A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz

by Walter Miller

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553273816
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/27/2007
Series: Bantam Spectra Book Series
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 39,663
Product dimensions: 4.15(w) x 6.89(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 1000L (what's this?)

About the Author

Walter M. Miller, Jr. grew up in the American South and enlisted in the Army Air Corps a month after Pearl Harbor. He spent most of World War II as a radio operator and tail gunner, participating in more than fifty-five combat sorties, among them the controversial destruction of the Benedictine abbey at Monte Cassino, the oldest monastery in the Western world. Fifteen years later he wrote A Canticle for Leibowitz. The sequel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, followed after nearly forty years.

Read an Excerpt

The box was shaped like a satchel and was obviously a carrying case of some kind.  It might have served any number of purposes, but it had been rather badly battered by flying stones.  Gingerly he worked it loose from the rubble and carried it closer to the fire.  The lock seemed to be broken, but the lid had rusted shut.  The box rattled when he shook it.  It was not an obvious place to look for books or papers, but--obviously too--it was designed to be opened and closed, and might contain a scrap or two of information for the Memorabilia.  Nevertheless, remembering the fate of Brother Boedullus and others, he sprinkled it with holy water before attempting to pry it open, and he handled the ancient relic as reverently as was possible while battering at its rusty hinges with a stone.

At last he broke the hinges, and the lid fell free. Small metal tidbits bounced from trays, spilled among the rocks, some of them falling irretrievably into crevices. But, in the bottom of the box in the space beneath the trays, he beheld--papers!  After a quick prayer of thanksgiving, he regathered as many of the scattered tidbits as he could, and, after loosely replacing the lid, began climbing the hill of debris toward the stairwell and the thin patch of sky, with the box hugged tightly under one arm.

The sun was blinding after the darkness of the shelter. He scarcely bothered to notice that it was sinking dangerously low in the west, but began at once to search for a flat slab on which the contents of the box could be spread for examination without risk of losing anything in the sand.

Minutes later, seated on a cracked foundation slab, he began removing the tidbits of metal and glass that filled the trays.  Most of them were small tubular things with a wire whisker at each end of each tube.  These, he had seen before.  The abbey's small museum had a few of them, of various size, shape and color.  Once he had seen a shaman of the hill-pagan people wearing a string of them as a ceremonial necklace.  The hill people thought of them as "parts of the body of the god"--of the fabled Machina analytica, hailed as the wisest of their gods.  By swallowing one of them, a shaman could acquire "Infallibility," they said.  He certainly acquired Indisputability that way, among his own people--unless he swallowed one of the poison kind.  The similar tidbits in the museum were connected together too--not in the form of a necklace, but as a complex and rather disorderly maze in the bottom of a small metal box, exhibited as: "Radio Chassis: Application Uncertain."

Inside the lid of the carrying case, a note had been glued; the glue had powdered, the ink had faded, and the paper was so darkened by rusty stains that even good handwriting would have been hard enough to read, but this was written in a hasty scrawl.  He studied it intermittently while emptying the trays.  It seemed to be English, of a sort, but half an hour passed before he deciphered most of the message:

CARL--

Must grab plane for [undecipherable] in twenty minutes.  For God's sake, keep Em there till we know if we're at war.  Please! try to get her on the alternate list for the shelter.  Can't get her a seat on my plane.  Don't tell her why I sent her over with this box of junk, but try to keep her there till we know [undecipherable] at  worst, one of the alternates not show.
                                                                                              I.E.L.

P.S.  I put the seal on the lock and put TOP SECRET on the lid just to keep Em from looking inside.  First tool box I happened to grab.  Shove it in my locker or something.

The note seemed hasty gibberish to Brother Francis, who was at the moment too excited to concentrate on any single item more than the rest.  After a final sneer at the notewriter's hasty scrawl, he began the task of removing the tray-racks to get at the papers in the bottom of the box.  The trays were mounted on a swinging linkage which was obviously meant to swing the trays out of the box in stair-step array, but the pins were rusted fast, and Francis found it necessary to pry them out with a short steel tool from one of the tray compartments.

