The first time travel tale I remember reading was Mark Twains’ ‘A Connecticut Yankee at the court of King Arthur. I’d just finished reading Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and honestly thought I was getting more of the same. Yeah, I was wrong. My grandparents were keen on the classics, at least the ones that they thought were, and so Jules Verne, H.G.Wells, and John Wyndham quickly followed. There’s always something special about your first though isn’t there?
There’s a lot to like about a good time-travel story. At school, we had to read Bradburys’ A Sound of Thunder’ with the recommendation that we search out Moorcocks ‘Behold the Man’. Both are, at the heart, quite bleak, though in very different ways and both leave you pondering. Pondering is a good thing. I haven’t bothered reading either since Mr. Andersons English class. Preferable to either, at least as far as I was concerned however was the excellent Flesh, providing a very alternative reason for the dinosaurs dying out. Man, I loved 2000AD.
Which, via a circuitous route brings me to L. Sprague de Camp. Now I’d read de Camp before, there’s only so much Conan you can read before you’re reading him and you don’t even know it. Lest Darkness Fall was new to me though, which is weird when you consider its reputation as a classic. I guess it just goes to show that such status is rarely given quickly, and often taken away even faster.
The idea is simple enough, ‘man is sent back in time courtesy of handwavium, changes things’ Well, there were bits in this that I really enjoyed, and others…well not so much. The history, both of the time and the heroes pre-inventions, was cracking. The dialogue, well, not so much. Overall though, I would recommend the book to anyone as nothing in here is so painfully bad that it’s unreadable.
De Camp is possibly the weakest writer in Appendix N that I’ve come across so far. When you consider his competition is Lovecraft, Brackett, Merritt and Howard there’s no shame in that. Lest Darkness Fall just isn’t as tight, plotwise, as the others would have made it. The battle scenes could have come directly from an academic journal, there’s no real passion there, no real feel for the hell of a war fought between men with the most basic of weapons. The social disruption of inventions placed centuries before their time is left completely unexplored.
He doesn’t get back either.
De Camps characterisation was a joy though, each of the major, and most minor characters were drawn wonderfully. Simple tricks, repeating of key phrases or turns of phrase were used to wonderful effect and I have no doubt that I’ll be able to remember them for years to come. His romantic entanglements are amusing, mainly because of his attempts to get out of them! There are lots of neat little bits dotted throughout the story, moments that make you smile as you read them. Like when someone takes an arrow to the…kidney.
I liked it. I think it could have been better, but what do I know?
That’s all for now though, lil buddy wants to watch her new Power Puff movie. That’s right, I’m corrupting a three-year-old. Sue me.
Take care guys.