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Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp

Lest Darkness Fall (1939)

by L. Sprague de Camp

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7791517,991 (3.73)55
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English (14)  Dutch (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Professor Martin Padway is an archaeologist and ancient historian visiting Rome. After a flash of lightning, he is transported back to 6th century Rome, at a time after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, when its carcass is being fought over by the Goths, who control Italy, and the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman Empire, which nevertheless still calls itself Roman. After a promising start, as Martin tries to find his feet and get his head round the dramatic and unbelievable change in his circumstances, he decides to make it his mission to change history, so that the Roman Empire will not fall, and the darkness of the so called "dark ages" will not descend. So he proceeds to create the printing press, telegraphs, clocks, and so on, as well as military technology to protect the micro-world he is trying to create. In my view, the novel deteriorates as he becomes very powerful and is quickly effectively running the government and is mainly able to persuade people to support his technological endeavours, despite a couple of close scrapes earlier on. In this respect, the novel is rather like an updated Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The final part contains a lot of descriptions of battles, which I always find a bit tedious. In places, this is quite funny, but overall rather a disappointment. ( )
1 vote john257hopper | Jun 25, 2017 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A 20th-century archeologist time-travels back to 6th century Rome where he strives to prevent the Dark Ages from descending upon Europe.

Though the book suffers from its share of anachronisms--not the least of which is the relative ease with which the protagonist ingratiates himself with an ancient culture--if one is willing to forgive the premise of faster-than-light space travel in other forms of science fiction, why not forgive this book its indulgences?

Especially if a reader loves history, he'd find this a fun novel to read. ( )
2 vote kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
Decent alternative time travel story. ( )
  capiam1234 | Nov 21, 2014 |
One of my favorite pulps. An engineer gets trapped in the late Roman Empire. Just after the West has fallen, actually. Some pretty interesting points on this crucial point in history when civilization was about to take two big steps back. And de Camp's thinking on what sorts of modern technology and know-how would actually be transferable should be a model for this sort of book. ( )
2 vote ehines | Feb 6, 2014 |
This story opens in Rome during the late 1930s, featuring American historian Martin Padway, who is listening to his friend's theory about individuals "slipping back through time." Oddly enough, soon after this conversation, Martin slips back through time - what were the chances of that?

With no explanation of how or why this happens, Martin finds himself in the same city but in the year 535. He is naturally unnerved, but copes with his situation better than I think most of us would. Luckily he knows a lot of the old languages, so he is able to communicate.

Despite the amazing coincidences and unexplained reasons of what has caused Martin to shoot back 100s of years through time, the story itself is well-written and features some interesting scenes. Martin sets out to change history by taking short steps, beginning by inventing brandy. His knowledge of this time period enables him to predict upcoming battles. He earns the nickname of 'Mysterious Martinus'.

Thomasus is my favourite character. He is a banker who often refuses Martin's requests, declaring he cannot appease him, only to finish his bold refusal by asking the likes of, "So how much would you need?" or "So what would it cost me?" and the reader knows he's going to go along with whatever Martin has proposed.

I'm familiar with L. Sprague de Camp's style via his commendable efforts in filling in Robert E. Howard's 'Conan the Cimerian' chronicles. This was my reason for trying one of his non-Conan texts. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Dec 17, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
L. Sprague de Campprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bramley, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Emshwiller, EdCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sweet, Darrell K.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tschirsky, RobertCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Tancredi took his hands off the wheel again and waved them. "--so I envy you, Dr. Padway. Here in Rome we have still some work to do. But pah! It is all filling in the little gaps. Nothing big, nothing new. And restoration work. Building contractor's work. Again, pah!"
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Disambiguation notice
A shorter version was first published as a short story in Unknown #10, December 1939. Please do not combine!

A later version published by Phoenix Pick/Arc Manor includes several short stories by other authors: 'Lest Darkness Fall and Related Stories'. Do not combine!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 034528285X, Mass Market Paperback)

Rarely do books have such a great influence on a genre as "Lest Darkness Fall" has had on science fiction. Frequently quoted as one of the 'favorite' books of many of the masters of the field, this book by L. Sprague de Camp helped establish time-travel as solid sub-genre of science fiction. An indication of the influence and longevity of the book is the number of best-selling writers who have written stories in direct response to, or influenced by, Lest Darkness Fall. This new volume also includes three such stories by Frederik Pohl, David Drake and S. M. Stirling written over a period of forty-three years-a testament to the timelessness of the book. Similar, thematically, to Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," the book tells the tale of Martin Padway who, as he is walking around in modern Rome, is suddenly transported though time to 6th Century Rome. Once in ancient Rome, Padway (now Martinus Paduei Quastor) embarks on an ambitious project of single-handedly changing history. L. Sprague de Camp was a student of history (and the author of a number of popular works on the subject). "In Lest Darkness Fall" he combines his extensive knowledge of the workings of ancient Rome with his extraordinary imagination to create one of the best books of time travel ever written.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:37 -0400)

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