When Brother Francis had removed the last tray, he touched the papers reverently: only a handful of folded documents here, and yet a treasure; for they had escaped the angry flames of the Simplification, wherein even sacred writings had curled, blackened, and withered into smoke while ignorant mobs howled and hailed it a triumph.  He handled the papers as one might handle holy things, shielding them from the wind with his habit, for all were brittle and cracked from age.  There was a sheaf of rough sketches and diagrams.  There were hand-scribbled notes, two large folded papers, and a small book entitled Memo.

First he examined the jotted notes.  They were scrawled by the same hand that had written the note glued to the lid, and the penmanship was no less abominable.  Pound pastrami, said one note, can kraut, six bagels--bring home for Emma.  Another reminded: Remember--pick up Form 1040, Uncle Revenue.  Another was only a column of figures with a circled total from which a second amount was subtracted and finally a percentage taken, followed by the word damn!  Brother Francis checked the figures; he could find no fault with the abominable penman's arithmetic, at least, although he could deduce nothing about what the quantities might represent.

Memo, he handled with special reverence, because its title was suggestive of "Memorabilia." Before opening it, he crossed himself and murmured the Blessing of Texts.  But the small book proved a disappointment.  He had expected printed matter, but found only a handwritten list of names, places, numbers and dates.  The dates ranged through the latter part of the fifth decade, and earlier part of the sixth decade, twentieth century.  Again it was affirmed!--the contents of the shelter came from the twilight period of the Age of Enlightenment.  An important discovery indeed.

Of the larger folded papers, one was tightly rolled as well, and it began to fall apart when he tried to unroll it; he could make out the words RACING FORM, but nothing more.  After returning it to the box for later restorative work, he turned to the second folded document; its creases were so brittle that he dared inspect only a little of it, by parting the folds slightly and peering between them.

A diagram, it seemed, but--a diagram of white lines on dark paper!

Again he felt the thrill of discovery.  It was clearly a blueprint!--and there was not a single original blueprint left at the abbey, but only inked facsimiles of several such prints.  The originals had faded long ago from overexposure to light.  Never before had Francis seen an original, although he had seen enough handpainted reproductions to recognize it as a blueprint, which, while stained and faded, remained legible after so many centuries because of the total darkness and low humidity in the shelter.  He turned the document over--and felt brief fury.  What idiot had desecrated the priceless paper?  Someone had sketched absentminded geometrical figures and childish cartoon faces all over the back.  What thoughtless vandal--

The anger passed after a moment's reflection.  At the time of the deed, blueprints had probably been as common as weeds, and the owner of the box the probable culprit.  He shielded the print from the sun with his own shadow while trying to unfold it further.  In the lower right-hand corner was a printed rectangle containing, in simple block letters, various titles, dates, "patent numbers," reference numbers, and names.  His eye traveled down the list until it encountered: "CIRCUIT DESIGN BY: Leibowitz, I.E."

He closed his eyes tightly and shook his head until it seemed to rattle.  Then he looked again.  There it was, quite plainly:

CIRCUIT DESIGN BY: Leibowitz, I.E.

The name was written in a clear feminine hand, not in the hasty scrawl of the other notes.  He looked again at the initialed signature of the note in the lid of the box: I.E.L.--and again at "CIRCUIT DESIGN BY. . ." And the same initials appeared elsewhere throughout the notes.

There had been argument, all highly conjectural, about whether the beatified founder of the Order, if finally canonized, should be addressed as Saint Isaac or as Saint Edward.  Some even favored Saint Leibowitz as the proper address, since the Beatus had, until the present, been referred to by his surname.

"Beate Leibowitz, ora pro me!" whispered Brother Francis.  His hands were trembling so violently that they threatened to ruin the brittle documents.

He had uncovered relics of the Saint.



