Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nightfall rose and fell

Finished Nightfall by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg to mixed feelings.

The ending was very disappointing. I had high hopes. But it was very lame. And left a very bad taste in my mouth. Felt like a terrible disaster recovery Irwin Allen movie. Thin on plot; thin on characters. Boring. And I was perturbed with number of significant loose ends. For example, I wanted to know what happened to other central characters at the end. On reading reviews by others, I learned I was not alone.

I was also a little surprised to learn it started out as a short story. Some said it should have been left that way and not turned into a full length novel. Either that or further developed.

It began fairly good. I was very intrigued by the idea of a world in a multi-star system. An idea that, probably when the book was written, was very "out there." But now, we know, planets in multi-star systems are not fiction.

The plot point that they lived on a world in a 6 star system was very interesting for it flooded them with constant daylight. I wondered at sleep cycles and plant life. These aspects were not really explored. That could have added some depth.

When, through a series of coincidences, the planet experiences a sun-less period, as it has every 2000 years, we see that people are more than just afraid of the dark. They had never seen stars. My disbelief faltered. The descriptions of the dusk-like periods when the bright suns were not overhead made me think of Earth twilight. When we see the, appropriately named, first magnitude stars. Not to mention the bright planets. How could fairly sophisticated scientists and astronomers not know of these things? But then, do we not see still, in this day and age, on Earth, support for astrology above astronomy? Very interesting, the interplay of religion and science in the story...

The fear factor explored in the book struck a cord. It reminded me of my former neighbours and how they told me, during an Earth Hour event, that their young son did not like when they turned all the lights off. Their boy was afraid of the dark. True fear. Not scary monster afraid; simply unaccustomed to complete darkness. Is this healthy for humans? I'm very concerned what we doing to ourselves and our children being constantly awash in light. Are we creating an environment like in the story, with false light?

The other curious aspect of this book was when I was reading it. Yes, it was in response Bradbury's death in June and me logging into the the Toronto Public Library (TPL) to read some "classic" SF. But it was eerie, having effectively randomly chosen this book in the year of planetary transit of the Sun and a solar eclipse. Oh, and the heretical predictions, loosely based on an ancient Mayan concept, of the end of the world in December! The statements on my world are not dissimilar to those of planet Kalgash. Madness? People running amuck?

So, the book had its moments. But I probably would have enjoyed more the shorter original rendition.

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