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Winner of the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Novel and widely considered one of the most accomplished, powerful, and enduring classics of modern speculative fiction, Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz is a true landmark of twentieth-century literature—a chilling and still provocative look at a post-apocalyptic future.In a nightmarish ruined world slowly awakening tWinner of the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Novel and widely considered one of the most accomplished, powerful, and enduring classics of modern speculative fiction, Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz is a true landmark of twentieth-century literature—a chilling and still provocative look at a post-apocalyptic future.In a nightmarish ruined world slowly awakening to the light after sleeping in darkness, the infant rediscoveries of science are secretly nourished by cloistered monks dedicated to the study and preservation of the relics and writings of the blessed Saint Isaac Leibowitz. From here the story spans centuries of ignorance, violence, and barbarism, viewing through a sharp, satirical eye the relentless progression of a human race damned by its inherent humanness to recelebrate its grand foibles and repeat its grievous mistakes. Seriously funny, stunning, and tragic, eternally fresh, imaginative, and altogether remarkable, A Canticle for Leibowitz retains its ability to enthrall and amaze. It is now, as it always has been, a masterpiece....

Title : a canticle for leibowitz
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ISBN : 15705314
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a canticle for leibowitz Reviews

  • Manny
    2019-03-05 08:19

    I'm not a Christian, but I live in a Christian society, and it's all around me. Reviewing on Goodreads brings home how many authors can be classified as some kind of Christian apologist. I have very different reactions to them. At one end, I can't stand most of C.S. Lewis - I feel he's there with his foot in the door trying to sell me something, and I'm just hoping that I can get him to take his foot away without being openly rude. At the opposite end, I think Dante is a genius, and that The Divine Comedy is one of the greatest books ever written.A Canticle for Leibowitz is towards the positive end of this spectrum. It's a post World War III novel, where most of the US is a radioactive wasteland, and civilization has more or less collapsed. The only people who still keep any of the lost heritage of the past are a few scattered monasteries. The book tracks the history of one of these monasteries over the course of several hundred years. It's low-key, moving, and often surprisingly funny. Everything is informed by the simple, unquestioning faith shown by the monks. They don't know why they're doing what they are doing, other than that it must be God's will. The author shows you the ridiculous aspects of the story - I particularly liked the illuminated parchments of circuit diagrams decorated with vines and cherubim. And yet he is totally on the monks' side, and after a while the reader is as well. They're doing something important, even though they don't know what it is, and it makes their lives deep and meaningful. Even when they die horrible deaths (several of them do), they do it with dignity, knowing that it's the price that needs to be paid. If Christianity were always like this, I guess I'd be a Christian too. It's a lovely book, that will leave you feeling better about people.

  • Stephen
    2019-03-09 08:25

    Odd as it sounds, this is hot toddy, warm blanket comfort food for me. Admittedly, that’s not the typical description of this cynical, bleak-themed, post-apocalyptic SF classic. However, the easy, breezy style with which Miller explores his melancholy material manages to pluck smiles from me whenever I pick it up. This go around, I listened to the audio version which was recently released it was as mood brightening an experience as my previous read through.Despite dealing with dark, somber subject matter and ultimately ending on a tragic crescendo of “humanity is stupid, savage and screwed,” the journey of the novel is so filled with engaging characters and genuine humor that the surrounding depression and moroseness of the narrative theme just can’t seem to grab hold of you. At least, it never laid an accusing finger on me.Canticle is broken up into 3 Sections, each taking place approximately 6 centuries apart. Beginning in the 26th century, 600 years after the Flame Deluge when nuclear buffoonery laid waste to civilization, the central focus of the story is a Roman Catholic monastery founded by a Jewish weapons engineer for the purpose of safeguarding and preserving human knowledge. Shortly after the geniuses of the 20th Century decided to light up the globe like Hell's own 4th of July, the surviving residents of Planet “radiation burn” decided that brains and books were overrated and followed up the Flame Deluge with the Simplification, whereby they roasted all of the books (along with any person smart enough to read or write one). Isaac Leibowitz, after being part of the military machinery that microwaved the planet, made it his mission in life to try and preserve knowledge for the future. Thus the Albertian Order of Leibowitz was founded. The first third of the book introduces us to the post apocalyptic world and gives a back-story on the Flame Deluge and the mission of the Order of Leibowitz. Located in what was the Southwestern United States, the Order tracks down and smuggles 20th century “memorabilia” into the abbey (a process known as “booklegging”) while trying to avoid being killed (and possibly eaten) by the self-described “Simpletons” roaming the wastelands. The next section of the book takes place in the 32nd Century and shows humanity finally emerging out of the dark ages of the Simplification and beginning to once again embrace the knowledge. This section focuses primarily on the growing feud between the resurgent secular scientists and the Church over the control and distribution of technology. Similar to our own renaissance period, the story describes science and natural law going toe-to-toe with the info hoarding monks as powerful city-states run by warlords play both sides for advantage. Finally, in the 38th Century, the last section of the book shows humanity once again in the full flower of its technological brilliance and historical stupidity ready to give the Earth another nuclear facial (Note:I was going to use "atomic facial," but the Urban Dictionary makes that term very inappropriate here). War is coming and the forces of history are once again driving humanity like cattle towards the abattoir. Thus we see the overarching theme of Miller’s masterpiece; the cyclical nature of history. Miller’s moral: as a species we are too stupid not to truly learn from our past blunders and are doomed to continue to screw the pooch and the planet with our giant, atomic phalluses. I know, not exactly a cheery, pump it up pep talk. However, the tone and the narrative style are anything but dreary. Miller does a wonderful job creating a world that is large and mysterious and yet instantly recognizable and relatable. His characters are flawed, genuine and mostly decent and live through their times with a sense of purpose and optimism that belies the smothering embrace of history as it squeezes events into an all too familiar pattern. Miller’s ability to write brightly of such bleakness is truly extraordinary. The story is dark, fatalistic and filled with pessimism yet the prose is light, hopeful and filled with optimism. The word bitter never comes to mind. In addition to the overriding theme of history’s wheel-like pattern, Miller touches on other serious issues such as euthanasia and the right to life, the place of art in society and the nature of war itself. This is a towering science fiction work, but Miller’s messages are deftly delivered behind a humorous, engaging future history. In sum, this book is a light touch of morale outrage. It’s a cozy warning of man’s stupidity. It’s a warm, comforting “blankie” for our inner cynic to snuggle with while we wait for the shoe/anvil to drop. Enjoy!! 5.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!! Winner: Hugo Award Best Science Fiction Novel (1961)

  • Lyn
    2019-03-01 08:26

    Brilliant. A centuries old story following the evolving world after an apocalypse and centered on the monks of St. Leibowitz, somewhere in the American southwest. The monks keep ancient artifacts of science and technology. Funny, sad, brutal, irreverent at times, but doggedly hopeful in its underlying themes, this is a science fiction gem but really transcends the genre to make a greater statement. Scholars and critics have explored the many themes encompassed in the novel, frequently focusing on its motifs of religion, recurrence, and church versus state. Miller also uses some recurring elements to help bind the stories together, demonstrating exceptional imagination and virtuosity.Miller has crafted a very good book, enjoyable for any science fiction fan and a well written work of fiction besides.

  • Tedb0t
    2019-03-14 07:16

    I read this immediately following another well-known 1950s apocalyptic / nuclear holocaust novel "Alas, Babylon." That book, which I gave 4 stars to, was an excellent story and made no pretensions to literature; its prose was plain and transparent. The novel in question, "A Canticle for Leibowitz," turned out to be one of the most irritating kinds of genre sci-fi: one with ambitions to beauty and importance that falls far short of the mark.Now, I hate to put it that way, because I would never criticize anyone for trying. But this is one of those genre novels that somehow attained notoriety for being a step closer to literature than the typical pap, and if we're going to talk about it on that level, I have a lot to criticize it for.The story is vague, confusing, unfocused, and seems to have some half-baked theme about religious ("objective") morality versus cultural ("subjective") morality. I mean, if it actually had something cogent to say, I would find it more interesting whether or not I agreed with it. But instead, this is another long-winded fiction novel that ambiguously proposes "questions" or moral opinions without enough plot or character to make it interesting.The novel started off OK, and the general premise seemed interesting enough: the future history of man hundreds and thousands of years after a nuclear holocaust. I can understand the importance and relevance in a time when holocaust loomed large--and I'm not saying that threat has ceased to exist--and it's likely that the story influenced many minds on the epic horror that such a disaster would wreak on humanity. But the novel as written doesn't do justice to the scope he sets out to tackle.

  • Megan Baxter
    2019-03-21 05:58

    A Canticle for Leibowitz is Catholic science fiction, clearly written in the aftermath of Hiroshima and the shadow of the Cold War. It is mesmerizing, drawing on history and speculating on the future, focused around a small monastery in the American Southwest. It is also profoundly pessimistic about the fate of man and the inevitability of nuclear war. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  • J.L. Sutton
    2019-03-20 01:16

    Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz is imaginative and thought-provoking. I enjoyed reading it and enjoyed it even more during a second go. While this work has very little in common with Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series (in terms of setting or character or even plot), I kept being reminded of Asimov's classic. Miller presents a primitive post apocalyptic world in which knowledge has been stowed away in a monastery (in what used to be Utah). This monastery might not be the far end of the universe, but in the context of the three interconnected stories which form Canticle it may as well be. This is a time, at least in the first tale, in which the earlier era of learning and much of the knowledge of the war itself is lost. Gaining understanding from this storehouse is no easy feat. Despite a number of centuries separating each of the three stories, Miller links the stories (and advancements in learning) in an interesting way; this in turn pushes the narrative forward in a sort of cyclical history. What Miller is suggesting by this repeated history is both disturbing and ambiguous; however, the increasingly dark humor he attaches to the narrative somehow also makes it quite entertaining. 4.5 Stars.