Excerpted from A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.  Copyright (c) 1959 by Walter M. Miller, Jr.  Excerpted by permission of Bantam Books, a division of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.  All rights reserved.  No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Canticle for Leibowitz 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 89 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, is an excellent read. Written in the late 1950s, reading Canticle brings back the every day, never-ending, twenty-four hour threat of world-ending nuclear conflict we lived with during the Cold War. And it reminds us, who were around during those times, upon reading this story, centered around a Catholic monastery and seeing text littered with Latin phrases, the days when Latin 'mother to all the Romance languages' was studied, even in public schools. I couldn't deter the smile that crept across my face, as I learned a character had lost a bet when he had come in second at the game of mumbly peg, a knife throwing contest popular during the middle of the last century prior to the discovery of 'dangerous' lead in paint, hazardous monkeybars, lifesaving seatbelts or XBox 360s. Yes, those were simpler times, when this boy of five could crawl up onto the sturdy and felt-covered shelf behind the rear seats in our four steel-doored 1951 Kaiser sedan and fall asleep bathed in the rays of the mild Arizona winter sun. 'Canticle' which means religious chant, is unabashedly Catholic, as is demonstrated when a brother fights for a natural death of a radioactive and terminally ill mother and daughter pair, rather than give in to the quick, convenient, and no charge 'Soylent Green-style' euthanasia. Canticle also meets another one of my preferred old-school moral criteria for Science Fiction, and that being that there are no sexual copulations within its covers. Canticle is not a Harry Potter 'type' happy ending book, and as Joe Bob Briggs says about good horror movies, 'Anyone can die, at anytime and anyplace.' For a book written almost fifty years ago, author Miller does an excellent job of predicting future technology. And he did not make the mistake I've seen often in mediocre SciFi books, that of centering the majority of the action on the 'predicted' technology, which, if the author has guessed wrong, and when read in later decades simply renders the book just silly. Covering a span of six hundred years on Earth, the book exposes the unrelenting greed, lust for power and pride of a few men that will forever threaten those wishing to live in peace and, if their weapons are sophisticated enough, threaten continued civilization on this planet. Canticle offers to the reader a compelling, effortless writing style that, after a few moments, other than the turning of pages, one doesn't feel like one is reading. It allowed this reader to develop affections for believable characters and presented entirely believable future technologies, while at the same time the strong moral code adhered to by the clergy of the Catholic faith, in this day of anything goes, even for this lapsed Lutheran, was quite refreshing.
JL_Garner More than 1 year ago
Not being a big fan of a.) post-apocalyptic sci-fi, and b.) the Roman Catholic church, I was surprised at how deeply and completely Walter Miller's classic "A Canticle for Liebowitz" drew me into its well-crafted world.

The novel centers on a monastic community in the American southwest which devotes itself to preserving the remaining scraps of Western knowledge following World War III. The novel is divided into three parts: "Fiat Homo," during the depth of the new dark ages, in which an old electrical diagram is found; "Fiat Lux," several centuries later, in which someone figures out how to make a working incandescent light; and "Fiat Voluntas Tua," in which technology finally catches up, and the human race finds itself on the verge of repeating history.

The characters in the first two sections are really well-written and colorful, and the amount of detail put into creating this future world is considerable. Unfortunately the third act feels a bit rushed and prone to broad comedy, whereas the first two segments had an undercurrent of wry wit about them.

Most readers will want to have a good Latin-English dictionary handy (or access to an online translation site like Babelfish), as the book -- written pre-Vatican II -- has a few lines (and one prayer at the beginning of the third act) in Latin.

