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Nightfall by Isaac Asimov: Review

I haven't written nearly as much as I want to about one of my favorite Science Fiction formats, short stories. There is something about science fiction that fits the short story format perfects. I suppose it is that often the main point of the story is the idea and if you can put that across in 5 pages that's better than 300. So I am going to begin to discuss short stories more and I am going to start with my favorite Nightfall.

Nightfall was written by Isaac Asimov and is about a world with 6 suns. They are at our general level of technology so this isn't a story of fantastic technology, just fantastic science.

Because they have six suns there is a nightfall only once every 2049 years. As this date approaches the scientists try to discover why civilization collapses whenever there is nightfall.

Here I would like to say that if you have a choice get the short story. There is a novel and in my oppionon was completely unnecessary. The short story by itself tells everything that the story needed to tell.

Now to the spoilers of the story. If you haven't read it then consider skipping the end. The punch at the end when you find out what is driving them insane is worth reading.

I can't speak with complete authority, but I suspect that Asimov used social science more than most writers. He had characters with phobias in his robot series, psycho-history in the foundation books and in this book he deals with a sudden revelation that destroys their minds.

It seems so obvious to us we don't even think about it. Stars, and not just a few. The planet of nightfall is far closer to the center of the galaxy than ours so there world is completely filled with stars. The sheer immensity of the galaxy is what breaks their minds.

Perhaps the complete collapse of their civilization is a bit more than should be expectud but when you think about the way humans reacted to the information it becomes a bit easier to see. Humans have always seen the starts yet when it first was suggested that these could be stars as big and important as ours they were burnt at the stake.

There is a great deal to discuss in nightfall. The characters are well written, a society with a fear of the dark is unique and interesting, even the science of how a solar system with 6 stars would work can keep your mind busy and that is what Asimov did best. Creating ideas that make you think about the way you look at the universe.

Philosophy and Starry Nights

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