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’s A Canticle for Leibowitz is a true landmark of 20th-century literature - a chilling and still-provocative look at a postapocalyptic future.
In a nightmarish, ruined world, slowly awakening to the light after sleeping in darkness, the infantile 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 there, 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, 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.
©1959 Walter M. Miller, Jr. (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Chillingly effective.” (Time)
After the nuclear holocaust known as the Flame Deluge, all knowledge and holders of knowledge were destroyed in the Great Simplification. Isaac Edward Leibowitz, an engineer, seeks refuge and permission to preserve what knowledge he can from the Catholic Church, the only surviving organizational institution. A Canticle for Leibowitz revisits this world at 600 year intervals after the death of the founder of a desert abbey and the Albertian Order of Leibowitz. The first interval follows the story of Francis as he attempts to become ordained while the Order attempts to canonize Leibowitz. During the second interval, civilization has risen to the level of city-states and science is reemerging as a secular subject. By the third interval, mankind is reaching for the stars, and once again is threatening to destroy themselves via world war.
Yes, I plan to start listening to it all over again right away.
It takes some time to get going. Be patient, and don't expect a plot driven story. This book is about ideas, while also funny and poignant.
This book has some wonderful concepts, and the writing is stunning. The author's command of English is masterful. He can make profound insights then a wry comment in dellightful juxtaposition, so the book doesn't get preachy even when a character is ranting about man's inability to avoid making the same mistakes over and over.
I am not religious, but I found the strong presence of the Catholic church fascinating, not offputting. The historical position of the church can't be denied, and its role in maintiaining humankind's knowledge in this book makes perfect sense. It was interesting to me to hear the viewpoint of the believer in some of these debates, but the author shows all sides of human weakness, including that of believers, so it really does not end up with a moral in one way or another.
There are some long segments in Latin, which is hard to look up when you are listening, so I just enjoyed the reader's pronunciation and picked out what words I could. It didn't impede my understanding of the story.
I love almost anything post-apocalyptic, zombie, scifi, ect. Always looking for some new earhole entertainment!
I listened to this over a year ago and loved it! I thought it was well worth listening to again! This is a great classic post-apocalyptic book! One of my favorites. I would love to see his other book, St Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman on Audible as well.
Ok plot but all the untranslated latin pulled me out of it too often. Not a fan myself but if you are enough of a scholar to get the latin, then perhaps it would be more enjoyable.
I had read this book 20 years ago. I loved it the , but may have missed some of its special nuance. This audiobook performance brought all the stories wonder to life. I would highly recommend
This book is very different and I appreciate that. It is one of my favorites. I feel i should listen to it many times to somewhat grasp what the artist is trying to say. I think it is a masterpiece.
just one long mansplanation of the apocalypse. my god it is the fact that books such as these are considered foundational science fiction that makes me write. for goodness sakes, you cannot worship a violent God and then claim yourself a martyr when violence strikes you down.
I thought I knew it, in the 70s, as merely dark, ironical, and shallow. But it's a remarkable book of ideas, a great tale, compelling characters, and good writing. And ultimately a very hopeful book.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) is a classic post-apocalypse science fiction novel. Like Edgar Pangborn's Davy (1964), it depicts human life long after nuclear war has destroyed civilization, decimated humanity, and ravaged the earth. Unlike the other two books, which are first-person narratives depicting the maturing of their narrators, Miller's is comprised of three parts occurring 600 years apart and featuring different protagonists belonging to the Catholic Abbey of the Order of Leibowitz, which is dedicated to the preservation of the Memorabilia, the remnants of scientific knowledge in the few books and documents surviving from the advanced civilization of the ancients (us).
The first part, Fiat Homo (let there be man), takes place in a dark ages North America six centuries after the fall of civilization in "the Flame Deluge," a nuclear war of Biblical proportions, and concerns the difficulties of the young novice Brother Francis to become a fully-fledged member of his Order, a process complicated by his accidental (?) discovery on a Lenten desert fast of relics belonging to the Beatus Leibowitz, the founder of the Order.