  • Jan-Maat
    2019-03-09 09:17

    This is a story about humanity. It was born of the author's experiences taking part in the destruction of the monastery of Monte Cassino during WWII and the reasonable fear of nuclear annihilation that haunted many people for many years. If in The Day of the Triffids there is a certain gladness on the part of the author that a society they didn't much like has been destroyed by a bright comet and wandering killer plants and now they can get on with rebuilding a new order much more to their own taste, then in this book there is more a search through faith for forgiveness and meaning. Monte Cassino can be rebuilt in the author's imagination. A new order of monks can, will, must, repeat the Benedictine mission. There is absolution for the author. Man is sinful, God is love. God's love is so incomprehensibly generous that Grace is freely offered through the Catholic Church to the sinful creatures that can, will, must apparently, repeatedly destroy Monte Cassino.Every age has its own fears. Miller's version of a nuclear war sufficiently destructive enough to end civilisation and create a few mutants but not so devastating as to end all life on the planet seems to me to be something that was only a prospect for a few brief years after the end of WWII. In that sense the story aged as rapidly as the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Perhaps the world turn upside down fantasies of J. G. Ballard or Brian Aldiss are better suited to our current situation when environmental change and the end of an oil economy offers the unenticing promise of an alien future.This is a book born out of guilt and the threat of nuclear annihilation in the 50s. The book consists of three moments imagined by Miller from the future history of a world that has survived the above mentioned moderately destructive nuclear war. Each moment is a separate story, each taking place largely in the same monastery. Just as the Catholic Church survived the fall of the Roman Empire and played a role in the development of new polities and civilisations so we see over the course of three stories, each separated in time, the renewal or redevelopment of an increasingly sophisticated society. Essentially this is St.Augustine updated. The earthy Rome, the earthly city has fallen and will fall repeatedly because of man's inherent sinfulness, the city of God, however lives on offering the hope of Salvation. A hope which in the final story is to be offered out beyond our planet to other worlds.Each story is centred on the monastery, and it's monks, who are devoted to the memory of Leibowitz, a figure so obscure that we never get to learn how he came to be regarded as holy. In the first story scraps from the pre-nuclear period are regarded as relics and a monk spends years creating an illuminated copy of a blueprint. By the time of the second story set hundreds of years later new nation states have emerged in what was the USA. Then in the final story complex technological states dominate the world which stands again on the brink of a catastrophic war. While humanity in Miller's vision is stuck in a self-destructive cycle the Church continues to offer hope of redemption and freedom from the inherent sin that perpetuates the vicious circle. The centrality of the Church as only provider of salvation on Earth is underlined by the names of the Abbots, the first begins with an A the last with a Z. The church is the Alpha and Omega, Christ's earthly body. Possibly this is where the Wandering Jew comes in. He appears in each of the three stories. The story goes that the poor fellow was doomed to wander until the second coming of Christ. This event might be taking place at the end of the final story with the pregnant woman who seems to be something both of a Mary and an Eve - this is a very Christian and specifically pre-Vatican II Catholic post apocalyptic story. I find this book less impressive each time I go back to it. Ideally I should have read it once and never seen it again. The chapter titles Fiat Homo, Fiat Lux, Fiat Voluntas Tua like the names of the abbots seem at first clever but like the B Sharps in The Simpsons episode the cleverness wears thin at a steady rate. And, yes, Fiat Lux (Let there be light) is the chapter in which the light bulb is rediscovered. There is also my unwarranted dislike of the fact that the monk in the first story faints so often. I'm not familiar with pre-Vatican II or US-Catholic culture so I'm sure a lot is passing me by - like the significance of the Wandering Jew (actually a reference that I find disturbing), or the use of Latin. But ultimately this is an extremely constrained and bleak vision. Although Monte Cassino is rebuilt by the earnest child, the mirthful toddler will knock the blocks down again, and again and again. The final story in a way makes this worse. Now not only is life on Earth a scratched record jumping back to the beginning, repeatedly but this same pattern is now going to be stamped on other worlds throughout the universe.

  • Apatt
    2019-03-22 02:27

    “Have we no choice but to play the Phoenix in an unending sequence of rise and fall?Are we doomed to it, Lord, chained to the pendulum of our own mad clockwork, helpless to halt its swing?”Looks like we are, at least according to Walter M. Miller Jr.A Canticle for Leibowitz is a bona fide sci-fi classic, you'd be hard pressed to find a list of “all-time great sci-fi novels” without it. I remember being given a copy of this book in my teens when I was starting to become a serious sci-fi fan. I was quite intrigued by the first few pages but soon found myself unable to maintain my interest in the narrative, due to the complex prose and my inability—at the time—to appreciate the nuances. The likes of Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein were much more accessible for me at the time. I gave “Canticle” up around page 50 and today I spotted some grey hairs on my head (just a few you know) and thought “Aha! Perhaps I’m ready for Leibowitz now!”It is not hard to see why A Canticle for Leibowitz is generally regarded as a sci-fi classic, it is so rich with themes and nuances and leaves you with much to ponder after finishing it. Whether it is fun to read is another matter. Does fiction even need to be fun? That would be up to the reader I guess. Certainly in the subgenre of post-apocalypse fiction it is one of the greats, but if you are looking for something likeThe Hunger Games you'd be barking up the wrong tree. This book is as non-YA as you can get.The novel is made up of three interconnected novellas, each one set 600 years apart.1. “Fiat Homo” (Let There Be Man)This first part of A Canticle for Leibowitz is set in America 600 years after a global nuclear apocalypse. The world is in a primitive state and technology is the stuff of legend. A hapless young monk Brother Francis meets a mysterious “pilgrim with girded loins” who leads him to discovery of an underground fallout shelter container documents and memos from the 20th century, some of these were ostensibly written by Isaac Edward Leibowitz, the founder of the monastic “Albertian Order of Leibowitz” to which Brother Francis belongs. This caused a sensation and eventually leads to the Church’s canonization of Saint Leibowitz.2. “Fiat Lux”(Let There Be Light)Set 600 years after the events of “Fiat Homo”. Scientific (re)discoveries are just beginning, much of it is based on the notes by Isaac Leibowitz. Various tribes are also beginning to make war3. “Fiat Voluntas Tua” (Let Thy Will Be Done)Again 600 years since the previous story. Now civilization is back in full swing, the level of tech is actually more advanced than the previous pre-apocalypse one; humanity has achieved interstellar travel by this time. Unfortunately, the more things change the more they stay the same, so the cyclical nature of human history means that we are once again about to blow each other up.Charmingly "on the nose" book cover.All three parts feature a different protagonist (as they are 600 years apart). All three are members of the Albertian Order of Leibowitz. Of the three Brother Francis is the most memorable due to his fecklessness and wide-eyed innocence. The other two protagonists are abbots and quite formidable.A “pilgrim with girded loins” appears in all three parts. There are hints that he may be the immortal, mythicalWandering Jew . However, there is nothing overtly supernatural in the novel so the three pilgrims can also be considered different characters. I do love the mystical aspect of the book, several events in it can be interpreted as supernatural, but hey can also be rationalized away. Walter M. Miller was a catholic and he portrays the Catholic Church as a sort of last bastion of human civilization. Certainly the Albertian Order of Leibowitz is the single monastery that ensures the survival of human knowledge, and even humanity itself.There is plenty of food for thought in A Canticle for Leibowitz, while the book is written from a Catholic viewpoint the book is not about Catholicism and Miller leaves many issues for the readers to decide for themselves. I believe the central theme of the book is Man’s tendency for self-destruction. Miller offers organized religion as a beacon of hope in dark times but he does not seem to demand that the readers accept this. Certain religious viewpoints are also called into questions and some strong secular arguments are put forward by some of the characters who are non-believers. I have no real criticism of the book, it is well paced and it never really becomes dull, but there are some passages that seem quite convoluted and a chore to get through*. Personally, I don’t think it is a “fun read” as such (though there are the occasional funny moments and ironic humour scattered around). I think it is sufficiently rewarding to be worth the effort, and on that basis, I can recommend it.___________________________* Say What? Ineffable Quotes:“If the creature is the name, then the name is the creature. ‘Equals may be substituted for equals,’ or ‘The order of an equality is reversible,’ but may we proceed to the next axiom? If ‘Quantities equal to the same quantity may substitute for each other’ is true, then is there not some ‘same quantity’ which both name and diagram represent? Or is it a closed system?”“There was objective meaning in the world, to be sure: the nonmoral logos or design of the Creator; but such meanings were God’s and not Man’s, until they found an imperfect incarnation, a dark reflection, within the mind and speech and culture of a given human society, which might ascribe values to the meanings so that they became valid in a human sense within the culture. 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, and truth and meaning resided, unseen, only in the objective logos of Nature and the ineffable Logos of God. Truth could be crucified; but soon, perhaps, a resurrection.”___________________________NoteThere are quite a few Latin passages in this book. These are your options:• Use an online or offline translation app.• Use a dictionary of some kind.• Use your Latin-fu, if any.• Look up Wikipedia’s page for this book, or other online guides.• Ignore the damn things and hope for the best.I picked the last option though you will undoubtedly have a richer understanding of the novel if you understand all the Latin shenanigans.

