What Jenny's Reading

{July 31, 2015}   Review: Nightfall, Pt. 3

Happy (almost) Lugnasadh!  It’s been a rough summer, hasn’t it?  At least here it has.  It’s rained almost every day in July, and I’ve just been feeling so listless.  But anyway, tonight I have another part of Nightfall.

Theremon is totally stunned that they’re so sure the eclipse is going to happen. God, Theremon, stop peddling your anti-eclipse propaganda. Nobody’s buying it, especially not Siferra. They soon start squabbling, and Sheerin puts an end to it by steering Theremon out of the room. Beenay follows, and they have a little drunken party. See what I mean? These guys drink a lot.

So Beenay and Sheerin try to convince Theremon that he’s wrong. Theremon remains stubborn, and says fine, maybe the eclipse will happen, but he doesn’t think it will make people crazy. Sheerin and Beenay are all, really you aren’t a scientist at all so maybe you shouldn’t be making that judgment, frat boy. Sheerin essentially spells it out to him like he’s (Theremon’s) five years old. If there was nothing but darkness, what would he want? Light. So if there was no power, because everyone’s looking at the eclipse and left their stations, how would he get light? Burning stuff. Burning everything. A civilization in ruins, because they wanted light.

Again I have to remind myself that the Darkness is actually ominous. I’m sitting in near darkness right now, writing this review. It’s not easy. The review, I mean, not the act of writing in near darkness. I feel like we’re missing something here. Something ominous. Like, the idea of Darkness being mind-altering to that extent is just very foreign.

Anyway, they also chat about Beenay’s two grad students, who were supposed to be at the Observatory hours ago but haven’t turned up. Beenay thinks Athor’s worried that something happened to them, but more because once totality hits, there’s going to be a lot of work to do and if the students aren’t there, they’ll be empty-handed. But they don’t dwell on that for long, as Theremon brings up Siferra, and Beenay (jealously, in my mind) asks if there’s anything between them. Theremon at least doesn’t go the bro route and admits nothing, but that he’s very interested in her. They chat about some of the struggles she’s had, trying to prove her tablets and theories of “pre-history.”

Then they fight more about the eclipse, with Theremon conceding that maybe, just possibly, it would really happen, but that he saw no reason that it would end civilization as they know it, either. He’s sort of being deliberately obtuse here, I think. He wants to know why they’re all so sure there will be civilization-destroying fires. Sheerin tries to explain it to him in scientific terms, but Theremon doesn’t get it, so he again starts talking to him like he’s about five. Sheerin says the lights won’t work, because I guess the people manning the electrical circuits are going to be stunned by the eclipse and leave their posts (maybe I just don’t understand how electrical stuff works, but would that really happen?), so people can’t turn on their lights at home. So they’ll burn stuff to make light, and I guess in doing so burn down all the buildings and everything else. Theremon’s like, oh, I get it now. Sort of.

Then the grad students show up. They apparently were conducting their own experiment, which consisted of buying an abandoned warehouse, poking holes in the roof, covering it with cloth, turning off the lights, and then dropping the cloth, so they’d see “Stars.” They report that it was a complete waste of time, as the pinpricks of light only looked like what they were, just holes in the ceiling with the sun shining through.

Theremon’s all, ha, your theories are stupid, because he’s super pig-headed. Sheerin tries to find a loophole in this, but falls silent. Then there’s an additional hubbub (I swear, that Observatory is the hopping hot spot of Saro City!) when one of the other astronomers finds an Apostle, whom Theremon identifies as Folimun.

Oh come on now, they’re just fucking with me at this point, aren’t they?

Okay, no jokes. Folimun is there as an emissary from the Apostles, wanting the scientists to shut down their experiments and allow the wrath of the gods to happen. They can’t have all this sciencey stuff when they’re trying to convert crazy people after the eclipse, you know! Logic will have no place with their new order.

Of course, everyone refuses, because he is ranting like a crazy. So he says an army of Apostles will be coming within the hour to destroy all their work. Also, if they don’t let Folimun go, the army will come anyway. Just…I wish I could say “Well this would never happen on Earth” but there are so many nutty religious types who would likely agree with this that I can’t. And it makes me tired and sad, because you can’t reason with that sort of balls to the wall crazy.

All right, so Folimun and his Apostles are hurt in their feelings-places that Athor and his scientists are trying to record the eclipse and preserve that knowledge for future generations, so that the destruction of civilization in another two thousand years’ time doesn’t happen. They’re pissed, too, that apparently Athor was smarter than they were, because I guess Athor promised to confirm the Apostles’ findings with science, but did so in a way that made the Apostles look crazy. Well, more crazy.

