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4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps not the 'Asimov' classic but an interesting fictionalised account of how society deals with cataclysmic events, 15 May 2013
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This review is from: Nightfall (Kindle Edition)
The book is apparently based upon an earlier Asimov short story (Nightfall and Other Stories) but adds more depth to the characters here, an a co-author in Robert Silverberg, even if the events covered are largely the same. The basic premise - namely that an unimaginable event will happen in about a year's time in a society closely modeled on ours - is simple but the authors manage a quite convincing account of how humanity is likely to deal with it.

You get a fair number of protagonists, all of whom can be said to have been developed in sufficient depth and the writing style is certainly fluid enough (maybe not as much of a page turner for me as some of the Foundation series but still).

Where the book does a very good job in my opinion is in the twin challenges of presenting the likely response of a society faced with an unprecedented but potentially deadly event on their doorstep and of the probable aftermath of such a life altering catastrophe.

The former can very well be likened to the Mayor of Rotterdam dilemma (as used by Arie de Geus in The Living Company: Growth Learning and Longevity in Business) - even if the mayor of the city knew in 1938 that the Germans would bomb it in 1940 and practically annihilate it, his chances of convincing the government and the population to significantly alter their behavior and prepare for this were next to nil. The authors added a twist to that one, in that both a religious sect as well as the scientific community have something to say on the likely event (in order to avoid the spoilers I cannot portray their views in the review).

The last part of the book - dealing with the aftermath - is then a fairly solid discourse on how society would recover. It is, shockingly, also a convincing if scary account of how dictatorships, or put more nicely, strongly authoritarian regimes develop and is really not that far fetched; even if our world has not witnessed events of the magnitude described, the same pretense and argumentation was used time and time again in establishing strongman regimes (and capable and intelligent people have been flocking to them using the same reasoning).

The book ends suddenly - as commented upon by some other reviewers - which may or may not annoy you, depending on the amount of closure you prefer in your books. In my opinion all the points have been made, even if a more gradual conclusion would not have been amiss. For an idea of what happens after the 'rebuilding' of the new society has been going on for a while, where the new system settles, I can definitely recommend Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah (Penguin Modern Classics) - very much of this earth (and not SF piece of work) but a good continuation of the type of story portrayed in this book.
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Review Details

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Reviewer

AK
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

Location: London

Top Reviewer Ranking: 618