This is definitely a well-written, engrossing novel, and while the threat of a wipe-out-the-earth nuclear "shooting war" may have passed with the collapse of the Iron Curtain, "Canticle" still makes for a great read.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
"A Canticle for Leibowitz" is a book that defies standard categorization. I suppose it has enough future-world, post-apocalyptic concepts that it falls in the science fiction realm, but it's not your basic laser beam and alien fare. This story goes much deeper. "Canticle" is made up of three stories that span thousands of years. Each story focuses on a distinct time period, looking progressively further into a post-apocalyptic future. The setting is the same abby in the American West, founded to protect and preserve the learnings of the pre-apocalyptic society. Specifically, they've developed a myth around a martyered scientist named Leibowitz. The first story revolves around Brother Francis who accidentally discovers certain original papers created by Leibowitz, including the blue prints for a technological device. The second story centers on a new technological awakening where future theorists come in contact with ancient (modern) technology. The sequence comes full circle in the third story as our future world is faced again with mutual mass destruction. Miller wrote "Canticle" in the late '50s when World War II and the atomic bomb were still visible in the world's rearview mirror and the cold war threat was very much a reality. Much of Millers discourse is on the cyclical nature of cultures and societies, the interconnectivities between religion and science, as well as death and politics. It's clear that much of the evocative emotion stems from Miller's time in the military and a youth grown up during a World War. The story is at times light and humourous but threaded with a very heavy and serious undertone throughout. The root story I found very interesting - how this future-world's archaeology is our modern world's past. I felt that the first two segments of the book were strongest and was only saddened that each couldn't have more ink themselves. In reflecting upon the discoveries of their past, and their promises of hope for the future, Millers writes, "For Man was a culture-bearer as well as a soul-bearer, but his cultures were not immortal and they could die with a race or an age, and then human reflections of meaning and human portrayals of truth receded...Truth could be crucified, but soon, perhaps a resurrection." The development of religion, while always founded in christianity, morphs over the course of the story and we see a mythology grow over time. This book is successful on many levels...as simply an intriguing story with attractive characters, and as literature built upon a foundation of religion and war. It's solid story telling at its best, with heart, emotion and intelligence layered on top of the tale from start to finish.
EmScape on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The message of this book can be summed up by one quote from its last chapter: ¿To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law--a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.¿ It is the story of a civilization once obliterated by nuclear war that lives to evolve into another society that even knowing what was wrought centuries ago, must wrestle with the choice to detonate again. I first tried to read this book in college as part of a humanities course entitled ¿Science Fiction.¿ I believe this was the third or fourth Sci Fi book I ever endeavored to read. I was unable to complete even the first section. The frequent ues of latin words and phrases that are not translated and the descriptions of monastic life assume a familiarity with Catholocism that I did not (and still do not) possess. However, several more years of life experience, and a much more thorough knowledge of Science Fiction has enabled me to at least finish it and, I hope, to glean from it the sentiments I refer to above. I¿m still not a huge fan of the book, but I now understand its place in that curriculum. I¿m not sure I would recommend the text for that purpose, or to anyone who isn¿t better versed in the genre than I am now. A background in Catholicism or at least a course in Latin would also help.
jeffjardine on LibraryThing 11 months ago
It's hard to believe this was written over 50 years ago. The humour has held up incredibly well. The tone of the book inevitably darkens as it progresses. I also found the later characters less interesting. Quite an original book.
Rob1984 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Since I've been on my dystopian kick I picked this beat up copy up. It wasn't what I expected. I don't feel that it was a dystopian novel more a pos apocalyptic one. It was a different take than the other PA novels I've read or heard about. Instead of being about the regrowth of the political system it was more of the rise of the church. I feel that the last fifteen pages summed up the whole gist of the book. That state, often mentioned as Ceaser and the church can not function together as one unit. The most extensive example of this is when the subject of euthanasia comes to the front. Whether or not the body should suffer so the soul can be free or that the physical suffering is too much to bear and the need for euthanasia is needed. All in all I'd say a good novel, if a few pages too long.
theboylatham on LibraryThing 11 months ago

Eight out of ten.

