NIGHTFALL by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg

This one’s a science fiction classic about the distant world of Kalgash, which has six suns and never knows darkness. Therefore, any citizen of Kalgash who is plunged into darkness quickly goes mad, and some die of fright. But scientists have become aware that a unique astronomical event is rapidly approaching which will plunge the entire planet into darkness. Despite their urgent efforts to prepare for the crisis, the public does not believe in the threat.

Chaos, violence, anarchy, and worldwide fires rage when the sky goes dark, and the stars come out. Now, the scattered scientists who survived the disaster must decide whether to join the fanatical cult which—-like themselves—-foresaw the world’s doom, or find their own path to resurrect a shattered society peopled by madmen from the ashes.

I read this book at the recommendation of C.J. Cherryh on her website. Cherryh rightly identifies Asimov as one of the classic sci-fi writers who helped establish the genre. It’s the first Asimov book I’ve read and, quite simply, the story blew my mind. The premise grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, the pacing of the scientists’ discovery and countdown to madness was brilliant, and the writing was rock solid with occasional flashes of striking prose—-mostly connected to the onset of madness when the stars blazed overhead.

Although I am very selective about the sci-fi that I read (and tend to avoid both overly technical and overly simplistic, comic-book-style adventures), I find an occasional book that deeply satisfies some longing in me for the genre. NIGHTFALL strikes me as a timeless classic, as relevant and gripping today as it was when the concept first appeared in a short story in 1941. If you like apocalpyse stories, the feeling of impending doom, and psychological/ sociological complexity in your fiction, this read is for you. It’s plot-driven rather than character-driven, and it’s not romance or relationship-based, but I found the story electrifying, and it has stayed with me.


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