Athor’s had enough of all this bullshit yet AGAIN, and orders them to toss Folimun out on his ass. Sheerin protests, saying it would be better if they locked him up so he couldn’t see his precious Stars. But then they’re interrupted by Theremon, who points out that the eclipse has started, in the most dramatic way possible.

Ha. Hahahahahaha. Theremon’s totally fucked. He’s scared and tries to wordlessly apologize to Siferra for his pig-headed and uncalled for behavior. He’s not sure whether she’s looking at him with contempt or pity. Which would really be worse?

The Observatory is buzzing with activity. Sheerin advises Theremon to stand away from the window, since Athor is pissed they missed first contact and might toss him outside. He also urges him to go to the Sanctuary that he’s been mocking for months, and Theremon’s like, uh, no, I think that would be bad form.

Fucking Folimun starts chanting from the Book of Revelations in the old language, and I’m not going to recount what he says here, because it’s essentially what’s going to happen soon. Folimun’s just a giant spoiler. Sheerin thinks maybe Siferra could figure out what he’s saying, since she’d worked to translate the original tablets and might be familiar with the language. Also, he wonders why they haven’t locked him in a closet yet.

Theremon theorizes that the Stars aren’t as awful and terrible as the prophecy would have them believe, but Sheerin doesn’t know so he won’t offer his opinion. He does think it’s possible that some would be immune from the Stars’ effect, such as very young children, blind people, those who get drunk during the eclipse and don’t see anything, and those who refuse to believe even what they’re seeing right in front of them.

Oh, now Athor’s letting them know that the rioting in Saro City is starting. Theremon tries to apologize, but Sheerin intervenes before a fight starts and inquires as to Athor’s mental state. Athor’s like, my mental state can go fuck itself, I don’t know what to do.

Poor Athor. I really mean that. The poor guy is just totally broken.

They have a hilarious conversation about locking the Observatory and threatening to kill Folimun if the army tries to invade, like I can just picture wild-haired, wild-eyed Athor with a knife or something to Folimun’s throat, standing on the Observatory roof and threatening the Apostles. This is another scene that shall be in the movie that is being developed only in my head, because obviously movies are always more dramatic than the books they’re based off. I’m picturing someone like Christopher Lloyd with his crazy Doc Brown hair in this role.

Gosh, fake casting this fake movie is a lot of fun. You should try it! Who should play Siferra? She’s described as tall and blonde and ice queen-y, so I’m thinking someone like Gwyneth Paltrow. Ooh, or maybe Cate Blanchett? I love Cate Blanchett. She’s so fucking glam. Like, she’d totally be the type who could live in a desert without sweating and look perfect every day. The total opposite of me, I should point out.

For me, there’s no question about Sheerin’s casting. I’ve always pictured Oliver Platt in that role. I don’t know why, but I have.

Sheerin tries to get Theremon to stand away from the windows again, and not look at the eclipse, because he’s worried about his mental state. Theremon’s all, I can take it. So says the man who a few hours before didn’t believe it was going to happen. Yep, I’m sure he’s going to be totally fine. Ha, right. Theremon’s going to be eating crow for the next few hours till they all go insane.

Anyway. Back to the actual storyline happening here. Theremon, Beenay and Sheerin are now talking about Kalgash Two and the eclipse. Theremon thinks he should go and find Siferra before it’s too late, but doesn’t move. He’s afraid to talk to her, and at least he admits it. Oh, and Sheerin decides the Stars are bullshit made up by the Apostles. Okay then. Let’s talk about that in a few hours, okay?

Beenay tries to add a little scientific stuff to the mix, like maybe the Stars are other suns but just really far away, so far they don’t exert any sort of influence over Kalgash’s orbit. But they’re still only talking about the possibility of a few dozen “Stars,” not millions.

Wikipedia (that bastion of truth!) says that Kalgash orbits Onos, and that Onos, in turn, orbits around the rest of the suns. Onos is about the same distance from Kalgash as our sun is from Earth. Binary stars Trey and Patru are “white” stars – class A or F, and binary stars Tano and Sitha (“blue” stars) are probably class A, B, or O stars.

Honestly, I feel like I need a diagram to understand this rotational stuff. Like, that’s a lot of moving parts. I am not a science person at all. I wanted to major in astronomy when I was in college, and my professors all gently told me that maybe science isn’t for everyone. Okay, so which one’s the center? Should there be a center? Our sun is the center since all our planets revolve around it. Kalgash revolves around Onos which in turn revolves around all the rest? Is that even possible?

