books A Canticle for LeibowitzAuthor Walter M. Miller Jr. –

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 muchto their own taste, then in this book there isa 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. 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 itinteresting 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. Winner Of TheHugo 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 FutureIn 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 Captivating post apocalyptic tale set in the Southwestern United States centuries following massive nuclear war that plunged the civilized world into a new dark age comparable to Europe s Early Middle Ages where nearly the entire population is illiterate and scattered in rustic tribes And similar to those chaotic medieval years, Christian monks keep the flame of learning alive by copying and memorizing the contents of books A Canticle for Leibowitz is counted among the classic works of science fiction, the only novel by author Walter M Miller, Jr to be published during his lifetime, a decidedly philosophical tale well worth the read So as not to reveal too much respecting plot, I ll make a reviewer s sideways shuffle and highlight a number of themes and topics I found especially provocative The SimplificationFollowing worldwide nuclear war, the Flame Deluge, where cities were reduced to puddles of glass, following the fallout and plagues, there arose The Simplification where the mass of survivors held educated persons responsible for the catastrophe and formed into simpleton packs that would burn books and kill anyone who was literate Such action reminded me of the murderous Khmer Rouge in Cambodia as well as what the boy and his papa encountered in Cormac McCarthy s The Road Books and LearningA certain group of monks honor the memory of Isaac Leibowitz who was martyred for his safeguarding scientific knowledge in the era of all those simpletons, honor him by becoming bookleggers smuggling books into their monastery or memorizers committing to rote memory entire volumes of history, sacred texts, literature and science In this way I recall those women and men who committed great works of literature to memory in Ray Bradbury s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 Comedy of ErrorsWalter M Miller, Jr injects a bit of humor throughout his book, most notably when young Francis is out in the desert and encounters an old man and then accidentally discovers a 1950s style Fallout Shelter that Leibowitz used Leibowitz s memos, racing form, grocery list and blueprint are taken for important, even sacred, documents which just goes to show how low the level of insight and understanding dipped down in these dark, futuristic times Physical BeatingsWhen Francis reports to his abbot following the hubbub he created over his discovery of those documents in the Fallout Shelter and his encountering an old man that might have been a vision of Leibowitz, he s on the receiving end of repeated whacks from the abbot s stick Such cruelty and stupidity Does this monastery really count for the light of learning in the age of darkness I was wondering if author Walter M Miller, Jr was making a statement about the human tendency, even within a spiritual community, for violence and inflicting pain MutantsAt the time Miller wrote his novel the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made a powerful impression on the national psyche and there was a general horror at the prospect of genetic deformities resulting from nuclear fallout In one of his 1950s novels, Philip K Dick details a carnival sideshow of such human monstrosities with feathers, scales, tails, wings or without eyes or faces Likewise, journeying to New Rome, Francis passes The Valley of the Misborn, a leperlike colony peopled by warped and crawling things that sought refuge from the world Culture and RenaissanceThe second section of Canticle takes place some five hundred years after the time of Francis One of the monks rediscovers electricity But this Catholic monastery is hardly Castalia from Hermann Hesse s The Glass Bead Game there remains a raging conflict of religion versus science for example, one old monk claims such scientific experimentation and discoveries should be avoided as the work of the Devil At another point this same old monk regales a visiting scientific scholar as Sir, Philosopher in a mocking, condescending tone, giving little doubt that asking questions and probing into nature is to be shunned ShamanismThere s a sequence out among one of the rustic tribes where the leader, one Mad Bear, relates that insanity is prized by his shaman as the most intense of supernatural visitations Not unlike most writers back in the 1950s unless they were cultural anthropologists, author Miller s ideas surrounding shamanism is littlethan a cartoon image Too bad such traditions were unappreciated by the tale s futuristic monks and scientists, they might have learned something Benjamin Remember that old man Francis encountered He s still around Hundreds of years later old Benjamin the Jew is still living out in the desert as a hermit Has the old man transcended the boundaries of individuality and becomes all of Israel What could the abbot and monks learn from old Benjamin Would they even listen The PoetOne of theintriguing parts of the novel is the inclusion of a surly poet staying at the monastery who can remove one of his eyes There s a long standing joke among the monks that the removal of the poet s eye signifies what it means to remove one s inner conscience Cycle of Destruction The novel s third part is some six hundred years further into the future There are nuclear weapons capable of ending human life on earth Although there are also some other technological advances offering escape to some degree, the sense is Miller is making observations about the cyclical nature of creation and destruction in our all too human experience To discoverdetails, I encourage you to read this classic for yourself To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law a perversion Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites maximum suffering and minimum security Walter M Miller Jr., A Canticle for LeibowitzAmerican science fiction writer Walter M Miller, Jr 1923 1996 was a tail gunner flyingthan 50 bombing missions over Italy during World War II, one mission the bombing and destruction of the Benedictine Abbey at Monte Cassino, a traumatic experience for the author. Walter Miller s A Canticle for Leibowitz is imaginative and thought provoking I enjoyed reading it and enjoyed it evenduring 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. 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 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 ismerciful 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 doneharm 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 farreceptive 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. 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 muchaccessible 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 like The 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 actuallyadvanced than the previous pre apocalypse one humanity has achieved interstellar travel by this time Unfortunately, thethings change thethey 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, mythical Wandering 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 QuotesIf 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. 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 facialNote I was going to use atomic facial, but the Urban Dictionary makes that term very inappropriate hereWar 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 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.