↠´ Read à Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp À 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 And Garlic Aroma Of Modern Rome So, When Was He And He Was Suddenly Cold With Fear Of The Answer Rating 4 of fiveA 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 interesting and a lot 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 on the people around him There s really nothing to explain how he gets so many people to line up with his interests, though the Bishop of Bologna scene is a classic I d ve been grumpy about this had the book been longer than 200pp But it s not long enough to support the entire process of world building modern readers demand and the fact that it s a magazine story that s close to 80 years old is than enough reason to forgive its flaws, considering the ground it broke If you haven t read it, please do, and remember how old the idea of the Great Man of history, the vector of change, really is.
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 novels which go from 600 to 1000 pages No particular story lasted a long time Decamp would jump from conflict to conflict In essence, it began with little problems, moving its way up and up to the bigger and political ones And, there are plenty In fact, there are so many plots and intrigues and obstacles and conflicts, that it keeps moving along Padway will solve one problem but then pick up at least one problem or.
CONTEXT Sprague knew his Roman History There were several Historical points he factored into the story that allowed him to outthink his opponents Moreover, I got a feel for the setting with the incense wafting out of a door, the togas, the smell of manure, the louse coming out of the maid s armpit etc etc Unlike some people, one felt they were truly living in this era Sprague hit you with all of the senses sight, smell, touch, sound.
OVERALL STRUCTURE DeCamp is really good at his structure and surprises and pacing Basically, I would divide this book up into three sections The first part is laying down the ground work as Padway tries to figure out what has happened, to justify it, to make a living with the help of a merchant and open up a brandy sill As high reps demand bribes, he begins to get involved in politics to a lesser extent From there, he starts to expand his business and make friends In the last third, which is probably half of the novel, he starts to run Rome Puts the old emperor back on and uses him as sort of a puppet Moves the capitol to Ravenna since that s one of the few spots which wasn t attacked by Goths He wins the love of a Goth princess, dumps her to another man and then gets ready for several attacks upon Rome Leads forces twice against Belisarius and then Bloody John.
WHY IT WORKED FOR ME Other than the reasons stated above, I like Roman History and there were some very funny parts especially in the dialogue FLAWS Someone made the point that Padway was a little too ingenius at creating future inventions, as well as at maneuvering amongst all the political intrigues There may be some validity to it but one who has studied such things wouldn t be hard pressed otherwise It may have been a good idea to have shown that he knew of such things before since the typical professor wouldn t be able to make them nor perform political intrigues.
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 science fiction fantasy books aroundthat s in my opinion of course I m actually choosing to up my rating to 5 stars.
If you re a history buff especially of medieval history I think you ll really enjoy this book It takes place around 535 and the events surrounding and following the so called Gothic War 535 554 In that period of time the population of Europe dropped from approximately 7 million to around 2 million Some historians scholars mark this as the true beginning on the Dark Ages From this point there was a long period of descent in Italy.
So, when archeologist Martin Padway is thrown back to 535 he knows what s coming Once he realizes he s not in a dreamor that there s nothing much he can do about it even if he ishe decides to take action.
I m not sure this book is even still in print but if it is I can highly recommend it.
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 century Rome.
Padway arrives in an Italy ruled by the Ostrogoths, a tribe who recently overthrew the Western Roman Empire, but ruled with benevolence, allowing freedom of religion, and maintaining the urban Roman society they had conquered.
The Gothic War of the mid sixth century saw the Eastern Roman Empire overthrow the Ostrogoths and the Vandals in north Africa, but they never consolidated their rule over Italy, and it collapsed into smaller states with further invasions by the Lombards The great cities of Rome were abandoned as Italy fell into a long period of decline Some historians consider this as the true beginning of the Dark Ages.
Padway initially wonders if he is dreaming or delusional he quickly accepts his fate and sets out to survive His first idea is to make a copper still and sell brandy for a living He convinces a banker, Thomasus the Syrian, to lend him Seed money to start his endeavor He also begins teaching his clerks Arabic numerals and double entry bookkeeping He eventually develops a printing press, issues newspapers, and builds a sketchy semaphore telegraph system His attempts to develop a mechanical clock, gunpowder, and a cannon are failures He gradually becomes and involved in the politics of the state, as Italy is invaded by the Imperials and also threatened from the south and east This leads Padway to engage with the army in its campaigns and the results have the potential for unexpected changes in the direction of history The novel is an entertaining read, but it did not impress this reader as worthy of all of the accolades it has received.