  • Stuart
    2019-03-18 05:09

    A Canticle for Leibowitz: Are we doomed to destroy ourselves time after time?(Listened to the audiobook since so many readers disagreed with my view. Lengthy comments at Fantasy Literature)This 1959 Hugo-winning SF classic is certainly an odd fish in the genre. It’s central character is the Order of Saint Leibowitz that survives after the nuclear holocaust (the Flame Deluge), and the story spans over a thousand years as humanity seems determined to repeat its mistakes and destroy itself over and over, with the help of science and technology, while this small group of monks strives to preserve ancient knowledge amid the collapse of civilization.Many readers consider this book a powerful cautionary tale warning against nuclear conflict and the dangers of science. It is certainly well-written, and there are many light-hearted moments in the monks’ lives that bely the serious moral themes of the story. The first part of the book, “Fiat Homo” (Let There Be Man), is the best in my opinion, the story of the small abbey in the American Southwest desert dedicated to Isaac Leibowitz, an engineer who secretly preserved books and knowledge and was martyred in the backlash against science following the Flame Deluge. A young novice Brother Francis discovers an ancient fallout shelter that contains many relics that may have belonged to Leibowitz himself. This discovery causes an uproar as it may interfere with the canonization process of Leibowitz, and results in New Rome sending investigators to examine the relics, and eventually Brother Francis himself is sent to convey these relics to New Rome and present them to the Pope. He encounters a number of setbacks along the way, but manages to make it to New Rome. He learns something of the power structure of the Church, and is tasked with returning to retrieve something that was taken by thieves, but again things don’t work out as planned. The ending of this story is both tragic and ironic.The second part “Fiat Lux” (Let There Be Light) takes place over five centuries later, as the Albertian Order of Saint Leibowitz continues to preserve the various pre-Deluge documents, although they are poorly understood. In the 32nd century, mankind is just starting to rediscover scientific knowledge, and the story revolves around Thon Taddeo, a secular scholar who is intensely interested in the relics and other knowledge preserved by the abbey of St. Leibowitz. He asks the abbey to pass the Memorabilia to his care in the city-state of Texarkana, which is ruled by the ambitious Hannegan. The abbey refuses, insisting that Taddeo come to study them. Reluctantly he agrees to come and meets Brother Kornhoer, who has independently developed a treadmill-powered electrical generator to power a lamp. This is one of the funniest images, of a group of sweating monks pumping away at the generator to provide enough electrical light for Thon Taddeo to study documents in the library. The clash in attitudes between the knowledge-hungry Taddeo and the innocent scientific experiments of the monks forms the main part of the narrative, but the remainder features all the political scheming of Hannegan to dominate the surrounding city-states by playing them against each other. These political machinations were tedious and distracted from the story of Taddeo and the monks.The third part "Fiat Voluntas Tua" (Let Thy Will Be Done) I disliked intensely and it negatively affected my view of the whole book. Again we move forward six centuries and mankind has again developed advanced technology including spaceships, colonies on other planets, and nuclear weapons. The world is dominated by two superpowers, the Asian Coalition and the Atlantic Confederacy, who have locked in a cold war for many decades. This time our main characters are abbot Dom Zerchi, who recommends to New Rome that the Church put into motion a secret plan to send a group of priests into space to carry on the mission of the Church in case the world is destroyed again by nuclear conflict, and Brother Joshua, the man tapped to lead this mission. As tensions rise a limited nuclear exchange occurs, producing thousands of fallout victims. Many of these are taken into the abbey of Dom Zerchi, who has a heated debate on euthanasia with a secular doctor treating the refugees, who insists that it is more merciful to administer death to those suffering from fatal dosages, while Dom Zerchi refuses to go along with this, insisting that lives are sacred even when there is no hope, regardless of the physical suffering. His attitude really upset me, since I strongly sympathized with the doctor’s position and couldn’t understand the religious arguments against euthanasia. The three sections of the novel each mirror separate stages of our own history, with “Fiat Homo” showing the Church preserving knowledge even as society falls into chaos and savagery. In “Fiat Lux” we see the rebirth of knowledge and culture, and in “Fiat Voluntas Tua” we see developments akin to our current world, with an adulation of material wealth and technology, along with a decline in spiritual belief. A Canticle of Leibowitz certainly is a skillful depiction of the cyclical nature of history, as humanity grows in knowledge and technology, only to overreach itself and destroy what has been so carefully built up. However, despite the undeniably ingenious structure of the stories and skillful writing, I strongly disagreed with the ideas and conclusions of the author. First of all, I do not buy the image of the Catholic Church as the last protector and repository of science and knowledge as secular society crumbles around it. It’s ironic that the book lovingly describes the noble efforts of these selfless monks to preserve civilization for millenia, but is that the role played by the Church in Europe over the last dozen centuries? When I first posted my initial review of Canticle on Fantasy Literature, I got a spirited response with a lot of dissenting opinions, specifically that I did not understand the Catholic Church’s role in the history of Europe, and I’ll be the first to admit that I am fairly ignorant in that area. While I am aware that the Church and monasteries have preserved many kinds of knowledge for centuries, is that not a very selective process in which any ideas that were opposed to Catholic ideology were expunged? Has the Church not repeatedly challenged and suppressed critics of its policies and positions? Does the author seriously suggest the Church has always been firmly on the side of wisdom and intellectual freedom, whereas science and technology have done more harm than good? Perhaps he conveniently forgot about Galileo and Copernicus, not to mention the shameful atrocities committed during the Crusades and Inquisitions, and by the Conquistadors?Another important point raised by other readers was that I should make a distinction between the Catholic Church and Christianity in general, as although the Church may claim to be the only legitimate church of Christ, there is a whole other world of Protestants who pursue their faith in a different way, without all the sacraments, Eucharist, confessionals, and most importantly, without any Roman Papacy dictating what people should believe. I am an atheist without any attraction to religion, but I would be far more receptive to the Protestant belief in a direct relationship with God than having to go through some intermediary in order to be baptized and avoid burning in the fires of Hell. That’s just ridiculous, as far as I’m concerned.So for me I was turned off by its anti-science, pro-Catholic agenda. Or was he contrasting individual belief with organized religion? The various monks in Canticle are depicted in a very sympathetic light, while secular governments and politicians are shown as power-hungry and destined to bring mankind to destruction amid nuclear holocaust. Does that mean we should abandon secular government in favor of religious rule? Would anyone in their right mind want either the Roman Catholic Church or any of the Islamic states to have control of our affairs? I’d rather be dead and gone before that comes to pass.That’s what makes this book so confounding. The author seems to have a very dark and despairing view of mankind’s inability to avoid destroying itself, which was a very topical subject when it was written during the Cold War, but grafting on this story of Catholic monks valiantly protecting the flame of knowledge in a post-apocalyptic future just didn’t work for me at all. I can agree with the author that science always presents the dangers of wielding powers that can destroy us, but it is up to ourselves (not a divine being who, even if it does exist, is obviously indifferent to our sordid affairs after that brilliant moment of initial creation) to harness science to positive use. Whether our current materialism is due to a lack of spirituality is certainly a valid debate, but for me I seek beauty in the natural world, and find much to admire in human endeavors, not the least of which are literature and art, and much to despise as well. But I choose not to seek betterment through religions. I like the approach of Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein, who both have found a form of spirituality in their observations of our incredible universe and the quantum world, both of which produce an awe in me that could be viewed as spiritual. There are an infinite number of future outcomes for global civilization, but the events of Canticle do not strike me as plausible. I would highly recommend Edgar Pangborn's Davy as a counter-argument to this viewpoint. Neal Stephenson’s Anathem is also a very different take on this, with learned monks surviving many millennia into the future preserving knowledge, but with the twist of mostly being dedicated to science and mathematics rather than religion. In fact, I see an extremely interesting discussion arising from a comparison of A Canticle for Leibowitz and Anathem, which means I better read Anathem to the end and write a comparison review. That could easily become a doctoral thesis, no?Does anyone out there really expect the current religions of the world to lead mankind to greater peace and prosperity in the coming centuries and millennia? I for one do not, though the majority of the human race still claims membership with organized religions. Science and technology are only as beneficial as those who control them, so responsibility for their use lies completely in our hands. Considering that we have managed to survive for almost 70 years since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we’ve done remarkably well despite the legitimate fears of a generation of SF writers. Our current world faces a host of problems, including environmental destruction, overpopulation, and most tellingly continued religious conflicts (mainly involving Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), but we have certainly avoided the most egregious scenarios imagined by writers after WWII. As it stands now, the biggest threat to humanity's future is named Donald J. Trump.

  • Markus
    2019-03-22 07:58

    This is essentially a book about knowledge.What happens to the human life that survives beyond the destruction of the world?In the ruins of what was once the United States of America, the Order of Saint Leibowitz works relentlessly to discover and preserve bits and pieces of knowledge from the time prior to the Flame Deluge. And when Brother Francis of Utah stumbles across a series of ancient writings by the holy Leibowitz himself, the discovery starts a chain of events that spans centuries of the creation and life of a new world…A Canticle for Leibowitz is divided into three parts. The first follows the desperate search for the knowledge of a lost world. The second follows the rise and expansion of new kingdoms in a world coming out of the dark ages. The third takes mankind to the brink of annihilation once more.Again, it is more than anything a book about knowledge. It follows the gathering and the use of knowledge after it has been lost. It explores the themes of truth, science, thought and religion, and in doing so becomes a postapocalyptic masterpiece.And finally, Walter J. Miller’s description of the apocalypse must be the most gorgeous account of any horrible event ever written:And the prince smote the cities of his enemies with the new fire, and for three days and nights did his great catapults and metal birds rain wrath upon them. Over each city a sun appeared and was brighter than the sun of heaven, and immediately that city withered and melted as wax under the torch, and the people thereof did stop in the streets and their skins smoked and they became as fagots thrown on the coals. And when the fury of the sun had faded, the city was in flames; and a great thunder came out of the sky, like the great battering-ram PIK-A-DON, to crush it utterly. Poisonous fumes fell over all the land, and the land was aglow by night with the afterfire and the curse of the afterfire which caused a scurf on the skin and made the hair to fall and the blood to die in the veins.

