Nightfall: Best Sci-Fi short story?

February 1, 2008

Several online polls like this one, say that the best ever science fiction short story written was Nightfall by Issac Asimov. (Until it recently came down to second place so that the story called Ender’s game could come first.)

I listened to Nightfall on the escape pod and half way through I felt thoroughly cheated. It’s a good story alright. But not very mind bending. I was searching for some crazy alien technology scrambled with a hint of popular science. Maybe some string theory in between and a wild conspiracy theory to wipe all life by means of neutron bombs and well placed nano-bots who are controlled by a central AI who’s reached far beyond any singularity that the human mind can understand.

Instead all I got was some depressing debate with a psychologist, cultist, scientist and journalist trying to figure out whether the world is actually going to end in a couple of hours or whether it was just a fragment of their imaginations.

But after listening to the whole story, which was actually written in 1941, and thus can be excused from not having the above cheap fictitious elements I longed for, me and meself realized deeply that stories are built on more subtle things.

So my review of Nighfall can be summed up in these few words; it’s boring but brilliant.


4 Responses to “Nightfall: Best Sci-Fi short story?”

  1. Steve Eley Says:

    Actually, “Nightfall” was first published in 1941, not 1977. Good analysis of it, though!

  2. Me Says:

    Thanks Steve. Will make the correction right away.

    Btw, thanks for updating Escapepod regularly. I love the site!

  3. Mel Says:

    Sci-fi is more than just laser swords and spaceships. It is about characters and drama set in a futuristic world. The reason why Nightfall is beyond brilliant and exciting was because the characters and worldbuilding are perfection incarnate. It is a “True drama” not just sci-fi fluff with a few extra gimmicks sprinkled about as an afterthought and cool effect.

    I read this story cover to cover in one day. It did have a nice long reign as #1, but I have to agree that Ender’s game is better. But a 50 year run ain’t bad. Especially given that it was written in 1940s.

  4. […] already a big fan of the sciencefiction podcast escapepod. And when they announced the birth of their new cousin […]

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