Excellent and groundbreaking novel, constantly in print since first in 1959. Three sections: postapocalyptic North America, 26th century, after the "simplification," and deep in a dark age; 600 years later, when "memorabilia" faithfully preserved in an isolated monastery becomes the seed for the resurrection of lost information and technology; and 600 years after that, when... Well, ya just gotta read it!
A Canticle for Leibowitz is a cautionary tale set in a post apocalyptic America which emphasizes the adage that those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it. This book is actually three separate stories but all very much related and important for understanding the message of the book. The first story is probably the most popular and interesting of the three, which relates the tale of a monk in the New Mexico desert many years after a nuclear war has happened and the great lengths his order goes through to preserve knowledge. The second story takes place years later but relates to the things that the monks had done. The third story takes place perhaps a century or more later and is probably the most important part of the book and also somewhat less interesting and hard to follow, but once you understand what the third part is about, it brings the story full circle and delivers the final message that the author is trying to express. Shocking and poignant, A Canticle for Leibowitz is a true classic science fiction novel that should be read by pretty much everyone interested in the genre. 5/5 Stars.
I stumbled across this book in college and was blown away. Reading it again almost twenty years later, I found it hadn't lost any of its impact. I'm going to recommend it to my book club when my turn comes round again. The characters are real; their situation, though dated at points, is hauntingly affecting; their decisions, though not the ones I might have made in their place, ring true for them. The writing is sharp and lucid throughout. Sadly, I've learned that in the time between my two readings of this book, the author--who never wrote another novel after this--took his own life (a tragedy further compounded by the anti-suicide argument that takes up the last third of the book).
This is science fiction, but science fiction like 1984 or Brave New World. To break out of the (unfortunate but undeniable) science fiction ghetto, this book deserves to be filed under Classics.
I first read this many years ago and found it so fascinating that I have kept my old copy of it. One image that persists is that of the monks painstakingly reproducing the blueprints they have found, not knowing what they meant or what they were for, but assuming that they are very important cultural or scientific artifacts. The last part of the book was somewhat disappointing, but even so, I expect to read it again some day.
Now it is 2012 and I just came across my old review of this book. I am amazed that there have been no more reviews posted for this book. As the one other reviewer writes, this book deserves to be listed among the classics. Isn't anyone reading it? I suppose there is hope in the fact that I found it on the Wish List today. If you can't get it here, it's worth buying, folks! My guess is that many who do buy it or get it in a swap decide to keep it.
It's considered a science fiction classic, and I'd agree that at least two thirds of this book is a pretty good story, concerning the preservation of knowledge in a post-apocalyptic world. It's inventive and interesting to read. But I found the last third to be verbose, convoluted, and self-important, and I couldn't bring myself to care one way or another about the end.
In the first section (it's written in three sections), it's centered around a post-nuclear war Catholic monastery which has attempted to retain as much of the knowledge and technology of the pre-war era as it can get its hands on, with mixed and hilarious results. This section is witty, provocative, and an interesting and thoughtful exploration of both the positive roles of the church as a stabilizing and civilizing force in barbaric times and the negative roles of the church as closed-minded and focused on rote repetition. It's also very funny.
However, the following sections of the book, however, lose this nuanced view and the theme turns into: "What is really wrong with all human societies is that they don't follow the (specifically Catholic) church" and "Without the Catholic church, humans are doomed to despair and savagery". I found this a little hard to swallow, and the depiction in the later sections of the book of Catholic leaders as universally wise, principled, and self-deprecating was a little much. I found these sections both less interesting and less believable.
Overall, I'm glad I read it, but I can't overwhelmingly recommend it.
Having just finished A Canticle for Leibowitz (hey, better late than never), I've been mulling some of the similarities between this book and Isaac Asimov's Foundation series (the original trilogy, at least), as well as the differences. Both series are episodic, of course, as they focus on certain moments in history following the fall of civilization â" in Asimov's book, the fall was gradual; while in Leibowitz it's more instantaneous. Both books reveal a long-term plan to preserve human knowledge in the wake of the onset of a new Dark Age; and both use the ideals of an initial prophet to build the foundation that evolves over time.
Leibowitz, however, depends more upon faith and religious devotion as opposed to Foundation's ingenuity and endurance of humanity. It's interesting to note that the religious dogma followed in Leibowitz result in the group dedicated to the preservation of knowledge (the Albertian Order of Leibowitz) remaining modest and overlooked through the years; whereas the Seldon Foundation becomes the dominant force in the Galaxy through the execution of its own master plan.
Both books, in addition, base their histories on the working theme that history repeats itself, and that we are doomed to repeat the past. This theme is more subtle in Foundation, though; it is based on the concept of Hari Seldon's psychohistory, which predicts the behavior of large groups of human beings based upon their predictability. This predictability led to Seldon's ability to predict when certain crises of history would take place, based upon the tendency of humans to repeat their past mistakesâ¦at least, until his predictions were negated by the presence of the unknown X-factor, the Mule. Then, the books focused on the attempts by the Second Foundation to pick up the pieces of their plan and return it to a pattern of predictability. (I won't get into Foundation's Edge, which IMHO negates a large part of Asimov's concept of human predictability.)
Foundation is more optimistic than A Canticle for Leibowitz, which by its final chapters is brow-beating the reader over the head with its message that mankind is doomed to repeat the past. What's interesting in Leibowitz is the way that science becomes more opposed to religion with each book in the story: in the first, science is an artifact to be kept hidden and preserved; in the second, newly-born science finds itself at odds with religion; and in the third book, science (and Mankind) has abandoned religion and considers it above religion, as exemplified by the argument over euthanasia in the last chapters. Miller is unquestionably in the pro-religion camp in this book, but if you accept this and just take his preaching as character storytelling, then it's still a good read.
Interesting book. It's divided into three parts; each taking place many centuries apart from the others. I enjoyed the first third, and found the second third interesting, but the last third of the book did little for me. Very interesting glance into a possible future for the world.
Good book about the continuation and protection of knowledge in a post-apocalyptic world.Leibowitz is an engineer that died in a nuclear holocaust and is up for sainthood from a medieval-like abbey of a Catholic church.
One of the 20th Century Classics of Science Fiction by a master stylist, this novel is amazing for two otherwise unexpected plot devices: the Catholic Church is depicted in its long-traditional but mostly undiscussed role as the keeper of knowledge and inquiry; and the novel contains a modern re-telling of the Story of the Wandering Jew as an ambiguous character who directs (or maybe doesn't) efforts to keep the old ways alive. A fascinating novel, a great story re-told, a brilliant tour de force. Miller wrote only two or three novels and story collections, all worth finding and keeping. His second novel, "Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman", is a strangely compelling re-telling of the Walter Reade novel about Abelard and Heloise, "The Cloister and the Hearth"; if you know that book, then Miller's re-telling is one to investigate; if you don't know Reade's book, the reading Miller's may lead you to the worthwhile effort read Reade's.
Down the long centuries afte the Flame Deluge scoured the earth clean, the monks of the Order of St. Lebowitz the Engineer kept alive the ancient knowledge. In their monastery in the Utah desert, they prserved the perecious keepsakes of their founder: the blessed blueprint, the sacred shoppping list, and the holy shrine of Fallout Shelter.
Watched over by an immortal wanderer, they witnessed humanity's rebirth from ashes, and saw reenacted the eternal drama of the strggle between light and darkbess,life and death.
I received the book from a friend, but haven't had the time to read it. I suppose it's one of those sci-fi classics that I SHOULD read, but I haven't gotten around to it. Maybe someone else will get more use out of it than I.