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LEST DARKNESS FALL Mass Market Paperback – Jul 12 1983


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Mass Market Paperback, Jul 12 1983
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Reissue edition (July 12 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345310160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345310163
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.4 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,463,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Oct. 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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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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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Formally, this is similar to Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee ..." but on just about every account it's better. De Camp doesn't try to match Twain strong powers of irony, but focusses on the problem of staying alive in time of turmoil. It's fun - and a little bit of learning creeps in unaware.
If you liked this book, try Robert Grave's "Count Belasarius" to learn a bit more about the stuffy Byzantine general.
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By STEVE PRICE on July 22 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback
allwasgreat
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 21 reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
An enjoyable read; great for History buffs; easy read March 22 2001
By MISTER SJEM - Published on Amazon.com
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. 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.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
One of my absolute favorites Oct. 4 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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?
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Exciting, if not Deep, Sci-fi Adventure Tale March 29 2006
By Ian Fowler - Published on Amazon.com
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. Moreover, while De Camp knows the history of the era, he opts for broad strokes, acknowledging the fractured nature of Christianity, the tension between West and East, and the multi-cultural state of Rome at this time. It's probably for the best, as this isn't a treatise on the fall of Rome, but a story about Padway. Nonetheless, the reader may feel slightly adrift in generally unfamiliar era.

"Lest Darkness Falls" is a book that satisfies the reader's desire for a good adventure, if not the desire for brain-food. It's an entertaining tale, and is worth reading on its own merits, as well as an artifact of sci-fi.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Humor, science, history and war (Spoilers in review.) Dec 25 2009
By D. Mason - Published on Amazon.com
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.

What I thought: Lest Darkness Fall is a science fiction version of Twain's immortal Connecticut Yankee. It has more story and less social commentary, but the history is accurate, the sociology well done and the technology fascinating.

De Camp does a great job of getting Padway into trouble. Padway is smart enough to get himself out of trouble. His solutions always manage to make him a little money and dig him a little deeper.

The story is interesting and hilarious.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
What to do when you travel back in time... Dec 7 2008
By N. Trachta - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Lest Darkness Fall is a L. Sprague de Camp book dealing with a modern (1930's) man being transported from modern Rome to Rome circa 535 CE. As in The Compleat Enchanter (Millennium Fantasy Masterworks S.), the main character (Martin Padway) has to deal with the few things he has with him when he's transported and must "establish" himself. However unlike The Compleat Enchanter series, Martin doesn't have control of how long he in 535 CE Rome.

This book is a fast reader that captures your attention. The situation and environment are nicely described, not to much to distract the reader, but enough to bring you into the book and to let you become interested in Martin's situation. Some parts of the book are slightly dated (Mr. de Camp started work on this book in 1939) but it doesn't hinder the plot in the least. Characters are nicely described, but could have used a little more background for those not familiar with the era. Dialog is interesting because Mr. de Camp does attempt (and does a fair job) to show the different types of Latin being spoken by the different characters (Goths, Romans, Roman citizens from foreign countries, and Martin) and you get to see how Martin's linguistic skills improve with the native. As for the plot, the book opens with a with Martin trying to survive day-to-day and eventually recognizing the `historical' situation he's in and attempting to modify it for his betterment. A good 4 star book you can enjoy on a nice night or weekend. If Mr. de Camp didn't follow this one up, I believe there's an excellent opening for another writer to let us know the impacts Martin had on 'history'.

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