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October 2003
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Nightfall


Nightfall by Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg, Doubleday, 1990


In 1941 Isaac Asimov wrote the short story, Nightfall. In 1990, Isaac Asimov and Robert silverberg jointly produced Nightfall, the novel. The novel was an SF book of month club selection. If you got it because you forgot to send your card in saying you didn't want it, it wasn't the worst mistake you ever made. Then again, it probably wasn't the smartest thing you ever did.

Nightfall has often been voted the best short sf story ever written. I'm not sure I can swallow that -- the bulk of the story is rather clumsy. However that doesn't matter that much -- the ending of the story is a real kicker. Asimov was a master at producing an occasional very powerful fragment of phrase in the midst of pedestrian prose. In this regard he is much like Kipling, whose finest and most frequently quoted lines are in the midst of dreck.

One trend I find disheartening in the later Asimov is what I perceive as a trend towards mystical fascism and the moral corruption that it implies. In Foundations Edge we are treated to the notion that all will be well if we all become cells in an all encompassing mystical over mind, a view that in practice has been associated with modern totalitarian thought. In Nightfall, the novel, the ending says that it is best to support a morally corrupt power seeker because it is more efficient; the ends justify the means.

I am reminded of the story, Marius, by Poul Anderson. Both it and the second (new) half of Nightfall deal with the rebuilding of society after a catastrophe. In Marius the danger of expedient compromises in the building of a new order is illuminated; in Nightfall they are blindly embraced.


This page was last updated October 11, 2003.

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October 2003
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