Lest Darkness Fall
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Lest Darkness Fall

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  1,320 ratings  ·  64 reviews
When am I? Padway asked himself after the lightning-flash knocked him down. He knew where he was--Rome. He was there to study archaeology, and even though the lightning had left him dazed, he could see the familiar Roman buildings. But the buildings looked newer and the crowds in the street were wearing tunics, not suits! And a rich barnyard smell had replaced the gasoline...more
Mass Market Paperback, F817, 174 pages
Published February 1st 1963 by Pyramid Books (first published 1941)
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The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerOutlander by Diana GabaldonThe Time Machine by H.G. WellsHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. RowlingTimeline by Michael Crichton
Best Time Travel Fiction
77th out of 967 books — 3,063 voters
Watchmen by Alan MooreFatherland by Robert HarrisThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. DickThe Eyre Affair by Jasper FfordeThe Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove
Best Alternate History Novels and Stories
34th out of 285 books — 559 voters

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Community Reviews

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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...more
3.5 stars. Classic time travel tale. Good writing, nice pacing and a tour of ancient Rome. What is not to like.
Erik Graff
Aug 09, 2010 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Glenn Schmelzle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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...more
John Mccullough
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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.
Questo è il primo romanzo in assoluto che leggo del vecchio maestro di fantascienza Sprague de Camp, e dopo questo primo approccio, posso dire che in futuro sicuramente approfondirò questo autore. Nel caso di questo "Abisso del passato", ci sono tutti i tipici elementi dei romanzi di inizio secolo sui viaggi nel tempo, a cui Camp aggiunge una buona dose di ironia. L'inizio è divertente e scoppiettante, ma, piano piano il libro risulta diventare piuttosto ripetitivo. Infatti, dopo la fantastica i...more
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.
Brenda Clough
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.
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...more
Ken Doggett
The book I read was published by Ballantine Books in 1949. The story is strongly reminiscent of Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court," but in this case our hero, Martin Padway, doesn't go back to Medieval Europe, he goes back to sixth century Rome. In Twain's version the hero introduces late nineteenth-century technology to early Europe to great effect, and in de Camp's version Padway introduces mid-twentieth-century technology to Rome, but with far less impact. His main goa...more
Daniel Salvo
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...more
An American archaeologist doing excavations in modern Italy is struck by a lightning bolt and is carried into the same place in the sixth century. The Western Roman Empire has fallen; Italy is ruled by the Goths, though the following year Byzantine Emperor Justinian attempts to conquer it. Within a few days, the archaeologist teaches a banker Arabic numerals, and gets a loan on a brandy distilling business; when this business succeeds wildly, he creates a printing press, a telegraph, eventually...more
Sean Mcguire
I picked this up knowing absolutely nothing about it, save that the author is well-regarded; despite the fact that I grew up on my mother's shelves of excellent classic SF, I had somehow never read a de Camp.

The book was enjoyable, but there were several things that kept me from finding it amazing. Foremost among these was the fact that it dragged towards the end. I appreciated the underlying character arc of the viewpoint character, and the way that that, in its interaction with the setting, dr...more
First published in 1939 as a short story, this is one of the first "alternative history" stories written, and one of the better ones I've read. De Camp's humor plays pretty well, and his characters are all believable and memorable. The protagonist -- a young archaeologist in Rome just before WWII -- is sent back in time to 6th century and after getting his bearings resolves to prevent the fall of western Roman Empire. His early successes (introducing Arabic numerals, brandy, and the printing pre...more
Jeremy Kohlman
A tale of time travel and prediction, Lest Darkness Fall is an enjoyable ride through the "what ifs" of history. What would you do if you found yourself stuck in time 1500 years ago? What would you share? What would you teach? What COULD you teach? Would you really have anything to offer at all?

All these questions are brought to mind when one reads this novel. I found it to be a very enjoyable read. At times it came across as a little too fanciful and convenient, yet not so much so that it detra...more
Phil Syphe
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 kn...more
As time travel books go this was pretty average. The main character is Martin Padway, an historian visiting Rome to gather results for his thesis. Suddenly he is transported back to Rome in 500 A.D. Padway then uses all his knowledge of future events to try and prevent the eventual fall of western Civilization. Along the way he introduces double entry bookkeeping, the telescope, the telegraph, and even the printing press.

Padway's extensive knowledge of a wide range of subjects was too vast and p...more
Jun 30, 2011 Zack added it
This one is a lot of fun, an alternate history story from the 1930's involving intrigue, Byzantine politics, and no real romance per se. This last doesn't detract from the sheer entertainment value to be found here, as a hapless AMerican archaeologist named Martin Padway finds himself inexplicably cast back to fifth-century Rome via a bolt of lightning. He is uniquely suited to effect changes in his new environment, and does so with a weird kind of panache, despite being a less than imposing fig...more
This is an old favorite of mine, something I read as a teenager a long time ago. I read it again with some trepidation but still found it enjoyable. I must admit that five stars is something of a stretch and if it wasn't for nostalgia.... probably 4.
One of the very first of the what if history had gone like this books, a sort of Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court but set in Gothic Rome of the 6th century.
A premissa de história alternativa é um clássico total. Os detalhes são bem trabalhados e o humor surge bem. Do meio para o final torna-se muito cansativo, com infinitos detalhes das campanhas e articulações do protagonista, q são super repetitivas.
Pra mim perdeu demais o fôlego nesse final.
Mesmo assim é um bom entretenimento da primeira metade do século XX.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
See Alan Zendell's review.
He said it best.
I concur.

He rated the "Lest Darkness Fall & Related Stories" version.
Jim Hambleton
The classic time-travel novel by de Camp. A man from 1939 is dropped in 6th century Rome and attempts to avert the Dark Ages. A fun read.
Robin Hobb
A clever and well written tale by a clever and intelligent writer. What more could you ask for!
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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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