Following a nuclear war that destroyed much of civilization, the monks of the Order of St Leibowitz are the holders of all mankinds retained knowledge. The book follows them through an entire cycle of humanity - from primitive to modern civilization and the challenges they face.The book starts slowly though with enough to make you want to know what's happening. Through each part of the book certain themes and symbols consistently recur which shows no matter how much things change - nothing really changes.

eleanor_eader on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This post-apocalyptic classic took me a long time to read, principally because it was detailed, interesting, and morally and ethically thought-provoking. I will admit, my interest took a bit of a hit at the end of the first third when [spoiler free spoiler¿] the story suddenly shifted focus, but it soon picked up again. I also wasn¿t expecting such insightful depth on the subject of faith, and that, too, made me slow down. I think I¿ve been reading this for almost a fortnight, all together, but have to proclaim it `well worth the time.¿A Canticle for Leibowitz is more or less separated into three stories, each following the monks of the order of Leibowitz through a different period of post-initial-apocalyptic-history. The first part `Fiat Homo¿ (`let there be man¿) was perhaps the easiest part of the book to read; Brother Francis¿s good nature made the story of his vigil and discovery an amusing start, foreshadowing only slightly the cyclical nature of mankind¿s struggle with itself and God, but not really immersed in it¿ instead this part concentrates on the preservation and veneration of ancient but largely inaccessible knowledge. The next two portions of the novel, however, really expect the reader to think about what s/he is reading in order to get satisfaction from the tale.It has been a long time since something I picked up as a `fiction¿ read challenged me this much, and it was with a delighted surprise ¿ it¿s easy to tell why the book was controversial when first published, and why it has attained `classic¿ status. I don¿t know if I¿ll pick up the posthumously published sequel ¿ I rather like the idea of Canticle standing on its own.
BruderBane on LibraryThing 11 months ago
With allegorical allusions to the fall of man, his banishment from Eden and man¿s propensity to repeat this act over and again no matter the age are all central to the ideas brought forth in ¿A Canticle for Leibowitz¿ by Walter M. Miller, Jr. While not exactly my cup of tea, Mr. Miller presents a painfully real civilization after a nuclear holocaust in three widely varied stages. It is this change of scenery that enlivens the novel¿s prose and promotes rather interesting philosophical debate within Mr. Miller¿s work. That I finished this novel while the Antikythera device has been rebuilt was just too good for words.
jlparent on LibraryThing 11 months ago
It may be a classic of SF, but I could not get through it. Found it dull and gave up about 1/2 through.
SimoneA on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the positive side, the ideas in this book are great and the described situation is quite realistic. On the negative side, the book does not work so well as a story. After the first part I was quite excited, because I thought we would learn more about Saint Leibowitz and his past, so I was pretty disappointed by the second part. The third part was better again, but more because of the ideas than because of the story. Another negative was that the language of the book felt quite dated and made the book a bit hard to get through. All in all, I recommend loaning a copy of this book to decide if you love it or not.
SystemicPlural on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Well written and engaging, but also deeply, disturbingly dystopian.
samfsmith on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This is an odd book. Plot and characters take a back seat to the idea - in a sense this is a polemical - the author has something he wants to say and uses the book to say it.Imagine a future where nuclear war has knocked civilization back to a dark age where knowledge is being preserved by monasteries, much as it was in the original dark ages. Except the knowledge is incomplete and often misunderstood. The novel is divided into three smaller books that are hundreds of years apart and share no characters, tracing the re-emergence of civilization and the way history repeats itself.Because of this blocky treatment where character and plot are subservient I don't think this is a very successful book.
wester on LibraryThing 11 months ago
An inquiry into the interaction of knowledge and morals in a post-apocalyptic world.Although the theme is very interesting, I found it sometimes hard to read, and the story sometimes goes all over the place.
Cyss on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Intriguing. A book you need to read more than one time.
