A chilling expose of the international effort to minimize the health and environmental consequences of nuclear radiation in the wake of Chernobyl.
Governments and journalists tell us that though Chernobyl was "the worst nuclear disaster in history," a reassuringly small number of people died (44), and nature recovered. Yet, drawing on a decade of fine-grained archival research and interviews in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, Kate Brown uncovers a much more disturbing story, one in which radioactive isotypes caused hundreds of thousands of casualties.
Scores of Soviet scientists, bureaucrats, and civilians documented stunning increases in cases of birth defects, child mortality, cancers, and a multitude of prosaic diseases, which they linked to Chernobyl. Worried that this evidence would blow the lid on the effects of massive radiation release from weapons testing during the Cold War, international scientists and diplomats tried to bury or discredit it. A haunting revelation of how political exigencies shape responses to disaster, Manual for Survival makes clear the irreversible impact on every living thing not just from Chernobyl, but from eight decades of radiation from nuclear energy and weaponry.
About the Author
Kate lives in a flat in Oxford with her pet snail called Hercules. She really really likes comics. If Hercules could talk, he'd say he likes comics too. Kate's favourite types of stories are happy ones with sad endings, her favourite colours are red and blue, and her favourite food is MSG.
Kate was a Winner of a 2010 Arts Foundation Fellowship.
"Manual For Survival is a remarkable book, distinguished by Kate Brown's rare combination of skills: formidable archival history, investigative research, and vivid storytelling. There are parts of this book that grip with the force of a thriller - but again and again, the plot is proved true. A decade's work has gone into uncovering the real human cost of Chernobyl. This is a book about even bigger subjects than the disaster at its core, however: about how politics processes disaster, about the unseen legacies of the 'friendly atom', and about the Anthropocene futures faced by the human species, surviving in an epoch of ruin."
Robert MacFarlane, author of The Lost Words
"Kate Brown presents a convincing challenge to the official narrative of the Chernobyl disaster. Deeply reported and elegantly written, Manual For Survival is chilling."
Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
"Combining the skills of a historian, investigative reporter, and detective Kate Brown has blown the lid off the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and decades of official efforts to suppress its grim truths. Disturbing in its conclusions, destined to incite controversy, Manual for Survival is first-rate historical sleuthing."
J.R. McNeill, author of The Great Acceleration
"Gripping . . . Kate Brown's relentless, tenacious reporting shows that Chernobyl isn't the past at all. Nothing, she makes clear, can stop its radiation from seeping through all attempts to bury the truth, for a long time to come. This deftly written, impassioned, courageous book should make the world think twice about what's at stake when we unleash nuclear reactions."
Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us and Countdown: Our Last