As one of the world’s most prolific authors, and one of the true giants of science fiction, it can be difficult to know where to start with Asimov. As a child I read a few stories and was soon hooked, but perusing his oeuvre takes some time. For anyone interested in wetting their fingers with this master of science fiction, however, the Nightfall anthology is a great place to start.
Put together by Asimov in the late sixties, it was his attempt to address what he felt was an undue amount of attention to the short story which gives the collection its name. Nightfall was published in 1941 when Asimov was just 21 years old, but was immediately recognised by the magazine editor as being worthy of a bonus rate. Unwilling to accept that his best work was written basically at the beginning of his career, this collection is an opportunity for readers to judge for themselves, whether Nightfall deserves such high praise, and whether or not Asimov’s writing style had improved in the intervening period.
This first volume contains five stories published between 1941 and 1951 (“Nightfall” (1941), “Green Patches” (1950), “Hostess” (1951), “Breeds There A Man…?” (1951), and “C-Chute” (1951)). The eponymous Nightfall certainly deserves credit for being an extremely tight and thought-provoking story, to the extent that some write of a ‘Nightfall event’ as synonymous with the end of a civilisation. The other stories cover a range of topics, including extraterrestrials in search of a disease, and at that time very topical story dealing with the invention of shield against atomic weapons. All in all a wonderful little collection.
Aside from the stories themselves, each is prefaced by a small introduction by the author featuring some interesting background information as to how he got his inspiration or how the story was received. Asimov is very self-deprecating, often denying that he is much of a writer. Whilst he perhaps wouldn’t win any prizes for style, this volume shows how brilliantly fertile his mind was, and aside from entertainment value, might spark an idea or two in its readers’ minds. Sadly, Nightfall Two does not live up to the standards set by these stories.