Kate Brown is interested in the aftermath of Chernobyl, not the disaster itself. Her heroes are not first responders but brave citizen-scientists, independent-minded doctors and health officials, journalists, and activists who fought doggedly to uncover the truth about the long-term damage caused by Chernobyl. Her villains include not only the lying, negligent Soviet authorities, but also the Western governments and international agencies that, in her account, have worked for decades to downplay or actually conceal the human and ecological cost of nuclear war, nuclear tests, and nuclear accidents ... asks a larger question about how humans will coexist with the ever-increasing quantities of toxins and pollutants that we introduce into our air, water, and soil. Brown’s careful mapping of the path isotopes take is highly relevant to other industrial toxins, and to plastic waste.
Somberly fascinating ... Brown sifts through archives, conducts extensive interviews, and creates a damning portrait not only of callous Soviet bureaucracy but also of the shocking complicity of international regulatory bodies like the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency in muting the full horror of the disaster’s aftermath. Worst of all on some levels, much of this conspiring seems to have been motivated by a very mundane fear of legal retribution ... The obvious implications here are terrifying, particularly given the 21st century rise of authoritarian political movements in most of the world’s nuclear powers. After reading her book, Kate Brown’s phrase 'a Chernobyl Guide to the Future' takes on many new and increasingly ominous undertones.
Why don’t we know more?' That is the haunting question at the heart of Brown’s searing account of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which occurred in August 1986 ... In her exhaustive account of the tragedy, Brown profiles people who responded immediately to the accident and residents who were left behind in the contaminated zones while also exploring the environmental consequences. An important endeavor as this nuclear debacle recedes further into history.
There have been several good books recently about Chernobyl...Brown wants to examine the present and the science around it. Occasionally, there are a few too many becquerels and curies in her narrative, but on the whole she makes her case comprehensible to the general reader ... It is a troubling book, passionately written and deeply researched over 10 years in former Soviet, Ukrainian and Belarusian archives ... What is new in Brown’s book are the assertions she makes about western countries, and how, in an 'unholy alliance' with the former eastern bloc, they have hidden their contribution to global radiation levels ... The polemic in Brown’s book can, and should, be debated. I need more convincing about a worldwide conspiracy by an elite group of Dr Strangeloves and dodgy scientists. But there is no doubt, despite her occasional descent into cliché, about Brown’s gift for vivid narrative ... What have we learnt from the Chernobyl catastrophe? If Brown is right, not much.
The much repeated and optimistic tale that plants and animals are thriving in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl is, in Brown’s telling, essentially false ... There is no redemption in Brown’s book ... She is at her best when she delves into remote archives, detailing the health problems that village children suffered, and the government’s refusal to take them seriously ... sometimes polemical, sometimes scientific; it also at times resembles a travel book. The facts she uncovers are devastating – particularly the statistics on infections, cancer, eye disease, anaemia and other conditions – and her writing is full of passion, but perhaps it needs more calculation to get its argument across. It asks a lot of questions, but does not provide enough answers.
Explosive, exquisitely researched ... Brown’s prose is sometimes technical but largely accessible and even turns poetic when she describes changed lives. She offers horrifying descriptions of the processing of radioactive meat and other foods for shipment to large cities and towns and of the continuing sale abroad of contaminated berries ... This sobering book should be read—and studied—by policymakers and citizens; pair with Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in Chernobyl to spark a renewed debate over nuclear power.
A gripping book part scientific exploration, part Cold War thriller ... Brown’s in-depth research and clean, concise writing illuminate the reality behind decades of 'half-truths and bald-faced lies.' Readers will be fascinated by this provocative history of a deadly accident and its consequences.