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Lest Darkness Fall

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  2,044 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
A Step Out of Time

One minute archaeologist Martin Padway is casually ambling through modern Rome. In an instant he is inexplicably hurtled back through time to 6th century Italy - just before the Dark Ages. With one foot firmly rooted in the 20th Century and the other planted tentatively in the Gothic Era, Padway - now Martinus Paduei, Quaestor - uses his wits and his know
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 1975 by Ballantine Books (first published 1941)
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CONCEPT: A History professor is whisked back in time to Rome; only a few years before it's about to fall; with his foresight he attempts to not only create a living for himself but, at a later point, to stop the fall of Rome.

HISTORY SETTING: 6th century Italy; very interesting setup. I didn't know much about it and rarely is it covered except in passing as they focus on other parts of the world. DeCamp knows his material.

PACING: The story is only 260 pages long which is small for today's fantasy
Dec 12, 2014 Lyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
God bless you, Mr. Twain!

L. Sprague de Camp’s classic sci-fi / time travel / alternate history story, certainly influenced by Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court has stood the test of time itself very well. Told with an adept eye for historically accurate detail and better than average characterization this 1939 publication is one of the earlier of the “golden age” of science fiction novels and most certainly one of the better written. De Camp was 3 years old when Twain died
Mike (the Paladin)
** Original review** Nov.12, 2009**
de Camp made up a lot of my reading back in the 70s. This is an interesting take on the time stream idea. Pretty good read.

Wow, someone just liked this 2 line review. Thanks.

I'm surprised at how sparse it is. I imagine it's because my wife had passed away not long before and I was looking at moving to a smaller place. Please allow me to expand it a little.

I read this book long ago but it made an impact as it's very well written and one of the best classic scien
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Martin Padway is struck by lightning while visiting Rome and finds himself permanently displaced to the 6th century AD. A student of history, he decides to use his knowledge of technology and history to prevent Rome's fall (which led to the Dark Ages, at least in his mind), and single-handedly jumpstarts the Industrial Revolution, introducing distilleries (to give him some money to live on and finance his operations), double-entry bookkeeping, the telegraph, the printing press, modern methods of ...more
3.5 stars. Classic time travel tale. Good writing, nice pacing and a tour of ancient Rome. What is not to like.
This is my favorite among the original de Camp stories that I've read. I'd say, 3 and a half stars. A modern man 'slips' back in time to the late Roman era, just before the Dark Ages are set to fall. He has to survive and uses his modern knowledge to do so, and eventually becomes a major player in the timeline as he strives to prevent the "fall of darkness," (i.e., the Dark Ages). It's not high octane adventure but it's probably a fairly realistic depiction of the situation and the age. There ar ...more
Glenn Schmelzle
Jul 15, 2009 Glenn Schmelzle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erik Graff
Oct 26, 2008 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sf fans, alternative history fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
By Junior High I'd mastered the techniques of avoiding the attention of parents. "Out of sight, out of mind" was the principle. If Dad saw me, he'd think of something for me to do, something boring, probably stupid, like raking leaves or cutting the lawn. What was important to me, wasn't important to him.

The easiest method was simply to get up and leave before they were up and in their "right" minds. This worked fine during the relatively happy summers back in Meadowdale, but was not so attracti
Aug 05, 2008 Gregory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, rome
I read this book twice. The first time was years ago and I read it just because it by L. Sprague. I thought it was o.k., I then put it on the bookshelf where it collected dust for a few years. Over the past few years I have been seized by what could almost be called a mania about ancient rome, my bookshelf here on goodreads has most of what I've read on the subject, which has been about 80% of my reading lately. I was between books in Coleen McCullough's wonderful "Masters Of Rome" series (finis ...more
Jan 28, 2010 jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
20th Century Archeologist Martin Padway suddenly finds himself transported back to Ancient Rome on the eve of the Dark Ages. He decides to try and head off the fall of Rome.
I found this book tiring. The writing isn't so great and I began to wonder if it had been meant for children, and maybe it was, as it was written in the late '30's, when science fiction was very popular with children. My problem was the almost complete lack of inner dialogue. Padway is caught in a sudden thunderstorm and POOF
Brenda Clough
May 15, 2013 Brenda Clough rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the first and best really sensible time travel novels of all time. Don't omit to admire the way the hero gets out of all the religious wars of the era he's traveled to.
Jul 02, 2010 John rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lest Darkness Fall is an alternate history science fiction novel written in 1939 by author L. Sprague de Camp. The book is often considered one of the best examples of the alternate history genre; it is certainly one of the most influential. The novel reminded me of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. In it American archaeologist Martin Padway is visiting the Pantheon in Rome in 1938. When a thunderstorm arrives lightning cracks and he finds himself transported to 6th centu ...more
John Mccullough
Jan 14, 2014 John Mccullough rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Martin Padway, an archaeologist visiting Rome, is struck by lightening and lands in the Rome of 535 AD. Luckily he speaks fair Italian and has had some Latin so can begin to make himself understood. But what's a 20th century Yankee (the book was written in 1939) to do to make a living, stay out of jail, get a meal and so forth??? Well, Martin pad way becomes Martinus Paduei, stumbles around for a few days, using his wits introduces a few more modern things to Roman life, a changes history. To sa ...more
Kathy Burford
Jul 14, 2015 Kathy Burford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Often considered L. Sprague de Camp’s best book, Lest Darkness Fall is science fantasy rather than science fiction, concerned with the past. Archaeologist Martin Padway is abruptly transported from twentieth-century Rome to what he learns is the Roman year 1288 Anno Urbis Conditae: the first half of the sixth century AD. Fortunately he knows both classical Latin and Italian and stumbles through by using an ersatz language supposedly halfway between the two. Rome is a complex stew of ethnicities ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 21, 2010 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
A historian, Martin Padway, is transported to Rome of 500AD and proceeds to introduce inventions (like the printing press, Arabic numerals) and innovations to prevent the Fall of Rome and the inception of the Dark Ages. This is an engaging mixture of time-travel and alternate history--in fact, given it was written in 1939, it might possibly have invented the genre of alternate history. I particularly found amusing the picture of all the different Christian sects. De Camp appears to have done his ...more
Sep 07, 2007 Raja99 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: easton-topside
It's hard to decide whether to rate it 9/10 or 10/10. It's fast-paced, entertaining, and thought-provoking, but it *does* get rather bogged down by the end, and I found it hard to keep track of the characters.