  • Jennifer (aka EM)
    2019-03-08 03:15

    ETA 09/03/13: Cloud Atlas to the reading path, below.-----I was conceived somewhere late summer/early fall of 1963, roundabout the time the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed by the US, UK and Soviet Union; close to a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis and about two months before JFK's assassination. There had been an earlier miscarriage, a child who would have been a year or so older than me. I may have picked up, in the womb, an interest in the politics of that time. My father, in particular, was clearly fascinated by it: for years, he kept a stack of newspapers from the Kennedy assassination preserved haphazardly in plastic bags in a box in the basement. Also in the basement, as I discovered when sorting through some of my mother’s books after her death in 2000, was a box of books dating back to around that same time. In it, Dr. Spock’s Baby & Child Care and a book of baby names. On the inside front cover was a list pencilled in my mom's handwriting: Constance, Judith, Stella, Rebecca, Jennifer. (good choice, Mom). And in the box, a pamphlet, probably 8 or 12 pages long. The cover was a deep red with large blue and yellow type on the front: “How To Build A Backyard Bomb Shelter.” This was no joke: there were blueprints, charts and diagrams, tips on how to select a site, how to provision the shelter and so on.There was such a story being told about my parents' lives in the juxtaposition of those three books in that dusty old box in the basement, uncovered during a time of grief and remembrance. It was startling to find them there, and instantly be taken back to 1963, my own existence slightly more than a gleam in Dad's eye, but not much more than a name written in a book. To my parents, I must have felt -- the whole world must have felt -- so precarious.A crisis point during the Cold War - the air permeated by a dread and anxiety that my generation and later ones can barely comprehend. Now, the end of the world is a slow melting of ice caps and gradual warming of the planet through a series of cumulative acts of stupidity and addiction to fossil fuels. Still distant, deniable and de-personalized, like lung cancer from smoking. Then, however: annihilation would be instantaneous. The blinding flash, the mushroom cloud and its impact on real people had been seen and felt. Then, there were living human beings whose real fingers were on real buttons beside real telephones. Rockets buried in mountains were pointed at cold-warring continents. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not yet 20 years past and underground atom bomb testing was still shaking the earth, literally, on its axis. For my parents, though, it was also a time of incredible -- almost delusional ­­-- hope and optimism. That urge to procreate - that psycho-biological drive to perpetuate the species by whatever means possible - which seems to spike during times of natural or man-made disaster in spite of, or perhaps because of, the threat of utter destruction, has always baffled and fascinated me. The desire to bring new life into a world that is doomed is statistically, logically ill-advised, to say the least. It seems equal parts insane and imperative; delusional and courageous, too.That is A Canticle for Leibowitz, in a nutshell. This book, first published in 1959, holds up remarkably well (although we envision the endtimes looking a little different now than they did then). A Canticle for Leibowitz is steeped in the very real, very ubiquitous, post-WWII/early Cold War socio-political context in North America.One of the reasons for its longevity, no doubt, is its speculative fiction time-and-place setting. Taking place in three different times, centuries apart and far in the future (it wraps up circa "The Year of our Lord 3781"), its very structure illustrates our species' cyclical stupidity and irrepressible, almost biologically-driven, hope for a different outcome, against all odds. After all human knowledge and culture is wiped out in the aftermath of a mid-20th century nuclear armageddon (and read that as a direct metaphor for the Holocaust as well as a cautionary tale for the nuclear age in which it was written -- this is a Canticle for Leibowitz, after all), an order of Franciscan monks emerge as safekeepers of what remains of all human knowledge: a shopping list, a memo to a work colleague, a blueprint for an electrical circuit (later hilariously illuminated by a bumbling monk who is central to the tri-part storyline); scraps of paper and books, painstakingly collected, protected and defended over the centuries. The main themes at play: science versus religion; progress versus history; empiricism versus faith; the future versus the past; the existential inevitability of repeating our mistakes ad infinitum.Reading path:Dystopian, end-of-the-worlders: The Road - it provokes similar Rorschach-blot like questions-and-answers, with lots resting on your own interpretation and, especially, religious (or non-religious) perspective. Also, Oryx Crake and Year of the Flood - these with the technology/progress-gone-awry and alt-religion aspects, too. Adding multiple, cyclical timelines/themes/stories to its dystopian worldview, Cloud Atlas."If-there-is-a-god-why-does-s/he/it-allow-us-to-suffer" speculative fiction (starring priests): The Sparrow, but CfL has better, and much funnier, characters and dialogue.Anti-war polemics with characters-as-symbols: Johnny Got His Gun - in dialogue especially, stylistically very similar in parts; Slaughterhouse Five.Theatre of the absurd or it's deja-vous all over again (with fools-as-prophets): Waiting for Godot, Skinny Legs and All, Catch-22.Music: Eve of Destruction and Masters of War. Still with me after a week, and likely will be for some time to come.

  • Petra X
    2019-03-16 05:10

    I am very cross. This is yet another book that I rated and reviewed and has disappeared from my shelves. I wonder if it happened when some librarian decided to add series information to it and thereby change the title? If it is no. 1 in a series there has to be a no. 2. There isn't. It isn't a series. According to Wikipedia,"A Canticle for Leibowitz is based on three short stories Miller contributed to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.[1][2] It is the only novel published by the author during his lifetime.."That's pretty conclusive isn't it? Maybe it wasn't that, maybe it is the GR monster that GR are content to let feed on our shelves.

  • mark monday
    2019-02-26 01:12

    bleak themes with a light touch. although not an easy book to get into, once i realized the effort was a worthy one, it became an increasingly absorbing read. the structure in particular was interesting, challenging - and distancing. novels with religion at their core are often absorbing to me personally, and this novel is all about the impact of religion on the building and rebuilding of society. i appreciated the humanist values and found myself agreeing with the at times progressive, other times cynical and determinist stances. all that plus some super post-apocalyptic world-building as well. a true classic and therefore probably off-putting for many.

  • Algernon
    2019-03-17 06:23

    [9/10] ... for in those days, the Lord God had suffered the wise men to know the means by which the world itself might be destroyed ...He also suffered them to know how it might be saved, and, as always, let them chose for themselves... Walter M Miller published a single novel in his lifetime, so I guess he wanted to pour into it everything that was important in his life: his scientific training as an engineer, the trauma of destroying the ancient abbey of Monte Cassino from a bomber aircraft in World War Two, his conversion to Catholicism afterwards. The result is one of the enduring all time classics of Science-Fiction, a masterpiece that asks the big questions and looks at the cyclical nature of history in a story that explores humanity millenia into its possible future.Divided in three parts about six centuries apart in the timeline, the novel explores the role of the church in the preservation of knowledge in the aftermath of a nuclear war ("Fit Homo"); the conflict between religious and secular powers, between power and responsibility in a Renaissance period when the quest for knowledge is once again ascendant ("Fiat Lux") and, finally, the destruction of an advanced civilization that has forgotten the lessons of the past and has lost the path to God ("Fiat Voluntas Tua") . Long ago, during the last age of reason, certain proud thinkers had claimed that valid knowledge was indestructible – that ideas were deathless and truth immortal. But that was true only in the subtlest sense, the abbot thought, and not superficially true at all. [...] 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, and truth and meaning resided, unseen, only in the objective logos of Nature and the ineffable Logos of God. Truth could be crucified; but soon, perhaps, a resurrection. I personally loved the challenges posed by this novel that is light on conventional plot and rich in philosophical and moral debate. As an engineer, I am inclined to side with the science part of fiction, but I don't see the need to reject religion and faith out of hand as retrograde and dangerous. Miller does a sterling job, at least in the first two parts of the novel, in penning complex, nuanced character studies and in transitioning from the particular to the general concerns about the individual versus society. His arguments are balanced between an embrace of critical thinking and adherence to religious dogma, between the preservation of knowledge and the dangers of the "will to power". "If you doubt it, why bother studying the Leibowitzian documents?""Because a doubt is not a denial. Doubt is a powerful tool, and it should be applied to history." also, When you tire of living, change itself seems evil, does it not? for then any change at all disturbs the deathlike peace of the life-weary. —«»—«»—«»—Up until the very last pages of the novel I was going to rate it a full five stars and one of my favorites, but the magic thread just snapped and pulled me out of the story at a crucial moment. The balance between science and religion, between historical extrapolation and dogma suddenly tipped over into holy miracles and a complete rejection of reason in favor of what? the Second Coming? A manifesto against euthanasia? A plea in favor of suffering as a gateway to wisdom? The immortality of the soul? Of the three abbots frontlining each main part of the story, brother Zerchi struck me as the least commendable, although, to be honest, there were signs and portents of the direction the story was taking right in the very first chapter (re:miracles).Even with my final disappointment in the overt mysticism of the ending, I still feel the novel deserves to be considered a classic and a masterpiece, a provocation and a worthy subject of debate decades after its initial publication. The world may not perish in a sea of nuclear flame as the author predicted, but right now the slower death by global warming doesn't seem so far fetched and the current world leaders appear as ignorant and self-serving today as those imagined by Miller. I may not like all his positions on faith and dogma, but I can't really argue with this one: How shall you "know" good and evil, until you shall have sampled a little? Taste and be as Gods. But neither infinite power nor infinite wisdom could bestow godhood upon men. For that there would have to be infinite love as well.

