Author: Frederik Pohl
Genre: Historical Fiction
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I picked this book up after my interest in the Chernobyl accident was re-kindled by reading various information about the disaster that has been occuring at the Nuclear Plants in Japan. I have to admit that I struggled at first to find a label for this novel which was originally published only a year after the actual accident at Chernobyl. As I have read it in 2011 and it followed various fictional characters I think the best way to desrcibe it would be as historical fiction.
In regards to the storyline itself, this novel is a fictionalisation of the accident that destroyed the number four reactor at Chernobyl. The novel touches on various aspects of the accident, from the initial testing that caused the explosion in the reactor right through to some of the political outcomes in the Soviet Union. Along the way, we get to see the heroic efforts of those who tried to stop the accident getting worse alongside the evacuation and fears of the everyday citizen from the local town of Pripyat to the city of Kiev several hundred kilometres away.
I did note that some aspects of the disaster are not incorporated in this novel. This is due to the fact that Pohl wrote it so soon after the disaster and he did not have access to the information that came to light years later. I think, this additional information could have really added to the novel had it been available at the time. This was specifically in regards to some of the overall design flaws of the reactor design itself, which would have added to the political issues within the story.
The story was entertaining, especially in regards to the accident itself and the attempts to avert further disaster. However, I did find it could be rather slow later on as we got to spend large amounts of time reading about various discussions in hospital etc. I would rather have spent more time finding out about what was happening at Chernobyl in all honesty.
Throughout the novel, Pohl also explains some of the historical, technical and political aspects of what is happening to the reader. It is done in simple enough terms so that the reader can understand the basis of what is occurring. He also ties it into what is actually happening in the story at the time therefore he doesn't interrupt the overall flow of the novel.
In regards to the characters, I do feel that some of them did vary in terms of interest and quality. For example, I found that the characters originally introduced at Chernobyl prior to the accident were well-rounded and you honestly felt for them and their predicament as the events unfolded. Pohl also managed to use these types of characters well in making sure that we get to read about the actual events and acts of heroism that occurred. Whereas some other characters just seemed rather pointless, specifically I wonder if the American characters were included just to make the book appeal more to an American audience rather than add anything to the story.
Overall, Pohl has managed to mix the engineering and scientific details with some emotional human drama in a good way so that any type of reader interested in the accident should enjoy the book on some level. I myself found the book to be an interesting and enjoyable read, although as I said previously, it is a shame that some of the later information is not included as I think it could have enhanced the story, especially in regards to the later portion of the book.