Overall, though, it's excellent for what it does, and is deservedly known as a classic.
Jan 26, 2012 Alexander rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite books ever, and my introduction into the sub-genre that is alternate history. A wonderfully creative and intriguing book about one man's efforts to turn the tide of history and save civilization. Fun, humorous, smart and a pure pleasure.
Feb 13, 2014 Denis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
See Alan Zendell's review.
He said it best.
I concur.

He rated the "Lest Darkness Fall & Related Stories" version.
Robin Hobb
Mar 13, 2014 Robin Hobb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A clever and well written tale by a clever and intelligent writer. What more could you ask for!
Joel Van Valin
An early example of the "alternative history" plotline in time travel fiction, Lest Darkness Fall reads like a novel written by an engineer, with some intriguing Roman history thrown in. Archeologist Martin Padway is visiting the Colosseum in Rome when a lightning bolt sends him to the same spot in the year 535 AD. What to do? How to live? Use his 20th century know-how, of course. His first big "invention" is distilled alcohol (brandy), which is fairly easy to produce, once he's made some copper ...more
Daniel Salvo
Mar 13, 2014 Daniel Salvo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Al fin pude leer esta excelente y divertida novela, muy renombrada al tiempo de su publicación (1941). Tanto así, que dio origen a un cuento redactado como “respuesta” contradictoria a las premisas postuladas en la novela. Y es que no todos los intentos de cambiar la historia pueden ser exitosos, a largo plazo…

Al margen de las consecuencias de la alteración de la historia conocida (tema tratado también por Isaac Asimov en “El fin de la eternidad”, y de alguna manera, previsto por George Orwell e
John E
Nov 19, 2016 John E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the book the first time I read it 50+ years ago. It has aged very well after a lifetime of reading. It just goes to show that Latin should be returned to the public schools. Loads of fun.
Mike Roach
Nov 27, 2016 Mike Roach rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
superlative time travel sci fi story.
Nov 19, 2016 Mimi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
for roman history buffs pretty much only. and, i guess, time travel fans, too.
Jan 18, 2017 Nick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
A bit disappointing ... and the copy I had contained so many typos!
Lance Schonberg
The opening is a bit improbable. The protagonist learns, in casual conversation, about his archaeologist friend’s strange ideas on the nature of time just before lightning strikes near him and he’s sent back in time. But if you can get over that, the story picks up quickly.

Originally written just prior to WWII, there are a few hints in the opening chapter of how the author may have felt about fascism and Mussolini. Nothing big or critical because it’s not important to the story, but it’s an inte
Jan 01, 2017 Randy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Martin Padway, an archeologist visiting in Rome, is mysteriously transported back to the sixth century in Italy. When it's obvious that he won't return soon (or ever), he starts adding twentieth century devices and approaches to make a living. Fortunately, he is quite an expert on this time period, so he can predict what's going to happen and make changes so the Dark Ages can be avoided.

The story is fun to read, and there's a lot of humor as Martin makes his changes. Even though this book was wr
Lest Darkness Fall is an alternate history/science fiction novel by Lyon Sprague de Camp. The novel was first published in 1941, and it has held up well after decades.

An academic named Martin Padway goes back in time to 6th Century Rome. He is quite a learned person, with knowledge of ancient languages, history, science and practical skills. Most college grads are not as well educated. Individuals that come to mind that have such breath of knowledge are de Camp himself, and his fellow science fi
Steve Stuart
I’m sure everyone has wondered what they would do if they found themselves stranded in the past, whether A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, or a kibitzer at Newton's elbow. Or maybe that's just me. But it certainly seems like you should be able to rule the world, right? You know so much more than those cavemen or farmers or kings, you should be able to have them eating out of your hand.

But what would you actually be able to do? You couldn’t possibly manufacture a computer, an internal
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Lyon Sprague de Camp, (Pseudonym: Lyman R. Lyon) was an American science fiction and fantasy author and biographer. In a writing career spanning fifty years he wrote over one hundred books, including novels and notable works of nonfiction, such as biographies of other important fantasy authors.He was widely regarded as an imaginative and innovative writer and was an important figure in the heyday ...more
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