  • K.D. Absolutely
    2019-03-23 09:02

    One of the best sci-fi that I've read so far.A Canticle for Leibowitz is composed of three parts. In between each part is a period of 6 centuries. This reminded me of Roberto Bolano's 2666 (5 stars) that I recently read and found amazing. I am not sure whether Bolano got the idea from here but if it was a coincidence then there must be something happening around that time. Creepy. This first part, Fiat Homo or "Let There Be Man" happens 6 centuries from the 20th century. This book, the only one by Walter M. Miller, Jr, was first published in 1960. He used to be a aircraft pilot during World War II and was part of the Allied forces that bombed an ancient monastery in Italy. That experience inspired him to write this part of the novel. The main character in this part is Brother Francis who has found the entrance to the ancient fallout center of the mysterious order founded by the blessed Isaac Edward Leibowitz during the 20th century. Blessed Leibowitz used to work as an engineer before the nuclear war. Prior to hiding in that shelter, he founded the Order of Liebowitz whose main purpose was to preserve the religious artifacts that had become meaningless to men. The second part, Fiat Lux or "Let There Be Light" happens after another 6 centuries or to be exact in 3174. The setting is in the same mysterious shelter now turned into an abbey where a brilliant engineer, Brother Kornhoer has just discovered a fancy but powerful lamp. The said lamp becomes the focal point for the inter-state wars involving religious fanatics that resulted to executions and excommunications. In the part, religion is back and plays a big role in running the state.The third part, Fiat Voluntas Tua or "Let Your Will Be Done" happens after another 6 centuries or in 3781 to be exact. The nuclear war is back but this time the fight has moved outside Earth. The battle for supremacy between the two world's superpowers, Asian conglomerates called Asian Coalition (is Philippines part of this, no mention in the book) and Atlantic Confederacy. The shelter in the first that turned into an abbey in the second parts of this book still exists but it is ultra-modern and has more sophisticated weapons. In this part, the fight of dominion over how to rule the state between church and government reached its highest point and is resolved at the end of the story.The stories are all mind-boggling and the telling is exceptionally brilliant. Well, compared to the other sci-fi novels that I've read so far. It is circular in pattern because of the re-appearance of some incidents or elements (like the nuclear war) or the issue on the separation between church and state. However, unlike "Finnegans Wake" by James Joyce or "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell, the story or the narration does not literally go back to where it started.I enjoyed this book. If you can tolerate reading at least one sci-fi, go for this book. Definitely satisfying.

  • Ted
    2019-03-14 05:25

    An early classic in the post-nuclear holocaust genre. I have read the book two or three times in the last 50 years.Miller was the prototypical one-hit wonder. Though he did write a lot of SF short stories before he published Canticle, he never wrote another novel. But hey, if you only publish one novel, and it's like this one? Not bad at all.I suppose I need to read it again, I can't really remember how it ends. Or maybe it doesn't really end, just fades away? Or returns endlessly.

  • Maria
    2019-03-06 08:13

    A Canticle for Leibowitz is set in a post apocalyptic world where a nuclear holocaust has laid waste to the earth. In the aftermath, people burned books and renounced all scientific knowledge, which they saw as the root cause of the massive destruction they had to live through. The novel starts about 600 years after this incident, and follows the monks of a monastery in the Utah desert, as they strive to preserve what little scraps of writing that has survived from before the world was burned to ashes. Everything from old shopping lists to technical blueprints are patiently copied by hand in order to be preserved for posterity. Their hope is that someone in the distant future might understand them, and make use of them to elevate humanity to its former heights. The monks are continuing the work of their saint, a scientist named Leibowitz who lived through the fallout and devoted the rest of his life to saving whatever he can from the book burning pyres. The monks are completely ignorant of the writings they guard, and see them as something very mystical. It is both sad and funny to see how the monks struggle to understand the past, and miserably fails, like when brother Francis finds an old Fallout Shelter: On one wall of the stairwell a half-buried sign remained legible. Mustering his modest command of pre-Deluge English, he whispered the words haltingly.FALLOUT SURVIVAL SHELTERMaximum Occupancy: 15He had never seen a “Fallout”, and he hoped he’d never see one. A consistent description of the monster had not survived, but Francis had heard the legends. He crossed himself and backed away from the hole. Tradition told that the Beatus Leibowitz himself had encountered a Fallout, and had been possessed by it for many months before the exorcisms which accompanied his Baptism drove the fiend away. The novice stared at the sign in dismay. Its meaning was plain enough. He had unwittingly broken into the abode (deserted, he prayed) of not just one, but fifteen of the dreadful beings! He groped for his phial of holy water.Monks like Francis are the most knowledgeable people around. Everyone else are illiterate and many belong to bandit groups or primitive nomadic tribes. Many are also deformed by radiation. The monks are a small light of civilization and normalcy in a very dark world. So it is the Catholic Church that, like the cockroach, survives everything, and ironically devotes itself to preserve the last remnants of secular, scientific knowledge. The monastery is the real main character in this book. Over a span of more than a thousand years, we follow this place, dipping in and out of the lives of different monks, while civilizations rise and fall around them. The only other constant in the story is a character that seems to live forever – he pops up now and then throughout the centuries, claiming God told him to stay right there and wait for someone. This adds a supernatural element to a story that is mostly about the ideologies of church vs. science and whether or not too much knowledge will ultimately lead to humanity destroying itself. I really liked this novel, especially the grand scope of it, but I also have a few issues with it. As it was originally published back in 1959, the narrative does sometimes show its age. For example, in describing a very technologically advanced society, advanced enough for spaceflight, we see that people are still sending messages via wire and using operators. Social media, private phones, internet and advanced communication technology in general, are sorely missing. Naturally this is the 1950’s version of the future, but still, it seems odd and backwards.I also found the lack of female characters a bit annoying. Maybe that’s a misplaced critique of a book about monks living in a monastery, but there could have been meaningful female characters in this story if that’s what Miller wanted. We are, however, presented with a very male world, both inside and outside of the monastery, and although I understand that in a destroyed and broken world, women would probably be discriminated against, my problem with this book is that it does not reflect on this at all. So when I say that this book describes a very male world, I mean it in the sense that maleness are considered the norm, and women are… well, forgotten, or absent, for the most part. In the first two parts of the book, women are only mentioned a few times. In the third part, a couple of them actually get a voice of their own (wow!). For example a reporter, titled “FEMALE REPORTER”, because her gender is, of course, her most prominent trait, her whole identity, in fact. Ok, that was a bit of a rant, sorry. This is not really a critique of Miller. It’s mostly the book showing its age again. But I don’t think he would call a male reporter MALE REPORTER. He would just be called REPORTER. This shows that, although women make up 50 % of the population, maleness is assumed unless something else is explicitly stated. The feminist in me, the part of me that remember the gender studies I crammed into my MA, does not like this at all.Now, I’ve written about my dislikes at length, which is a bit unfair. I did really like this book. I liked that it shows how difficult and final the aftermath of nuclear war is. Thousands of years later people are still born with two heads, or extra fingers. Although nuclear war was the big, apocalyptic fear people had in the 50’s and 60’s, and apocalyptic scenarios more relevant to imagine today would include pandemics, terrorism or war/famine as a result of human overpopulation, the earthquake in Japan in 2011 shows us that radiation is still a very real concern. And I would like to underline that Miller takes his apocalypse very seriously. In a lot of dystopian stories, it seems like the breakdown of society functions more like a tool to investigate group dynamics, (“how would this group of people develop/change if they had to survive on their own?”) rather than being about the disaster itself, its aftermath and its scope. Although A Canticle for Leibowitz also describes people living together in a small community, this is not a book about personal struggles. Instead, it shows us the real horror of a breakdown of society. The choices you make as an individual matters little. The world will continue to be a horrible place for a very long time, and limit people’s life quality and choices, for generation after generation.At the same time, the book can be light-hearted, philosophical and surprisingly funny. You do feel for the monks whose lives you read about, most of them are well rounded characters with a lot of personality. But it’s not really about them, they are just the means by which the rise and fall of human civilizations are described and explored. The dichotomy of religion and science are a topic often brought up, most prominently in the second part of the book, where a monk and a visiting, secular scientist argue back and fort:“My remarks were only conjecture,”said Thon Thaddeo.”Freedom to speculate is necessary – ““And the Lord God took Man, and put him into the paradise of pleasure, to dress it, and to keep it. And – ““ – to the advancement of science. If you would have us hampered by blind adherence, unreasoned dogma, then you would prefer – ““ – God commanded him, saying: Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt – ““ – to leave the world in the same black ignorance and superstition you say you order has struggled – ““ – not eat. For in what day so ever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.”“ – against. Nor could we ever overcome famine, disease, or misbirth, or make the world one bit better than it has been for – “And so on and so on. Now, it’s easy to side with the scientist here, against the blind chanting of the monk, but if you where to keep reading for longer than I have the patience to quote here, you’ll se that the monk has some good points too. This almost poetic discussion, where the representatives of two opposing world views keep interrupting each other, but in a way that complement the other’s line of thought, reminded me of the choir of an ancient, Greek tragedy. Religious doctrine vs. freedom to explore how the world works – which one has the biggest potential for destruction, for keeping humanity down? Should we be so cautious as to never progress, or should we leap forward, risking a repeat of previous mistakes? It is a paradox that the Church, representing tradition, the past, and stagnancy, should be the ones to faithfully preserve, through millennia, the technological knowledge that might ultimately be used to destroy the world a second time around.

