Twenty stories in all, created by the deft pen of the master of science fiction, Isaac Asimov. Selected and introduced by the author, these are his own favorite stories. “Enjoyable, superb…recommended to everybody.”—Science Fiction Review
This book is a particular favorite of mine for sentimental reasons if nothing else. The fact is that it is the first book I ever read by Asimov based solely upon the author’s name, and it is the third book by Asimov I ever purchased (the first two being Environments Out There and Fantastic Voyage). This was my first real exposure to Asimov as a science fiction writer, and it did not leave me disappointed.
It is also one of Asimov’s first collections where stories are included simply because he hadn’t anthologized them yet and not because of their individual merit. While this trend would become almost painful in later collections (Buy Jupiter and Other Stories, The Winds of Change and Other Stories, and Gold), in the case of Nightfall and Other Stories, there is enough material of genuine merit that this isn’t a major distraction.
In particular, and beyond the title story (which, I agree with Asimov, is excellent but not quite as excellent as everybody else seems to think it is), there are a number of genuinely solid, interesting pieces, largely from the 1950’s: “C-Chute,” for example, and “Hostess.” Both are interesting for their inclusion of non-human intelligences (in fact, there are a number of other stories in the book with non-human intelligences; an interesting coincidence), and in each case the aliens are interesting and well-drawn. “C-Chute” also includes some interesting insights into spaceship propulsion and so on, but it is mainly interesting as—of all things—a character study, with a group of humans locked in a room, each different and each well-done. “Hostess” has a woman as the heroine and again, she and the other major characters in the story are interesting to read about, as is the fundamental “problem” of the story—why do humans age and other intelligences not?
“Green Patches” is another story deserving particular attention. Again, there is a non-human intelligence involved, but in this case a planetary collective mind which would resurface in Foundation’s Edge as Gaia. A number of people have called attention to the fact that in “Green Patches,” Asimov vigorously denounces the loss of individuality such a collective mind would impose on humanity, whereas in Foundation’s Edge, he embraces it. It’s difficult to know how much to read into this, since Asimov in each case was writing (above and beyond all else) an interesting story, but there does seem to be a shift in attitude over the course of the intervening decades.
Among the other stories, “Segregationist” is a tale which has grown on me somewhat, and “The Up-to-Date Sorcerer” one I understand much better having discovered (at Asimov’s prompting) Gilbert and Sullivan. “Insert Knob A in Hole B” is a delightful little tale (written on a TV show). “Sally,” published by itself in book form (see Sally) an interesting “robot” story, unlike virtually any other. Several of the others are also interesting for one reason or another, only a few are not worthwhile (“The Machine that Won the War,” “My Son, the Physicist,” “Eyes Do More Than See,” and “Segregationist” spring to mind).
On the whole, this is an excellent collection. And yet, it is kind of odd as a view into Asimov—the stories here tend to be strong on characters, involve non-human intelligences, include a lot of fantasy tales, and so on. In short, while this is a strong collection of Asimov’s fiction, it is somehow not a collection of Asimov’s typical fiction—indeed, if I were to go through the body of Asimov’s shorter works and come up with a list of the “non-Asimovian” stories by Asimov, it would pretty much be Nightfall and Other Stories. All this, of course, makes it all the more important for the Asimov fan to ferret out and read.
|“Green Patches” aka “Misbegotten Missionary”|
|“Breeds There a Man…?”|
|“In a Good Cause—”|
|“What If - ?”|
|“Nobody Here But&emdash;”|
|“It’s Such a Beautiful Day”|
|“Insert Knob A In Hole B”|
|“The Up-to-Date Sorcerer”|
|“Unto the Fourth Generation”|
|“What Is This Thing Called Love?”|
|“The Machine that Won the War”|
|“My Son, the Physicist”|
|“Eyes Do More Than See”|