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Lest Darkness Fall (Del Rey SF Classics) Mass Market Paperback – July 12, 1983

22 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey (July 12, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345310160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345310163
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,123,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By MISTER SJEM on March 22, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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 more 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 more.
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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 4, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've lost count of how many times I've read this book and had to replace it at least once. De Camp's depiction of the life, events and people of post-Imperial Italy are dead on accurate as far as I can tell, and the fictional aspect of the work is highly engaging.
The book gives away its 1938 vintage, when the protagonist Martin Padway is able to exchange about $5.00 worth of modern Italian coins for 93 post-Imperial silver sesterces, enabling him to survive his first 72 hours in old Rome. He could do this, of course, because in 1938 Italy, like most countries, still circulated real silver coins. I can't help wondering how the protagonist would have fared if he only had today's inflated zinc and tin tokens?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ian Fowler on March 29, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While on an expedition to Mussolini's Italy, young American Martin Padway is struck by lightning. When he comes to, he discovers himself to have been inexplicably transported to the waning days of the Roman Empire. Quickly realizing that he has no hope of returning home, Padway resolves to prop up the flagging Western Empire and stave off the approaching dark ages. But is he politically astute enough to handle the destructive forces within and without Rome?

L. Sprague De Camp's "Lest Darkness Fall" is justly considered a classic of science fiction. It's a time travel story, but it is also cited by many as an early example of the alternate history genre. So its influence cannot be understated.

De Camp is not aiming for gravity, which is probably a good thing. The book is a breezy, plot-driven adventure, not a meditation on history. Padway is a well-developed character, if perhaps a little TOO competent and resourceful. Upon realizing his predicament, Padway hunts up the basics, including a dwelling and a source of income, first with brandy, and then with a newssheet. However, Padway makes a quick jump from brandy merchant and printer to power-broker with surprising speed and confidence. He manipulates royalty and leads battles, surprising himself with his ruthlessness. While De Camp's story flirts with implausibility, it never enters the realm of ridiculous.

The supporting characters are generally likeable archetypes, like the banker who speaks to God, the formerly-rich soldier who has been reduced to acting as Padway's bodyguard, the senile monarch, and so on. They serve the story and Padway's quest.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Mason on December 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Synopsis: Lest Darkness Fall was written just before WWII. Martin Padway is visiting the Pantheon in Rome when he is struck by lightning. The shock is nothing compared to finding himself in post-imperial Rome, about 550 C.E.

Fortunately for him and the reader, he speaks some Latin. He's an archeologist, so he knows some about the period. He meets some interesting "Romans," most of whom are Goths or Lebanese or Jews or Moors. Since his survival is paramount, he does what an American would do: he goes into business.

Brandy is unheard of in Rome. Padway wants to build a still but first he has to invent the machines he needs to build the things he needs for the still. Each step earns him a little money. It also brings him to the attention of the corrupt Romans and the Church, who are convinced he's practicing witchcraft. Padway knows that the surest way to die in this time is to get involved with either the church or politics. He wants no part of either.

With is distilling business on solid footing, Padway "invents" the printing press. He wants to publish a newspaper, but there is no paper. He wipes out the city's supply of velum in his first edition then has to invent paper. He also has to invent an ink that will work in his press. More attention from church and state.

War is brewing. Padway knows it. He knows that Rome will be devastated, so he starts preparing to move his businesses out of Rome to Ravenna, which he knows will be safe during the wars. Neither the church nor the state likes his preparations. He must be practicing witchcraft of treason.

Padway has no choice but to get involved if he wants to save his businesses or his skin.
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