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Lest Darkness Fall & Timeless Tales Written in Tribute Kindle Edition
An indication of the influence and longevity of the book is by the number of best-selling writers who have written stories in direct response to, or influenced by, Lest Darkness Fall. The original tribute volume (titled Lest Darkness Fall and Related Stories, reprinted three such stories by Frederik Pohl, David Drake and S. M. Stirling written over a period of forty-three years―a testament to the timelessness of the book.
The 2021 edition (Lest Darkness Fall and Timeless Tales Told in Tribute) includes two brand new stories by Harry Turtledove and David Weber.
Similar, thematically, to Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, the book tells the tale of Martin Padway who, as he is walking around in modern Rome, is suddenly transported though time to 6th Century Rome.
Once in ancient Rome, Padway (now Martinus Paduei Quastor) embarks on an ambitious project of single-handedly changing history.
L. Sprague de Camp was a student of history (and the author of a number of popular works on the subject). In Lest Darkness Fall he combines his extensive knowledge of the workings of ancient Rome with his extraordinary imagination to create one of the best books of time travel ever written.
This volume also includes an afterword by Alexei and Cory Panshin, adapted from their Hugo-winning book on science fiction, The World Beyond the Hill.
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"Next to Wells's Time Machine, this could be the best time-travel novel ever written."―P. Schuyler Miller, science fiction critic
--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
“I revisit this title every couple of years. More than 75 years after the fact, still one of the greatest time travel/fish out of water stories ever written. de Camp brings to life the culturally, religiously, and linguistically cosmopolitan and complex Rome of the 6th century in a manner that is vivid without being sensationalist and detailed without becoming pedantic. Remarkably (again after three-quarters of a century) the way it treats the paradoxes of time travel is still one of the most bulletproof I've encountered.”―Joe Black on Goodreads
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Whenever and however all this was, that gesture assured Padway that he was still in Italy.
Padway asked in Italian: “Could you tell me where I could find a policeman?”
The man stopped his sales talk, shrugged, and replied, “Non compr’ endo.” “Hey!” said Padway. The man paused. With great concentration Padway
translated his request into what he hoped was Vulgar Latin.
The man thought, and said he didn’t know.
Padway started to turn elsewhere. But the seller of beads called to another hawker: “Marco! The gentleman wants to find a police agent.”
“The gentleman is brave. He is also crazy,” replied Marco.
The bead-seller laughed. So did several people. Padway grinned a little; the people were human if not very helpful, He said: “Please, I―really― want―to―know.”
The second hawker, who had a tray full of brass knick-knacks tied around his neck, shrugged. He rattled off a paragraph that Padway could not follow.
Padway slowly asked the bead-seller: “What did he say?”
“He said he didn’t know,” replied the bead-seller. “I don’t know either.” Padway started to walk off. The bead-seller called after him: “Mister.” “Yes?”
“Did you mean an agent of the municipal prefect?” “Yes.”
“Marco, where can the gentleman find an agent of the municipal prefect?”
“I don’t know,” said Marco.
The bead-seller shrugged. “Sorry, I don’t know either.”
If this were twentieth-century Rome, there would be no difficulty about finding a cop. And not even Benny the Moose could make a whole city change its language. So he must be in (a) a movie set, (b) ancient Rome (the Tancredi hypothesis), or (c) a figment of his imagination.
He started walking. Talking was too much of a strain.
It was not long before any lingering hopes about a movie set were dashed by the discovery that this alleged ancient city stretched for miles in all directions, and that its street plan was quite different from that of modern Rome. Padway found his little pocket map nearly useless.
The signs on the shops were in intelligible classical Latin. The spelling had remained as in Caesar’s time, if the pronunciation had not.
The streets were narrow, and for the most part not very crowded. The town had a drowsy, shabby-genteel, rundown personality, like that of Philadelphia.
L. Sprague de Camp
At one relatively busy intersection Padway watched a man on a horse direct traffic. He would hold up a hand to stop an oxcart, and beckon a sedan chair across. The man wore a gaudily striped shirt and leather trousers. He looked like a central or northern European rather than an Italian.
Padway leaned against a wall, listening. A man would say a sentence just too fast for him to catch. It was like having your hook nibbled but never taken. By terrific concentration, Padway forced himself to think in Latin. He mixed his cases and numbers, but as long as he confined himself to simple sentences he did not have too much trouble with vocabulary.
A couple of small boys were watching him. When he looked at them they giggled and raced off.