In the second part, Fiat Lux (let there be light), 600 years later on the cusp of a renaissance old Abbot Dom Paulo must deal with the incursion into the Abbey's traditions and Memorabilia of the Poet-sirrah, an irreverent gadfly with a removable conscience, and Thon Taddeo, a brilliant and irresponsible secular scholar, and the inevitable entanglement between scientific knowledge and political power.
In the last part, Fiat Voluntas Tua (thy will be done), set yet another six hundred years later as an international nuclear conflict escalates and another holocaust approaches, Abbot Zerchi must deal with an influx of irradiated refugees while deciding whether to order the departure of a spaceship full of Order members and children carrying the Memorabilia bound for Centaurus Colony.
The three parts--really novellas--make a composite novel tied together by the Abbey, a Wandering Jew, the Memorabilia, themes on knowledge, science, art, religion, responsibility, conscience, Caesar and Church, and the cyclic nature of human history (caused by our ever unsuccessful drive to recreate Paradise on earth). Miller's book casts most of the action and ideas through a Catholic lens, but it is no dogmatic screed. Each of the three protagonists, Brother Francis, Abbot Dom Paulo, and Abbot Zerchi, embodies Miller's ideal religion, which combines learning, questioning, pacifism, compassion, forgiveness, conscience, responsibility, courage, faith, and humor.
The novel possesses an appealing humor, a sympathetic irony that may be making fun of the characters or us, just like the smile on the face of a wooden statue of Leibowitz depicting the saint about to be burned after being hanged, a work of religious art whose truth informs all three parts of the novel. "It was such a small grin--sad, understanding, and, something else. Laughing at the hangman? No, laughing for the hangman. . . . In the last chalice, there could be a chuckle of triumph." Made of "a faintly dubious frown" and "laugh-wrinkles at the corners of the eyes," that Leibowitzian smile belongs as well to the Wandering Jew and to Miller himself.
Miller writes many remarkable scenes: Brother Francis dealing with bandits from the Valley of the Misborn, Abbot Dom Paulo visiting millennia-old Benjamin, Thon Taddeo being surprised by light, the Poet-sirrah learning the consequences of getting involved, Abbot Zerchi having to practice what he preaches, and Rachel giving Abbot Zerchi communion. There are also many intense dialogues, like one between Abbot Dom Paulo and the secular scholar Thon Taddeo about the need (or lack thereof) for responsibility for scientific discoveries, one between Abbot Zerchi and the Doctor Cors about the need (or lack thereof) for euthanasia, and one between a Lady Reporter and the Defense Minister about the cause and nature of some recent suspicious radiation-spiking events in the world (Miller perfectly captures the use of language by governmental spokespersons to patriotically deflect, deny, fabricate, and accuse). And the buzzards and shark aptly close the three parts.
There MAY be a few flaws in the book: a little matter is repeated from one part to the next (three novellas being assembled into a "fix-up" novel); the ironic and sympathetic humor of the first part decreases somewhat in the second and third parts (the two Abbots being wiser than naive Brother Francis); sometimes things get a little talky (this being a novel of ideas); and there is much untranslated Latin. And although American English in the future has changed into things like Alleghenian and Southwest, the narrator uses modern English, unlike, say, Russell Hoban's richly transformed future English dialect in Riddley Walker (1980).
But Miller is an outstanding writer of rich and witty prose, as in this early scene between desert-fasting Brother Francis and his confessor:
"The thought made him unhappy enough to permit him to be overcome by temptation, so that, on Palm Sunday, with only six days of starvation remaining until the end of Lent, Prior Cheroki heard from Francis (or from the shriveled and sun-scorched residuum of Francis, wherein the soul remained somehow encysted) a few brief croaks which constituted what was probably the most succinct confession that Francis ever made or Cheroki ever heard:
'Bless me, Father; I ate a lizard.'
Apart from his Thon Taddeo being off, Tom Weiner reads the audiobook fine. He does excellent voices for youthful and earnest Brother Francis, old and stressed out Abbot Dom Paulo, the cynical but hopeful Wandering Jew, bandits and barbarians, and the warmly sardonic base narrator.
Readers who like the post-apocalypse genre, classic 20th-century sf, and well-written, lyrical and satirical work about human nature and civilization, should like this novel.
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