The Anxieties of Society Channeled Into a Fear of the Dark

By: Max Reese

(GREENSBURG, Pa.) – Based on the famous 1941 short story of the same title, Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg’s 1990 novel “Nightfall” explores how an alien world that never experiences night would react to utter darkness. 

“Nightfall” takes place on a strange planet called Kalgash. Thanks to the planet’s six suns, the world never experiences night. However, several scientists discover that soon night will fall. This event will usher in a darkness not seen in two millennia, which threatens to destroy civilization itself. 

Unlike the short story, “Nightfall” the novel also takes readers through what happens after day returns. 

“Nightfall” possesses many traits to justify its fame. The writers do a splendid job of making the alien world of Kalgash feel alive. The people of Kalgash live very differently than we do, yet Asimov and Silverberg expertly put readers into the shoes of the characters. 

A good example of this is how psychologist Dr. Sheerin 501 reacts to an amusement park ride called the “Tunnel of Mystery”. The ride offers to take passengers through a pitch-black tunnel. Despite the fear of the dark normally being seen as childish, the authors turn this juvenile fear into a primal dread. 

This fear of the dark looms over the characters throughout the story, building a strong sense of suspense in preparation for the actual nightfall. 

Another strength of “Nightfall” is its multiple protagonists. Many authors struggle to balance their story from multiple points of view, but Asimov and Silverberg use this narrative tool to flesh out the world of Kalgash. 

The several protagonists allow readers to see civilization’s reaction to the impending nightfall from more than one perspective. 

Beenay 25, a scientist, acts logical about the situation. He strives to maintain good science and attempts to apply it in ways to help Kalgash survive nightfall. 

Beenay is contrasted with a newspaper columnist named Theremon 762. Theremon is much less logical about the impending darkness than Beenay and is used as a vessel for communicating how the average citizen of Kalgash feels about nightfall. 

Asimov and Silverberg use “Nightfall” to explore themes of how religion and science interact in society, along with how the irresponsibility of the media can be harmful. The questions asked by the authors are both thought-provoking and give Kalgash a greater depth. 

An aspect of “Nightfall” that, while not necessarily a weakness, I did not enjoy was the sudden shift in tone after day returns. This shift felt very jarring, almost like a change in genre.

Despite this, I will not fault the authors for this. The daybreak had to fulfill a hype of nearly thirty years following the short story, so it makes sense that it would be very dramatic. 

Despite the drastic change in tone, I still enjoyed the novel’s final chapters and ending. While I can not know how readers felt having to wait 30 years for it, I have a feeling that it did not disappoint. 

“Nightfall” is a must-read for fans of science fiction books. Creating a unique world like kalgash is no easy task, let alone writing a thrilling story to take place in it. Asimov and Silverberg take full advantage of the short story’s unique premise and adapt it wonderfully into a full novel. 

“Nightfall” not only tells an entertaining story with strong characters but has readers question the strength of society’s pillars that are often seen as unbreakable. While strong throughout, the transition between its two main sections is a little rocky. 

Overall, “Nightfall” earns a solid score of 8/10. I definitely recommend finding a copy of the book and giving it a read. Even if you are not a big fan of science fiction, the political conflict present in the story should still provide entertainment. 


Student Nikhil Roy (He/Him) reading on campus taken by Haley Brenny