  • Veronica Belmont
    2019-03-16 01:21

    There are some books that are called "classics," but you don't really understand why until you read it and feel that you've been changed. You know, for certain, that even though the themes have been played again and again, that the story is as everlasting as the bricks in an ancient abbey. I'll save the rest of my thoughts for the Sword & Laser recap, but I'm glad that we've also read The Sparrow as an interesting comparison on the themes in both. Fantastic book, even if you don't speak a lick of Latin!

  • Jan Rice
    2019-02-27 07:11

    This was an intriguing book to read but the review was complicated by the fact I kept pursuing various trails....The story consists of three consecutive post-apocalyptic periods subsequent to a nuclear catastrophe, separated from that and from each other by centuries. Central to the plot is a monastery dedicated to the preservation of knowledge from our lost civilization during the dark ages that follow and to the memory of its founder, Isaac Edward Liebowitz, who, although apparently a Jew (based on his name and the fact that he ate bagels, which in the 1950s were not yet as American as apple pie), avails himself of monastic sanctuary and order in the service of his mission. We hark back to the role of European monasteries in preserving knowledge during the medieval period, even when they didn't know what it was they were preserving.The book is darkly funny at times, more so nearer the first.Leibowitz is a story emerging from Western civilization and Christianity. Yes, Catholicism in particular--but that was Christianity in the West during the era that contributes the book's prototype. Taking the book as it is, it has a Christian viewpoint. Saying it doesn't would be silly. Since that's the case, you can't rationalize away that Leibowitz is a Jew as being a random coincidence, as attempted in the discussion thread on one friend's review. There will be Jews involved in key roles.If not random, then perhaps Miller uses them in an anti-Jewish manner, as another of my friends thinks, especially re "the wandering Jew" motif.More on that motif in a minute. Generally speaking, the book portrays Christianity as the religion of the land, with Judaism surviving in the persona of Benjamin Eleazar/Lazarus (Lazarus being a Latinate form of Eleazar). Even he has a Christianized view of messiah--a view so prevalent in our culture that it's hard to have any other. I remember nary an allusion to any other religion.That's about the worst of it: Christianity is front and center while other religions are invisible except for the Judaic references.Well, in the first chapter, Eleazar is made to "bleat" his blessing. Usually one hears "intone." It's hard for people from the Christian tradition to imagine Jewish prayers could be beautiful.Still, not so bad, as these things go.The Wandering Jew motif makes an appearance here. A few years ago my reaction to a friend's short story led me to the wandering Jew: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... In the present book, the Old Jew could be Leibowitz himself, as they share the same "wry" smile. Then again, the Old Jew could be a Christ-like figure; he's bearing the impossible weight of his whole people, as per the discussion with Dom Paolo in Part II. As the Old Jew stands in for all Israel (the people), you could say that so does the Jesus figure of Christian scripture. He encapsulated for the prospective Christians the entire People of Israel, whose absence in their own personal histories required replacement so that, without the chain of history and tradition Jews had, they too could be connected to the God of Israel.If the role of the wanderer is pejorative, what does it mean that ultimately it is Brother Joshua's group who take up that role? (See the third paragraph in Chapter 28.)Note that calling Eleazar "the Old Jew" is not anti-Jewish, even if it makes some readers uncomfortable. "Jew" is not a dirty word. Although historically made that way by Christianity, it has now been reclaimed by Jews. So, no further need for "Hebrew" or "Israelite," etc., as a replacement term.It strikes me as unusual that there were Hebrew blessings, not to mention written Hebrew, in this book. Maybe I just haven't come across that during recent years when I would have noticed it. Including that strikes me, if anything, as philo-Judaism. Remember, too, Abbot Zerchi's rant about the "King of the Universe, nailed on a cross as a Yiddish schlemiel by the likes of us." (Schlemiel = unlucky person. God only knows why the author threw in Yiddish, although we could rationalize that little details such as one-and-a-half millennia or more might be lost by one looking back over so much time.)I also wondered if the reference to "Infinite Sense of Humor" in that same rant has anything to do with the book title Infinite Jest--a stab in the dark since that's a book I haven't read. Leibowitz stimulates digressive thinking....Where do the blessings, the Hebrew, and the reference to Yiddish come from? I found myself wondering about the author's bio, about which little is known. Could he have been a Jew who converted to Catholicism? Or maybe he served with Jews during the war and had a Jewish friend.There were several lines of Hebrew that I tried to read. First of all I had to review my aleph-bet, which I had learned in 2014 for an adult bat mitzvah. Complicating things, the vowel sounds aren't included here. Google finally helped me out by sending me to the "talk" section behind the A Canticle for Leibowitz Wkipedia page (which, by the way, is designated as a good article). See especially numbers 2,3, and 26 of the index. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3A... As an example of the complications of the Hebrew in the book, at the end of Chapter 25 where the Hebrew for "Lazarus" is spelled out and the transliteration given, two of the Hebrew letters are wrong. There's an ayin instead of a tzadei and a vov instead of a reish. The errors are with letters that resemble each other. The author's error?The book's culminating image, which I won't spoil by revealing, seemed to me to be an unusual one in this context--but maybe not, as an image something like that has occurred to me. Judaism and Christianity remain intertwined. I don't expect that most people have such a notion. Some might consider Judaism as an excrescence on the body of Christianity, but a double-helix relationship between the two religions probably makes a more dignified image. (I didn't make up that image either; got it from Lawrence Hoffman and a rabbi he trained.)Who can say what Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s intention was? I think he's written a fascinating book. Did he intend to propose a flip, what with the Leibowitz monks now becoming the wanderers? Or is that inadvertent?I bought the audio on sale from Audible some time ago, probably after seeing reviews from Goodreads friends. But definitely needed the book, too, for this one.The narrator, who does a knock-down bang-up job, is a bit of a mystery, too, to me. His name is Tom Weiner, and he's an actor who according to Wikipedia also has used the names Tom Wyner and Tom Halperin. I found this, too: http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/narr...When I googled "Is Leibowitz a Jew?" I found this: http://www.shmoop.com/a-canticle-for-... As you can see, that's one section among many. If you're having fun, you could wander for days in this maze.I'll end with the 2014 New Yorker article I've already posted on some friends' reviews: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-t......and I'll try to answer any questions forthcoming about what I've written here.P.S. The book in PDF form: https://7chan.org/lit/src/A_Canticle_...Help with translation of the Latin liturgy and prayers:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of... andhttp://www.dbraden.org/canticle/tns.html