I think that’s wrong, but I guess I have no real way of knowing it. Okay, moving on.

I read a bit more and it sounds like Tano and Sitha are hotter stars, being blue. Trey and Patru are maybe just a bit older, burning white rather than blue. Onos, of course, is the same category as our own sun, a G class star. Dovim is obviously a red dwarf, and the furthest away from Kalgash of all the suns.

I wonder what Earth would be like with more than one sun? That might be kind of cool, right?

Okay, I Googled it. Apparently it wouldn’t be awesome at all; it would be cold and all the water would be frozen. So probably there’d be no life on Earth, is what I’m thinking. Well, fine then, Science. Stomp all over my science fictiony dreams!

Okay, so that was interesting, if you are me. And I guess probably if you’re reading this review, it might’ve been interesting to you too. And possibly hilarious to read an English major’s description of astronomy stuff like she knows what she’s talking about.

Back to the boys. Funny enough, Sheerin tries to explain the idea of a planet that gets half a day of sunlight and another half of darkness. Beenay protests, because he can’t imagine life would exist on such a barren, desolate wasteland. Sheerin argues that life as they know it, on Kalgash, evolved because of constant daylight, but that on other planets it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine life evolving differently. Personally, I think it’s funny that Beenay is still so stuck on his idea that their life is the only type of life. Or is this foreshadowing?

Fine, so Theremon thinks it’s hilarious that an astronomer and a psychologist are arguing about biology. Whatever. Sheerin should be all, BIOLOGY THIS, MOTHERFUCKERS, and smack the shit out of these two kids.

Well, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but still. He should’ve. Beenay, you are a scientist! Aren’t you supposed to be open to the idea of new worlds and so forth?

So Theremon’s all, great, I’m so happy you guys can finally fight about something, but I’ve gotta go take a walk and see about a girl.

Theremon heads off in no particular direction, and Faro, one of the grad students, thinks he’s headed to the roof and offers to show him. Since Theremon isn’t going anywhere in particular, he agrees, and discovers Siferra’s up there. Which he already knew, so I think he’s faking the idea of not knowing she was there. Anyway, that doesn’t even matter now, because he’s up there looking at the sky and tiny chipped Dovim, and Siferra’s suddenly talking to him and being polite. Theremon even recognizes that she appears to be attracted to him, because he’s too experienced not to know all the signs. Oh, come off it, Theremon. The world’s ending and you’re still reminding us how good you are with the ladies?

It doesn’t last, of course. The power fails and the scientists run around, rebooting and getting their backup generators going. Then Siferra and Theremon almost have a MOMENT, but fucking Yimot has to RUIN EVERYTHING with his awkwardness. God, Yimot, no one wants to hang out with you right now!

So Theremon and Siferra leave the Observatory to go back downstairs. Sadly, they do not take a side-tour to a closet for a make out session. But it’s just as well, because they’re back in the main room for about a minute before discovering that Folimun’s mad army really is headed their way. Totality is in fifteen minutes, but they’ll be there in five. Siferra runs to tell Athor what’s happening, and Sheerin and Theremon go downstairs to make sure the doors are locked properly. They break a bunch of priceless stuff barricading the door.

Folimun’s still with them, for some reason. I thought they were going to lock him up, but I guess not. So he tries to fuck with Beenay’s cameras, and Theremon manages to subdue him. Right then is totality, and they see the Stars.

We get this all from Theremon’s perspective. He sees the black sky and all the stars, saying they have incredible power and appear to be endless, not just a few dozen like they’d all assumed. Somehow Theremon recognizes immediately that they are all their own suns to other worlds, rather than a separate astronomical body. So he goes totally nuts, as does everyone else.

The mob breaks into the Observatory, and Theremon can see in the distance that Saro City is burning.

Okay, so I guess the whole going crazy thing was from both the Darkness and the realization that the universe was way bigger than they’d thought?

I’ve been trying to find the original short story to read it, and see what was included and not included. Originally I thought that the short story ended here, and that all of Book Three was added on by Silverberg. But I’ve found what is possibly the original short story and that’s not true at all. Book Two is the only part of the short story, and it’s different in a lot of ways – for instance, Siferra doesn’t even exist, not even in passing.

I suspected that Silverberg had added the romance subplot, but I didn’t realize that he’d added an entire character. Interesting. He’s such a romantic! That’s cute.


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