De Camp has long been one of my favorite authors. Among the stars of the Golden Age, he's not as didactic as Heinlein, and he's a better fiction writer than Asimov (both of whom he worked with during the war). There weren't many subjects he didn't know something about, as anyone who was privileged to listen to him at a WorldCon room party can testify. And of his more than 100 books, both fiction and nonfiction, this delightful romp (one of his earliest) is perhaps my favorite. Martin Padway is an archaeologist visiting Rome in 1939 and when a bolt of lightning nearly hits him in the piazza in front of the Pantheon, he finds himself "falling through a trapdoor" and coming out, still in Rome, but in the fourth decade of the Sixth Century. The Goths are running things, the Emperor Justinian off in Constantinople wants control of Italy, and the Franks up north are getting restless as well. Okay, I agree it's not credible that a thirty-year-old archaeologist would know the details of double-entry bookkeeping, spinning copper sheet, casting bronze cannon, ballistics, building an electrical telegraph (to replace the semaphore system he's already set up), designing a horse collar and a Grand Banks schooner, and enough military strategy to lead an army and to engage in swordplay personally -- not to mention being so familiar with the dynastic details of half a dozen royal houses. (As it happens, I know quite a lot about that period, right on the cusp of the so-called Dark Ages, but I couldn't match Martin's grasp of information with recourse to a reference book.) But what the hell -- he's a Connecticut Yankee type, so suspend your disbelief and enjoy his struggles with religious argument and royal politics as he tries to keep civilization's light from being snuffed out.
Great Classic SF
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 16 years ago
I love this book. In Mussolii's Italy, professor is zapped back to very late Roman Empire, when the Goths basically rule. He has some adventures a la "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" but he does not always know how to bring in modern inventions, unlike Twain's Yankee. Can you make gunpowder out of raw materials? What would it really be like to be a modern man in those days? Lots of fun.
A Connecticut Yankee At the Fall of Rome
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 17 years ago
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.
One of my absolute favorites
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 22 years ago
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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