Monday, March 2, 2009

Nightfall by Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg (18/81)

C1990 339pages 4stars
Category: Speculative Fiction

Kalgash, a planet with six suns. A prophecy from an ancient text states that every two thousand years the world will be plunged into Nightfall and the cities will burn, retribution from the gods for the wickedness of man. But the scientists scoff, knowing it to be just some religious hocus-pocus. Until two of their own make disturbing discoveries based in fact. Beenay, the astronomer, finds that a rare event will soon happen: a conjunction of five of the suns, combined with an eclipse of the sixth. And Siferra, the archeologist, uncovers a dig site which proves that their civilization has existed seven times previous, and it has burned every two thousand years.
What will happen when an entire society unaccustomed to night is plunged into complete Darkness? What will happen when starcrazed people burn their cities, desperate for light? Who will control what remains when the suns come up?

Some time ago I had read that the working title for the film Pitch Black had been Nightfall. And furthermore, that the germ of the idea behind the movie had been from a story by the same name. I didn't think much of it until browsing one day at a Friends of the Library sale when I came upon the book by Asimov & Silverberg, apparently an expansion of the short story written by Asimov back in 1941. Now, I'm not a 'hard' sci-fi reader by any means. I had attempted one of Asimov's Robot books in the past and had cast it aside knowing that Asimov was not for me. But my curiosity took over. Did Asimov write a creature-feature? Well, no, he did not - that was pure Hollywood. But he did write about the chaos that ensues after Nightfall.
I found this book utterly captivating and I read it all in one sitting. I remember the Y2K frenzy and I think that helped me to get into the correct mindset. The battle between Religion and Science is one we see almost everyday in the news. To see it here played out against a backdrop of Darkness, both physical and mental, is fascinating.
Other reviews I have read claim the addition of the section Daybreak weakens the original story. I have not read the original short piece but I don't agree with that statement. We are told early on that the civilization has previously survived The Darkness. I think it's natural to explore what that is like.
An excellent book. If there is more Asimov like this than I am onboard!

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