5 stars Classic time travel tale Good writing, nice pacing and a tour of ancient Rome What is not to like.
Out of copyright Nice FREE ebook at Jo Walton s review, points out why I prefer this one to the Twain book de Camp was a historian of technology, so this is a tech heavy book Still, I have no need to re read it And note that my GR pal Dana Stabenow loves it More at HEAVY SPOILERS in the rest of that wikipage I read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur s Court not long ago wanted to reread this I didn t enjoy either one as much as I have in the past, although I liked this one better this time around The idea were great, but just a little too facile I never really got the feeling of his struggles, although quite a few were mentioned I thought Yankee did a better job with the newspaper, for instance There were a lot of great ideas throughout the book, though There are so many things I take for granted, including social attitudes My wife never thought of having me kill off old girl friends, for instance.
It s a fun, fairly quick read important in the evolution of SF Definitely recommended.
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 Yankee ingenuity FTW There are lots of interesting ideas about technology and how it might affect an earlier civilization Written in 1939, this is one of the earliest if not the earliest SF books dealing with alternative history, so if you like the genre, it s worth taking a look at this short novel if only for that reason It has its moments, but for me was a little slow overall, and it s heavier on plot than characterization It s kind of like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur s Court with less humor and technology.
You have to be careful, doing business here in Rome It s not like a growing town Now, if this were Constantinople he sighed You can really make money in the East But I don t care to live there, with Justinian making life exciting for the heretics, as he calls them What s your religion, by the way What s yours Not that it makes any difference to me Nestorian Well, said Padway carefully, I m what we call a Congregationalist It was not really true, but he guessed an agnostic would hardly be popular in this theology mad world That s the nearest thing we have to Nestorianism in my countryLest Darkness Fall is, for about its first half, pleasantly readable and funny competence porn about a historian named Martin Padway who winds up in Rome on the brink of the Dark Ages Padway is a low key hero, which is charming, and he s at his best when he s working at something of a disadvantage trying to hobble through this period s Latin Italian hybrid speech and getting a loan by teaching double entry bookkeeping and the concept of the zero to a local financier His first big ambition is trying to make a newspaper, and he runs into interesting problems involving paper supply It s all sort of early tech geek crunchy and delightful, and the novel is straightforward about the fact that all of this is meant to be fun.
As Padway gains his footing, he becomes most invested in keeping away the chaos and disorder that will lead to the Dark Ages, because he doesn t personally want to live through them For the duration of the novel, he s trying to fend them off through better communication methods and the occasional prophecy, all of which is fine until he moves thoroughly onto a larger stage, whereupon the book becomes less interesting to anyone not already invested in the political and military machinations of the later Roman Empire de Camp s matter of fact, no nonsense style works great when he s talking about actual objects and works less well when he s trying to juggle a big cast and talk about huge political ideas like who should rule an empire.
Then there s also the uncomfortable fact that the novel occasionally dips into off the cuff racism and sexism There s a throwaway line here about a black man being all eyeballs and teeth that feels straight out of Gone With the Wind, for one thing, and the novel ends with Padway trying to prevent the spread of Islam and Arabic power because it would be personally inconvenient The sexism is pronounced because women are slightly present though only slightly, because they appear mostly to elicit a bitches be crazy response Padway has casual sex with a servant before awaking to the grossness of her unbathed body and getting horrified by it, and she later attempts to have him executed for sorcery in revenge he briefly falls into a passion for a princess and then backpedals frantically when she turns out to have a strong Lady Macbeth streak The woman he likes most, ultimately, is an educated, sweet girl from a higher class family, and he considers marrying her only to face resistance and rebound with this gem Dorothea was a nice girl, yes, pretty, and reasonably bright But she was not extraordinary in those respects there were plenty of others equally attractive To be frank, Dorothea was a pretty average young woman And being Italian, she d probably be fat at thirty five.
Cool story, bro He follows this with the conclusion that women are fun but probably trouble than they re worth while he has important things to do, like saving civilization, and it s just mildly gross Yes, it s an older book, but this is a kind of girls have cooties approach no grown man should have been taking regardless of the time period.
So three to four stars for the fun of the first half and two stars for the slog of the second, with a bonus bad taste in the mouth from the fact that the sexism appears significantly towards the end than the beginning It s worth reading, but for me it s only worth reading once.