The Glory That Was

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The Glory That Was
Glory That Was.jpg
first edition of The Glory That Was
Author L. Sprague de Camp
Cover artist Ed Emshwiller
Country United States
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Avalon Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages vii, 223 pp

The Glory That Was is a science fiction novel by L. Sprague de Camp. It was first published in the science fiction magazine Startling Stories for April, 1952, and subsequently published in book form in hardcover by Avalon Books in 1960 and in paperback by Paperback Library in 1971. It has since been reprinted by Ace Books (1979) and Baen Books (1992). An E-book edition was published by Gollancz's SF Gateway imprint on September 29, 2011 as part of a general release of de Camp's works in electronic form.[1][2] The book has also been translated into Italian and German as well as in Greek.

The book is a tour de force for de Camp, bringing together features of several of the types of fiction he specialized in, including his time travel stories, historical novels, and trademark "domestic science fiction", in which ordinary people encounter the extraordinary—though as it turns out no time travel is involved, it is not a historical novel, and the "ordinary" people live in the twenty-seventh century. If it has a weakness it is in a serious straining of the suspension of disbelief on which all fiction depends for acceptance by the reader; it is simply not credible that an entire country could be deconstructed and rebuilt as depicted, its entire population brainwashed and mind-controlled, and the whole thing kept a dead secret from the world by the thousands on thousands of people administering the project, even with presumably superior 27th century technology.

Two of de Camp's friends and colleagues, science fiction writers Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, with whom he had worked on military research during World War II, were involved in the book in different ways. It features a laudatory introduction by Heinlein and is dedicated to Asimov, whom de Camp stated "helped to push this one over the hump." Asimov recorded some vivid impressions of the author's research for the book in his own introduction to de Camp's short story collection The Continent Makers and Other Tales of the Viagens (1953).

Plot summary[edit]

Twenty-seventh century Earth is united by a worldwide democratic government presided over by a constitutional monarch, though the former is veering toward totalitarianism and the latter is a megalomaniac. To neutralize the World Emperor the power-hungry prime minister has ceded to him control of Greece for use in a mysterious secret project. Now Greece is surrounded by a force field cutting it off from the rest of the world, and people of Greek descent everywhere have vanished, presumably spirited away to the isolated region by the Emperor's agents.

One such kidnapped citizen is Thalia, wife of classical scholar Wiyem Flin. Anxious to get her back, he recruits his friend, magazine editor Knut Bulnes, into a desperate attempt to penetrate the force barrier. Bulnes, hoping to obtain an exclusive story on the Emperor's mysterious project, agrees. The two succeed, sailing a boat through the barrier when it is temporarily disrupted by a storm.

Inside the force field, Flin and Bulnes are astounded to find themselves not in 27th century Greece at all, but to all appearances the Classical Greece of Pericles and the Peloponnesian War. Pretending to be foreign philosophers, they establish themselves in Athens as they attempt to unravel the mystery, and begin to discover that all is not as it seems; the wife of the playwright Euripides, for instance, is a dead ringer for Thalia, though if she is Thalia she has no memory of her life with Flin, nor does she recognize him. But the true shock is when Pericles, the leading citizen of Athens, turns out to be the Emperor!

Somehow, the two outsiders must uncover what he has done to Greece and how, thwart his insane scheme, and unmask the conspiracy that threatens to turn Greece back three thousand years and the rest of the world into a police state. Not to mention their original object of recovering Thalia!

Relationship to previous works[edit]

There are hints of the concept of using brainwashed people to reenact the past in some of de Camp's previous works. In his earlier science fiction novel Lest Darkness Fall (1939), the main character considers the possibility that instead of being thrown back in time he has found himself in a Rome that Benito Mussolini has forced to imitate the 6th century, but dismisses the idea as impractical. In the earlier fantasy novel The Carnelian Cube (1948) by de Camp and his collaborator Fletcher Pratt an actual reenactment of the Biblical siege of Samaria by the Assyrians is performed, directed by astrology-guided archaeologists using drafted and hypnotized participants.