It reminded Padway of those United States Government projects for the restoration of Colonial towns, like Williamsburg. But this looked like the real thing. No restoration included all the dirt and disease, the insults and altercations, that Padway had seen and heard in an hour’s walk.
Only two hypotheses remained: delirium and time-slip. Delirium now seemed the less probable. He would act on the assumption that things were in fact what they seemed.
He couldn’t stand there indefinitely. He’d have to ask questions and get himself oriented. The idea gave him gooseflesh. He had a phobia about accosting strangers. Twice he opened his mouth, but his glottis closed up tight with stage fright.
Come on, Padway, get a grip on yourself. “I beg your pardon, but could you tell me the date?”
The man addressed, a mild-looking person with a loaf of bread under his arm, stopped and looked blank. “Qui’ e’? What is it?”
“I said, could you tell me the date?”
The man frowned. Was he going to be nasty? But all he said was, “Non compr’ endo.” Padway tried again, speaking very slowly. The man repeated that he did not understand.
Padway fumbled for his date-book and pencil. He wrote his request on a page of the date-book, and held the thing up.
The man peered at it, moving his lips. His face cleared. “Oh, you want to know the date?” said he.
“Sic, the date.”
The man rattled a long sentence at him. It might as well have been in Trabresh. Padway waved his hands despairingly, crying, “Lento!”
The man backed up and started over. “I said I understood you, and I thought it was October 9th, but I wasn’t sure because I couldn’t remember
Lest Darkness Fall
whether my mother’s wedding anniversary came three days ago or four.” “What year?”
“What year?” “Sic, what year?”
“Twelve eighty-eight Anno Urbis Conditae.”
It was Padway’s turn to be puzzled.“Please, what is that in the Christian era?”
“You mean, how many years since the birth of Christ?” “Hoc ille―that’s right.”
“Well, now―I don’t know; five hundred and something. Better ask a priest, stranger.”
“I will,” said Padway. “Thank you.”
“It’s nothing,” said the man, and went about his business. Padway’s knees were weak, though the man hadn’t bitten him, and had answered his question in a civil enough manner. But it sounded as though Padway, who was a peaceable man, had not picked a very peaceable period.
What was he to do? Well, what would any sensible man do under the circumstances? He’d have to find a place to sleep and a method of making a living. He was a little startled when he realized how quickly he had accepted the Tancredi theory as a working hypothesis.
He strolled up an alley to be out of sight and began going through his pockets. The roll of Italian bank notes would be about as useful as a broken five-cent mousetrap. No, even less; you might be able to fix a mousetrap. A book of American Express traveler’s checks, a Roman street-car transfer, an Illinois driver’s license, a leather case full of keys―all ditto. His pen, pencil, and lighter would be useful as long as ink, leads, and lighter fuel held out. His pocketknife and his watch would undoubtedly fetch good prices, but he wanted to hang onto them as long as he could.
He counted the fistful of small change. There were just twenty coins,
beginning with four ten-lire silver cartwheels. They added up to forty-nine lire, eight centesimi, or about five dollars. The silver and bronze should be exchangeable. As for the nickel fifty-centesimo and twenty-centesimo pieces, he’d have to see. He started walking again.
He stopped before an establishment that advertised itself as that of S. Dentatus, goldsmith and money changer. He took a deep breath and went in.--This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- ASIN : B08TM88YY6
- Publisher : CAEZIK SF & Fantasy (February 16, 2021)
- Publication date : February 16, 2021
- Language : English
- File size : 1731 KB
- Simultaneous device usage : Unlimited
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 353 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #346,448 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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I enjoyed reading this novel. It does not seem dated, and it held my interest with its technological and historical developments, which were intended to prevent the fall of the late Western Roman Empire, as well as with its many comic characters.
Top reviews from other countries
But that's not necessarily a problem, you wouldn't get a book like this for anything other than a thought experiment. And, while the narrative follows a plotline that is equivalent to the author listing of the things he'd do if he was stuck in ancient Rome (and how he'd be totally awesome) wondering how the characters actions would change the path of history is interesting enough for you to stick with it.
However, the ending of the book is ridiculous. It ends all of a sudden with a stupid sexist and shallow rationalisation by the main character and his musings about the future. It does genuinely feel a bit like the author just got bored and decided to just finish the story where he was. Nothing is really resolved, and the main character hasn't grown at all (the Romans are very impressed though!).
Given that the idea of the thought experiment and some attempt at creating interesting characters was enough to get me to finish the book, I'll give it three stars. Though if I was in a bad mood this would be two.