Skribe on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Wonderful. A myth, a fable for our times. Though written in the depths of 1950's atomic paranoia, Miller was able to concoct a clear, cynical, yet empathetic, funny, almost Vonnegut-like tone that would be hard to duplicate. And apparently he wasn't able to. Part of the bittersweet quality of reading this is that he spent the rest of his life with writer's block and ultimately committed suicide, though was able to write a sequel just before the end. Though I've heard it's not as good (and how could it be?) I'm really looking forward to it.
Karlus on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Elegant post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi that spans across Novel-of-Ideas better than any other Sci-Fi I have read. From a Stone Age that follows the flaming end of this, our very own civilization, this story follows the milllenia of recovery to a futurist society remarkably like our own again. This book, of very rounded characters and plausible scenes and settings of alternative history, traces the struggle of a small group of people to maintain past moral verities through all adversity and against the forward advancement of civilization. And the consequences of man's foolishness may finally break your heart. Highly recommended for anyone who has any sort of conscience at all. In short, I hope everyone.
sullijo on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Comparing the United States to the Roman Empire seems to be a fashionable thing to do lately. And the argument is certainly not without merit. As the only superpower left its natural to make judgments based on the worlds great empires and to ask if we are making the same mistakes that caused their downfalls. The real question, of course, is whether we can learn from history in order to avoid those same mistakes.Which is just another way to say that I recently read A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, Jr. Published in 1960, the book may be best described as a work of ¿Catholic science fiction.¿ It follows the travails of a monastery in a post-apocalyptic world where, following a massive nuclear war, humanity turns against intellectuals and learning in a great ¿Simplification.¿ Books are burned, universities torn down and the general populace intentionally becomes illiterate in the hopes that another ¿Flame Deluge¿ may be averted. The monks of the Albertian Order of Leibowitz (ironically, and unintentionally, abbreviated to AOL) have been charged with protecting what writings they are able to smuggle into their great collection (the ¿Memorabilia¿) in the hope that humanity might one day be ready to accept them again.The book is divided into three sections, each separated by 600 years. The first deals with a young postulant¿s discovery of relics of Blessed Leibowitz, whose cause for canonization has been opened. The second chronicles the arrival at the monastery of Thon Taddeo, the age¿s greatest secular thinker, and the world¿s re-discovery of the treasures hidden there. In the last part humanity is once again threatened by the re-development of nuclear weapons and the Church must decide how best to preserve the world¿s knowledge and ensure the survival of future generations.One of Miller¿s main themes is the cyclical nature of history: in forgetting its own past, the world inadvertently makes its second annihilation possible. Miller makes a fairly explicit comparison between ignorance and violence on the one hand and knowledge and peace on the other. The tribal factions of the outside world are constantly at odds, fighting over territory, food and other resources. They are unable to work together and, as a result, can build nothing of lasting value.Yet there is still hope in the form of community. By maintaining their connection to the past ¿ by remembering who they are and passing on that knowledge to future generations ¿ the monks are able to keep their charge for over 1200 years while, all around them, empires rise, reign and fall. It is the thankless dedication of generations of monks that allows humanity to pull itself from a second Dark Age.The book also highlights the perennial struggle between science¿s pursuit of fact, the state¿s pursuit of power and faith¿s search for truth. This is especially evident in the second part, during which Thon Thaddeo is at odds with the Order over access to the Memorabilia (he wants to relocate the archive to make them more readily accessible to other scientists) and in the third part in which the state sanctions euthanasia camps for radiation victims. How the monks deal with these threats to their mission says a great deal about how and why the Church pursues knowledge (as opposed to science and the state).Although it met with mixed reaction upon its release, A Canticle for Leibowitz went on to win a Hugo Award and is now considered a modern classic in science fiction. I highly recommend it to any fan of the genre or anyone interested in the mission of the Church, even in the most trying of times.
ksmyth on LibraryThing 11 months ago