  • Greg
    2019-02-25 07:19

    Maybe it was the time of year. Maybe it was because my copy of the book was in an advanced stage of acidification with the pages cracking and the glue failing so I feared taking this book with me on the subway (images of high school moments when a dropped binder in a busy hallway could destroy a years worth of work in about three seconds). Maybe I read this too slowly, taking too many days off in between each sitting. Maybe it was the stress and anxiety of working retail, yet again, for another holiday season. Maybe it was that I had enough doom and gloom running through my head for the first half of this book, and then maybe it was because everything turned out so fucking good that it all almost felt like a Christmas miracle that I was too cheered to feel the last section of this book in a properly pessimistic tone (no, there might not be a Santa Claus, but fortunately the world isn't always a ironic and pessimistic narrative either). It's probably a mixture of all the above, but I just didn't get into this book.I'm trying to write this and my goodreads buddy MFSO is railing about the 'populist' attacks against 'serious' capital el Literature that flare up pretty often in some corners of the goodreads universe. I keep checking the email updates to see what he has written and throw in my own asinine comments. I bring this up, because the sector of the book world that usually launches these attacks is certain sci-fi fans. This is a sci-fi book, I guess. It won the Hugo award and it goes in the sci-fi section of Barnes and Noble. That's good enough for me to think of it as sci-fi (and there are space-ships, so sci-fi it is). A professor I had in college, in a sci-fi literature class, used to go on and on about how great sci-fi was because it could deal with Big Important Issues in ways that regular novels couldn't. (cough, bullshit, cough). I'm sorry, I didn't mean that verbal / typed twitch. I mean, correct Professor. Sci-fi can deal with important issues and it has the benefit of being able to create a world without the limitations of strict realism to explore those issues. But, and I'm taking this from the stellar examples my professor put in the reading list of the class, those issues are usually dealt with in an allegorical manner that has a bit of sugar coating and masked in escapist literary tropes. Not that there is anything wrong with this, these conditions are probably all necessary in making a fine-good samizdat . Personally, the political messages of Moving Mars or that book about the women who live in a walled in city were as effective to me as all that free-trade / trade war nonsense that George Lucas infected his prequels with. To me, these books (and movies) might have had an important message but the message only felt like it would be revelatory to someone who had never thought about an issue before. They felt like the literary equivalent of a college Freshman who hears one lecture about some injustice in the world and instantly becomes an annoying radicalized twit out to change the world through pedantic lecturing. Why am I going on about this anyway? I'm not exactly sure. To sum up a whole paragraph filled with half-baked ideas that are sure to alienate more than a few of my goodreads friends (sorry!), I just don't really 'get' most sci-fi / fantasy, I don't necessarily find it that enjoyable to read, and when it gets political it always feels like it's trying too hard for the message being expressed (yes, I'm sure I'm wrong here). This book is about the world after nuclear war puts an end to civilization as we know it (or knew it in the 1950's / 60's). After the bombs fall some monks take it upon themselves to save the remains of knowledge from the dead civilization. Against angry hordes of anti-intellectual survivors hellbent on destroying all of those responsible for creating the bombs that wrecked the world, the monks save texts that they don't know the meaning of but safeguard them for the future. As the book goes on so does time, and from the post-apocolyptic world eventually rises up a new world that (re)discovers the science of our society and eventually once again nuclear missiles are poised to wipe out the entire world (again). There are the fairly usual questions about the nature of knowledge and what is the role of science in the world. Should science continue on doing what it does even if it means that the theoretical breakthroughs in one field also mean that newer and dangerous weapons can be created in another? Should Einstein have just shot himself in the fucking face when he was ten years old? Are we by nature just evil fucking creatures, original sin and all. Are we just inevitably going to destroy ourselves again and again and again? Aren't these the kind of things I like thinking about? Yeah, sometimes. Ok, yes, I like dwelling on the awfulness of humanity. And yes, I like the Nietzschean eternal reoccurrence thing being hinted on, and yes I think that humanity in the not-so long run is fucked, but not because we are all evil motherfuckers but because there are a few evil motherfuckers and you just need a couple at the right time trying win the whose got the biggest evilest dick contest to fuck up everything for everyone else. So, yes these are topics I do like to think about and which I like to pop up in my books, but in this book it didn't offer me anything to really sink my teeth into. Maybe it's the era it was written in, but it felt too much like a slightly more intellectual version of the scare movies of the 1950's, sort of a duck-and-cover / Reefer Madness with a CND message. Not that I hated the book, which I think might be the feeling I'm giving here. I didn't hate it. I liked it but it didn't do that much for me. I wanted more or something. The only time I felt like I was getting the 'more' I want from a novel that is dealing with weighty topics such as this was towards the end when the Abbott got enmeshed the fight about euthanasia for victims of radiation poisoning. Unfortunately, this section came in the last thirty pages of the book, and wasn't typical of the arguments being played out through the rest of the book. My other problem with the book (did I actually mention a problem yet?), is that I don't find the book funny. I was promised funny on the book jacket, and one of the two top reviewers on goodreads seems to find the book humorous (or parts of it). I found some parts to be slightly amusing, but I never would have found any part to be actually humorous, the humor when it does occur was more of the slap-stick antic style of funny than, well, something that I would normally call funny. If I had to describe the humor of this book I'd say it's like the 'unfunny' sibling of Vonnegut. Now I'm thinking about the humor question a bit more and I can see why someone would call it a funny book but for me it just didn't do much. Blame Vonnegut for ruining the sort of funny this book has for me.

  • Guillermo
    2019-03-11 01:57

    It's nice that a story written at the height of cold war tensions 52 years ago still manages to be relevant. This is a post apocalyptic story mostly set in an abbey in the southwestern United States, hundreds of years after a nuclear holocaust. That event becomes a sort of mythology for the times as the church tells the story of "the ancients" (us) in the form of a parable about the "Princes" of the world being given these weapons in the hope that mutually assured destruction would be enough of a deterrent. Except of course, each ruler thinks that if they strike quick enough while the other is asleep, they can control the Earth. We know how that ends. "Such was the folly of princes, and there followed the Flame Deluge."Canticle is divided up into 3 books that take place thousands of years apart. The one variable that doesn't change is the Abbey. It's responsible for protecting the "Memorabilia", which are artifacts from the previous age that the church is safeguarding for a time when man is "ready" again. You see, after the holocaust, mankind finds itself in a new dark age where technology is non existant and the majority of the population is illiterate and preyed upon by bandits (think Mad Max or The Road). The Church once again becomes an important institution set on the preservation of the little literature, science, and culture that remains from our age. Seeing the monks try to decipher what blueprints are and what fallout was ( they thought it was a demon since there were shelters to protect people from it) really amusing. Most of that deciphering occurs in Book 1 "Fiat Homo" which was my favorite of the 3. Its a really nice introduction that is surprisingly humerous for such a dark subject in a dark time. I laughed outloud at Brother Francis of Utah at his expense several times. I'm not a religious man, but I found it so refreshing to see the Church preserving science and having such a positive role in the future instead of having both those institutions be antagonists all the time. That's been done ad nauseaum in science fiction in my opinion.Book 2 "Fiat Lux was good, but not as good as Book 1. This takes place in a sort of enlightenment era, where science is finally starting to gain traction once again. It's the little steps towards that end that make Fiat Lux enjoyable. If the world were plunged into darkness today, how many of us would really be able to get a good old lightbulb up and running from scratch? Book 3 is the most "sci fi" of the three in that it takes place in the year 3781. It's in that last book that I think the book gets a bit derailed as Miller decides to toss in a good old fashioned euthanasia debate and some sort of two headed mutant with a little immaculate conception thrown in for good measure. Also the absurdity that Miller thougth we'd be communicating via radiograms and using microfilm made me a chuckle a little bit although I quickly stopped myself because its so impossible to try and predict the future with any semblance of accuracy. Book 3 however, is where Canticle delivers its devastating knock out punch that is probably the single reason this book is still held to such high regard and still discussed well outside of the science fiction circle. Is mankind doomed because of its nature? Can we escape the consequences of George Santayana's famous quote of those who can't remember the past, being condemmed to repeat it? It's a very cerebral book where not alot of action really takes place, but I really enjoyed the ideas and never had a problem picking it up. It's funny at times, heartbreaking, provacative, and has moments of quiet reflection. I'll conclude with a quote from the exhasparated future abbot Dom Jethras Zerchi:"What is the fundamental irritant, the essence of the tension? Political philosophies? Economics? Population pressure? Disparity of culture and creed? Ask a dozen experts, get a dozen answers. Is the species congenitaly insane?"

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-03-04 07:25

    Before reviewing this book, I read a little bit about the back story as well as listening to the SFBRP episode that covers it. These helped a lot. I'd had this on my post-apocalyptic reading list for quite some time, but had the wrong impressions of the book.1. I thought it was funny.Well, there are a few little chuckly bits at the beginning, as you see the monks try to make sense of our culture, only found in fragments. Grocery lists take on great meaning, as do diagrams of circuitry. But the end is dark, so dark, and the humor turns black. I was expecting more bagel humor! That's how it has always been sold to me in the past.2. I thought it centered around the quest of some guy named Leibowitz.Haha, not so much. Leibowitz is revered as the story begins, but has been long gone. Funny that a bunch of Christian monks are asking a guy named Leibowitz to intercede for them? Absolutely.In fact, it doesn't center around one guy at all. This "novel" is really three short stories that tie together around the central mythology of Leibowitz and what used to be our world. The first story is just a few centuries after mass destruction by nuclear war. The second is a few more centuries, where a ruler has amassed forces, and some of the science is being recreated. The third is far, far into the future, where history is just about to repeat itself. With one creepy twist. Someone other than me will have to determine if this passes the Bechdel test (referring to the tomato woman).From Walter M. Miller Jr.'s perspective, I can see how sending the message that history is going to repeat, and that we needed to TAKE HEED, was an important thing to do. I think he does this effectively. I keep reminding myself that this book comes over 20 years before The Stand, and 30 before Swan Song. Both of these novels are bleak and scary, but A Canticle for Leibowitz may be even scarier. A society that can't learn from its mistakes, and can't provide for its citizens anything more than regulated suicide? Maybe we deserve to die.

  • 7jane
    2019-03-17 06:08

    I add this to my 'read' books having read it I don't know how many years ago (maybe even read it twice?), in Finnish translation. So what I write here is partly from memory, partly from having a look at my copy I recently bought.It's good post-apocalyptic scifi. The apocalypse being a nuclear war, a very likely threat around the time it was written (1959ish). A group of cloistered monks secretly nourishing knowledge of past and trying to help some survivors. From this the humanity slowly patches itself up and begins to redevelop - but can they stay away from past mistakes (and another nuclear war)?...(view spoiler)[ Nope. The cover art of my book kind of gives it away. But hope, and a desire to try again, survives, even as the last monk dusts off his sandals before closing the spaceship door. And that makes this (hide spoiler)]a great read. Even if you don't really care for Christianity, you can still admire how a group of people can preserve the knowledge and repair, again and again.Guess I really do need to read this again, because I just convinced myself to do so *lol* *cough* I will put it on my 'to re-read' list. It will be interesting to see how it reads in English :)

  • Ruth
    2019-03-17 03:10

    I'd heard about this book for years. Finally decided now was the time. Turned out it wasn't. The beginning held my interest, although I did think the writing was a little self conscious. That got me through about 1/3 of the book. Then of a sudden, things shifted, and so did my attitude. Yawn. Skim. Skip. That got me through the 2nd 3rd. At that point I got wise. I am 75 years old. If I'm going to read even a portion of everything I want to read before I conk off, I can't afford to waste my time on books I'm not enjoying. Back to the library it goes. Unfinished.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-10 02:21

    RTC when I process it

  • Efka
    2019-03-19 01:14

    DNF at 39%. It’s a book that left me absolutely indifferent. I picked it up as a classic sci-fi about a post-apocalyptical world, expecting something more like Fallout, The Road, Mad Max or something like that. Instead, what I’ve got was a boring and uninspiring post-apocalyptic version of “Name of the Rose”. It’s all about churches, monks, saints, religion and prayers, and those aren’t my favorite topics by a long shot. It might, I emphasize - MIGHT, have been a different experience had I read it on paper and in my native language, though I don’t even believe in it and have absolutely no idea why I wrote that. This book would be a good read if you’re interested in creation of religions, how they rise, how they create their symbols and saints, but otherwise it’s just a mediocre tale of reflections rather than action and I can’t say anything more about this book, because I just don’t remember anything – it’s that dull. So, as I’ve said, it’s absolutely not my cup of tea, though I admit that this book has potential. Still, I have too much books I want to read to waste time on something like A Canticle for Leibowitz.

