Since the nuclear disaster in April 1986, Chornobyl remains a toxic, forbidden wasteland. As with all dangerous places, it attracts a wild assortment of adventurers who feel called to climb over the barbed wire illegally and witness the aftermath for themselves. Breaking the law here is a pilgrimage: a defiant, sacred experience mingled with punk rock, thrash metal, death, decay, washed down with a swig of high-proof Vodka. Author Markiyan Kamysh grew up with intimate knowledge of the devastation of the nuclear plant's explosion—his father was an on-site liquidator after the disaster and died of exposure when Markiyan was young. This, too, drives him in searching for meaning in the beauty and chaos of what remains.
Mr. Kamysh gives an impressionistic account of sneaking into and guiding daring travelers around the Exclusion Zone ... Mr. Kamysh’s tone is consistently hard-boiled ... On the inherent health risk that comes with habitually entering a nuclear wasteland, Mr. Kamysh is rather blasé. The voice of the 'Chornobyl underground in literature' approaches his calling with a smirking fatalism, and he worries more about eluding the authorities than radiation. These days, illegal tourists in the Exclusion Zone are the least of Ukrainians’ concerns.
The very premise of Ukrainian writer Markiyan Kamysh’s book [is] stark-staring remarkable ... Stalking the Atomic City,...details in catchy and often evocative language Kamysh’s many clandestine visits to the Exclusion Zone ... He manages to find comrades in this daftest of all adventures, and amidst the rivers of cheap alcohol, the parade of filthy sleeping bags, and the absolutely endless amount of smoking...there are surprisingly frequent moments of happy memories ... There’s a forensic reading that makes all this look like exactly the necrotic grandstanding it certainly was. Bookstores are full of titles extolling the virtues of camping out in the wild, and that makes such titles toxic for a certain rabid strand of anomie-drenched social media orphans, hence the evident need in Stalking the Atomic City to go further, to corrupt the source, to extoll the virtues of camping … in a nuclear wasteland. And if there’s a higher, non-forensic reading, some nonsense about finding salvation even at the extremities of tragedy, here’s hoping readers don’t take it seriously enough to think about booking a trip.
... haunting prose ... n bold strokes, Kamysh relates both the sublime and horrific moments when he and fellow stalkers take a walk in the Zone ... The exhilaration of the intrepid trespasser sings throughout this crass, funky ode to an addiction to living in the realm of desolation.