A Canticle for Leibowitz is classic science fiction, a post apocalyptic story set in the American west. The book follows the tale of a Catholic order founded on the post-apocalyptic St. Leibowitz through three stories, progressively further removed from the Flame Deluge or nuclear holocaust that destroyed earth in the late 20th century. I particularly enjoyed the first two chapters. Their protagonists for some reasons resonated with me, even though they both died at the end. I also liked following the tale of the order and mankind's "progress" from near starvation to a sense of some sort of order. The final chapter I had a hard time with, perhaps because it was a bit to cliche, as man seemed too willing to fail to follow the lessons of history and repeat his mistakes and suffer the catastrophic consequences. Lots of interesting word play, lots of Latin. It is worth a second read and I don't say that about many books.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The novel consists of three linked novellas, spanning over a thousand years, about a post-apocalyptic monastery in Utah devoted to "Saint Leibowitz" and to preserving knowledge. Through the book we watch the arc of humanity and civilization, fall, rise, fall... You might think this is a depressing book, but it's filled with a great deal of dark humor. (Holy relics include Leibowitz's shopping list and an illuminated copy of an electronic circuit is decorated with interweaving, climbing vines.) It's rather unusual in science fiction for the sympathetic treatment of religion, but I never found it preachy. (Lots of untranslated Latin though--my knowledge of Spanish might have helped, but I was able to puzzle out enough from the context I never felt a need to go find a Latin dictionary.) The book certainly has impact, examining philosophical issues of religion and science, faith and reason, and the stubborn, cyclical nature of humanity.
danconsiglio on LibraryThing 11 months ago
I was worried that I had missed my chance of reading this during the Cold War. The blurb on the Internet said that it was a remarkable blah blah about the horrors of the aftermath of two nations' nuclear blah. The blurb was totally wrong.Sure the story is a post-apocalyptic set after a conflict that looks like one of the more feared possible outcomes of the Cold War, but that's only the first page or two. It very quickly returns to a world marred by the very real and disconcertingly circular failures of humanity. The Cold War is just a prop, quickly discarded once Miller gets the attention of the aliens and lazer guns crowd. It's a dirty trick, but I'm glad he plays it.A Canticle for Leibowitz is a gut twisting exploration of humanity on an individual as well as a collective level. I don't just write that because I have a fancy degree in reading fancy stuff. Miller asks his readers horrible, horrible questions and then demonstrates that humans have to answer these questions if they want to make any claim having a soul. As an atheist these questions and their implications are not at all comfortable and Miller does not give up. He hounds his readers, showing them glimpses of the kinds of people who answer in different ways. He shows that nobility does not necessarily lead to pleasant fates or religious Grace. He doesn't let his characters or his readers off his hook. He doesn't seem to let himself off the hook even. Dude killed himself not too long ago, and I can't help but wonder if he stopped liking his own answers to the questions he poses in his writing.That, my friends, is a friggin' BOOK!
briandarvell on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This book shocked me with the great story and characters the entire time. What a ride! This is definitely going on my pile of books to reread. The story uses a setting of a post-apocalyptic Earth to venture in on the debate between religion and secularism. The argument between technological progress and the human capacity to be able to deal with such new technologies is also a large part of the discussion. Intertwined within these deep issues is a story fabulous in intricacy and character. I highly recommend this book.
amandacb on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Oh, man, did I ever want to LOVE this book. The plot sounded just up my alley, especially since dystopia books are my absolute favorite. It was a very slow beginning, and I made it about 3/4 of the way through before I gave up. The action, what little there is, is just too slowly churned out. I will give this another read over the summer when I have more time and patience.
SwampIrish on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Even though this book falls well within my recent fascination with post-apocalyptic fiction, the post-apocalypse isn't handled in the standard way. Walter Miller has taken a 1000 foot view of mankind after nuclear war by telling three intimate tales of monks in the order of Saint Leibowitz. This monastic order has taken upon itself the task of saving the scraps of the previous civilization called by them 'memorabilia'. The overarching theme of the book is the nature of man and his proclivity for building up 'Edens' though literacy and scientific discovery, only to tear them down again because they will never be like the original. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. With pure literary brushstrokes, Miller has painted the falleness of man.
LaurieRKing on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Extraordinary to see that this sci-fi was published in 1959 - reading it, you begin to see where the Sixties came from.