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Lest Darkness Fall

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  2,229 Ratings  ·  121 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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Dec 12, 2014 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
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 and thus prevent the Dark Ages, 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 warfare, etc. Yanke ...more
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
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
Richard Derus
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4* of five

A re-read of a classic SF novel rethinking the trope of time travel from Wellsian to Twainian tropes. The mysterious transposition into the past via non-technological means, though, is permanent in de Camp's work. I think that makes the story a lot more interesting and a lot more fun. The stakes are a lot higher for Padway/Paduei than for Snodgrass since Paduei is there in the past for good.

The parts of the story that don't quite work for me are the parts about Paduei's effects
3.5 stars. Classic time travel tale. Good writing, nice pacing and a tour of ancient Rome. What is not to like.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
This one started out strong but quickly turned into a weak version of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
Oct 10, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Jul 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
This was one of my favorite books as a child. It quite possibly was a major influence on my subsequent undergraduate and post-graduate careers since it powerfully motivated me to learn all I could about the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines & the historical figures that litter the novel.

It didn't hurt that de Camp is a pretty good writer, too.
Glenn Schmelzle
Jul 15, 2009 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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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 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 rated it it was amazing
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.
Lance Schonberg
Dec 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Jul 02, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kuro Tenshi Butai
Admito que la principal razón por la que lo he leído fue porque encontré una mención en la web de TV Tropes y me pareció interesante.


En contra de lo que suele ser habitual en mi, puedo dar una breve descripción de lo mejor y lo peor de este libro. Y debo decir que el libro me ha gustado, aunque sinceramente esperaba algo un poco mas elaborado.

Lo mejor: se lee rápido y se hace mucho mas ameno de lo que se podría esperar (normalmente las novelas históricas suelen ser mamotretos de 500 p
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 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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 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 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.
James Eckman
Mar 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf, fiction
Aged much better than I thought. Still a good read, though lacking decent female characters, not unexpected for something published in 1939. There's a wiki page for it, it's a classic.
Feb 13, 2014 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 rated it really liked it
A clever and well written tale by a clever and intelligent writer. What more could you ask for!
Joel Van Valin
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it
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 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
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I hesitated between 3 and 4 stars. The the outset of the book was very clearly 4 stars (or more) : great theme, delightfully humerous depiction of the challenges of dropping back into the pre Middel Ages. Somewhere after halfway though the book fell head over heels into political/war details with overly long battle depictions. Ultimately the let down was that having prsisted through these the story ended there and didn't see our hero Padway make any further advance in area of innovation.
Michael Tildsley
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was nearly a masterpiece for me. I think the author got a little wrapped up in the historicity of the ending, but the rest of the book reads like an interesting "what if?" of alternating history. I love some of de Camp's characters in this book. The main character is pretty good, but my favorite is the banker he befriends early on when he tries to get a loan. His personality and quirk are unique and amusing.

Very good book overall.
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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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