful that its roof was uprooted as it went flying high up in the air.

Ill-informed soldiers and volunteers, who were given the job of cleansing the plant and restoring normalcy, were unaware of the radioactive calamity that awaited them. These were called liquidators, and many of them were exposed to high doses of radiation. Many people died an instant death, while others were in for a slow, painful death due to the radiation absorbed by their bodies, without proper equipment, some even clearing the debris with their bare hands.


The painful memory of the incident haunts the minds and hearts of those who witnessed the ghastly disaster and lived to tell the tale. However, the information available today is clouded with a lot of made-up facts, controversial statements, and misinformation, and the author has made an honest attempt at sorting the facts from the lies.


While the author did a splendid job at researching about nuclear reactors and the gruesome disaster, some readers may find the subject too technical for their liking.


But of the dozens of dangerous incidents that occurred inside Soviet nuclear facilities over the decades that followed, not one was ever mentioned to the IAEA. For almost thirty years, both the Soviet public and the world at large were encouraged to believe that the USSR operated the safest nuclear industry in the world. The cost of maintaining this illusion had been high.

Nor did mortal man escape retribution for accepting Prometheus’s gift. To him, Zeus sent Pandora, the first woman, bearing a box that, once opened, unleashed evils that could never again be contained.


Ameya Score:

Midnight in Chernobyl is replete with in-depth information of what went on before and after one of the worst manufactured catastrophes known to man. The book makes for a great read for people interested in learning more about nuclear energy, history, and politics.

…now that you’re here

As you might know, Ameya runs on a purely non-profit basis. With no tangible products on offer, advertisements and donations are our only two sources of keeping this blog up and running. You could convey your support to us with something as little as $5 - that's less than what an average Starbucks would cost!