  • KatHooper
    2019-03-24 01:08

    ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.It’s the dark ages again. A 20th century nuclear war spawned a “Flame Deluge” which destroyed human civilization’s infrastructure and technology, killed most of the people, and created genetic mutations in many of the rest. Then there was a backlash against the educated people of the world who were seen as the creators of both the ideas that started the war, and the weapons that were used to fight it. They were persecuted and killed and all knowledge was burned up. After this “Simplification,” people took pride in being illiterate and the only institution that seemed to come through intact was the Roman Catholic Church.Walter M. Miller Jr’s A Canticle for Leibowitz is divided into three parts, which were originally published as three separate stories. In the first story, “Fiat Homo,” which takes place 600 years after The Simplification, we find a cloister of monks who are applying to New Rome to have their martyred patron, an ex-electrical engineer named Isaac Edward Leibowitz, sainted. Leibowitz’s monks have been collecting, preserving, and copying fragments of the Earth’s previous civilization. As keepers of pre-Deluge history, they attempt to piece together knowledge and history, without knowing for certain what they’re looking at. One day, while maintaining a vigil of silence in the desert around the abbey, Brother Francis stumbles upon the entrance to Leibowitz’s fallout shelter containing precious relics, such as a circuitry blueprint and a deli shopping list. These relics cause quite a stir in the abbey.“Fiat Lux” begins 600 years later. Genetic mutations caused by the fallout are still affecting mammalian DNA, and the monks of St. Leibowitz occasionally wonder whether there really ever was an advanced civilization on Earth, but progress is gradually being made. This is especially true in the abbey of St. Leibowitz where the monks are safe from the tribal wars that are common in surrounding Texarkana. Their studies of the fragments they’ve been collecting have prepared them to ignite a new renaissance.Another 600 years pass. In “Fiat Voluntas Tua,” humans, though still affected by “genetic festering,” have reached the pinnacle of civilization and culture, progressing beyond what had been experienced before the nuclear war in the 20th century. But there’s been a cold war going on for 50 years between the two world superpowers and they both have nuclear weapons. At the abbey of St. Leibowitz, the monks wonder if humans are destined to repeat the cycle and, as keepers of the world’s knowledge, what is the abbey’s responsibility to humankind?"Are we doomed to do it again and again and again? Have we no choice but to play the Phoenix in an unending sequence of rise and fall? …. Are we doomed to it, Lord, chained to the pendulum of our own mad clockwork, helpless to halt its swing? This time, it will swing us clean to oblivion… Back then, in the Saint Leibowitz’ time, maybe they didn’t know what would happen… They had not yet seen a billion corpses. They had not seen the still-born, the monstrous, the dehumanized, the blind. They had not yet seen the madness and the murder and the blotting out of reason. Then they did it, and then they saw it… Only a race of madmen could do it again."Obviously, the main theme of A Canticle for Leibowitz is the repetitive cycle of human history and the role of our advancing knowledge and technology in our own destruction. This provides the reader with plenty to think on, but Miller also addresses issues that the Roman Catholic Church has tackled during its history, such as its role in state politics and its insistence that euthanasia is a sin. While the novel is meant to be a serious consideration of these ideas, and while its predictions and warnings are frightening, A Canticle for Leibowitz still manages to be amusing and agreeably quirky all the way through. Though there’s a powerful and unforgettable message here, it is the irreverent, eccentric humor that makes it so enjoyable to read.A Canticle for Leibowitz is a classic piece of post-apocalyptic science fiction that had mass cross-genre appeal when it was published in 1960, won the Hugo award in 1961, and has never been out of print. Thus, it’s a must-read for any true SF fan. I recently tried the audio version which was just released by Blackstone Audio and narrated by Tom Weiner. Audio readers, even if you’ve read A Canticle for Leibowitz before, you won’t want to miss Blackstone Audio’s first-rate production of this imaginative, chilling, and humorous novel.

  • Jim
    2019-03-16 04:01

    I've tried to read this in paperback several times & the first section always put me to sleep much like The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, yet both are classics that really should be read. Ben's bio was great as an audio book & this one certainly went along far better & was well worth listening to. It truly is a classic showing chilling possibilities to the cyclical nature of our history & uses the Catholic Church as its vehicle.Told in 3 sections roughly 600 years apart, the first section begins 600 years after a nuclear war has turned the world into a bunch of scavengers rooting for the dregs in the ashes. The 'beacon' of knowledge is a monastery devoted to Lebowitz, hopefully soon to become a saint. We learn who & what Lebowitz really was with wry, understated humor. There is a bleak sense of idiotic accomplishment, men doing the right thing even though the reasons are shrouded in myth & often ridiculous on their face. The church preserves, even though it does so in almost complete ignorance, enforcing a horrible humility upon its people. That it is better than the alternatives is just awful.The second section revisits the same monastery at the time of a new Renaissance & poses some hard questions between about right & wrong without favoring one side or the other. Secular scientists, religious dogma, secular & religious rulers battle it out yet again. It was a great look at the growing pains of a civilization. Again the church preserves, but do they hold on too tightly? I don't think so, yet most who know me would probably think my sympathies would be with the scientist.The third section brings us back to the height of civilization with the same problems that wrecked the last one. Everything has changed, but people & the monastery remain the same. Again, some tough questions are asked & the end is rather chilling, yet hopeful in some ways. (view spoiler)[Humanity has managed to gain the stars this time & I loved the way racists shot themselves in the foot to preserve the races' future. Without color/racial differences, will we repeat the same mistakes? There is no answer, but we do have a few more baskets to carry our eggs in, a bleak hope, but hope nonetheless. (hide spoiler)]One friend of mine says that it 'strongly condemns euthanasia', I found the religious order's beliefs as horrible as the doctor, so I'd say that people get what they want out of it. Miller doesn't try to change anyone's mind, he simply paints a very detailed, horrible picture & leaves the question in the reader's mind. Personally, I thought the abbott had a rather cavalier attitude toward street cleaners & was certainly brutal in imposing his beliefs on others.There was also a really interesting part at the end with a mutant & a failed baptism. Was the church wrong in refusing their baptism? I wonder what it would mean to a Catholic or another Christian? I found it rather sad & bleak, but I that's how I feel about most religions anyway. That's another point for Miller, I think. My belief system doesn't matter save to me. Running through the entire story was a figure of fantasy. Of of two minds about him. In many ways, the figure wasn't really needed. I actually resented the implication in some ways as I felt he weakened the story giving it a fantastic bent. In another way, he lends continuity, a sense of perspective, & some more wry humor.Overall, I'd agree that this is one of the classics of SF, especially apocalyptic SF. It's a shame it took me so long to get around to reading it in full, but the religious idiocy of the first section is pretty hard to bear. Still, it's worth trudging through for the rest.

  • Christopher
    2019-03-16 03:12

    TEN stars. A book that would NEVER EVER make it through to a small-time SF magazine let alone a major publisher today, far too Catholic (and unapologetically so) and one of the greatest books I've ever read. I think it's fortunate that I waited until my middle age to read this as I'd likely not have had the depth of understanding to fully appreciate all the layers of this. Unfortunately it's the kind of book that also makes me question why I even try to write at all, it's shown me again that the art has already been mastered and to "abandon hope all ye who enter here"... ! A sampling: “The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they became with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier to see something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle's eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn.”

  • Rob
    2019-03-17 08:25

    Without a doubt, A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the classic post-apocalyptic novels. That it strikes so mercilessly at so many of our deepest fears, it is no wonder the tale has held up well over time. There is a fantastic interplay here of innocence vs. corruption, of reason vs. faith and intuitions, of hope vs. despair... The novel was significantly more emotional and gut-wrenching than I'd expected.The novel is certainly worthy of a thoughtful and detailed review but I fear I may need more time and subsequent re-reads to really pin it all down. That said:(1) That the novel revolves principally around an Abbey dedicated to preserving knowledge (specifically scientific texts) presents a wonderful little conundrum in and of itself -- one that Miller does well in exploring. The "Fiat Lux" section is where he performs this most skillfully. However:(2) The science vs. faith conflicts were, I felt, a bit overly simplified. When presenting this conflict in terms of allegory, it makes sense to create these high-contrast dichotomies. But my skin crawls at the suggestion that an atheist and a scientist will apply his knowledge without consideration for conscience. The last, fifth ★ in my rating might well have been earned with a more subtle and thorough treatment of this.(3) On "Benjamin (the Old Jew)": is there a name for this kind of character? The pilgrim, the wanderer, the hermit... In reading the passages that contained this character (the pilgrim in the opening chapters of "Fiat Homo"; Benjamin in "Fiat Lux"; and the appears-only-once vagrant in "Fiat Voluntas Tua") I could not help but get echoes of Merlin, Gandalf, Fizban... This archetype seems to appear most often in fantasy novels (sometimes in scifi; perhaps elsewhere?) -- the nearly-supernatural not-quite-narrator that has a too-intimate knowledge of the past and a too-accurate prediction of the future. This demands further research.----See also: • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08...