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)
One of the landmark jewels of science fiction, Walter Miller's Canticle will be, for some readers of a certain age, a treat for the ear, the heart, and the soul. However, so much has changed since the author crafted this work, e.g., the thaw of the Cold War, the disappearance of Latin since the Second Vatican Council in 1965, and the steep decine of the Catholic Church with its rigors and obedience, that many of the central premises and conceits of the book simply no longer commonly exist today. For me, the book was as fresh as when I read it in 1967 as a high school student. I hope that a younger audience enjoys it as much as I have.
Warning: There is a LOT of Latin in this work. This could make it difficult to parse as an audio experience unless you have a pretty good grounding in this tongue. You might want to get the kindle text to read with it. I think you will find it to be worth your while.
A Canticle for Leibowitz tells 3 tales (spaced 600 years apart) of a monastic order in the American Southwestern desert, founded by an engineer named Leibowitz who tried to preserve the knowledge of the human race following a nuclear holocaust. The first story is set 6 centuries into the new Dark Age, when a simple monk receives an unusual visitation...the second is set in the early renaissance, when an early scientist comes to study the old knowledge...the third is set in a newly modern age, as the world is on the verge of another nuclear war.
It was a brilliant set of stories...today it seems a little dated [e,g, the heavy use of Latin which, today, has largely vanished from the Church], but the stories are very powerful and the symbolism is thought-provoking.
Walter Miller wrote a bunch of great short stories and novellas, but this is the only novel he published during his lifetime. In fact, he never published another work after this one, except for another novel set in the same millieu which was published posthumously.
Tom Weiner's reading is good without being great...at several times, I wondered if he was the best choice for a reader, just because his style seemed a little incongruous. But he's a great reader and he does a good job with this.
Every since its appearance in 1960, this has been one of the science fiction novels that anyone interested in the genre (and even those not interested in the genre) has loved. Three separate stories set 600, 1200, and 1800 years after a nuclear war - the monks of the Order of Leibowitz have had their mission in the US Southwest. The bookleggers and memorizers of the order preserve the knowledge of civilization that existed prior to the war and keep it in trust for mankind until it can be used again.
There are much better reviews of the book as a whole that can be found elsewhere. This is a story that grabs you by the lapels at the start and keeps your interest all the way through. The message of Battlestar Galactica - this has all happened before - is presented here in a way that will keep you listening till the end.
The narrator is really wonderful - providing difference cadences and voices which help you differentiate characters and plot lines easily.
Just one historical note. 50 years ago a book could be published with the expectation that the general public would have enough knowledge of Latin as a language to understand phrases without complete interpretation. What does it say about our educational system that this could never be the case today?
I found myself thinking about Ecclesiastes 11: 1-11 many times throughout this novel.
"Is there anything of which one can say,
'Look! This is something new'?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them."
The author has created a book that seems to me to be based on the supposition: "what if?", or "maybe, like this...", and then proceeds to connect the dots in an interesting, albeit dialogue-filled and character-driven chronology. The book displays characters that have a 'true faith' in their beliefs while at the same time allows for some (perhaps justifiable) speculation, although they flirt closely with some heresy at times. I was myself amused at how important Leibowitz had become to the story, especially when his former life is mentioned in passing as it related to the story. Less focus was placed on Jesus by the monks in the story (maybe intentionally?) although they did mention Jesus as Messiah when speaking about him, which must be taken into account.
I found myself shaking hands with the author, while at the same time keeping him at arms length. It is such a unique book, one that presents ideas I may have even accidentally thought about before. I wondered that no one had written something like it before.
Not what I expected, but worth reading
I do not know why it took so long for me to actually listen to this book, as it has been on my "to read" list for decades. It is a wonderful and thoughtful story (3 actually) that asks tough questions and will cause you to rethink your opinions on some weighty matters.
It is a product of it's time (late 1950's) but is still relevant today. It is a great book to read with a group due to the discussions the book generates. Highly recommend to all!
This audio book is a good deal. The recording is well done, given the complications of the story. I first read this story when I was in college, and we were not too far past the Bay of Pigs. It seemed more realistic and yet fascinating at the time. This time around, I have seen too many repeats on the part of so-called civilization to do itself in. I found it much sadder. It is a well written book, and the premise continues to capture the imagination.
Yes, but with some precursor statement about the content.
The gilded reproduction of the blueprint was a perfect example of how a uninformed group of people can make something out of nothing. The fact that the thieves took the reproduction instead of the original says something about the human fascination with bling!I was also torn by the choice of the mother to end her life and the life of her child rather than deal with the pain of radiation poisoning.
This is one of the classic scifi apocalyptic fictions and it still holds up after 50 years. The first section is perhaps the most engaging due to the character of Francis but the 2 that follow are very well written as well. Though 600 years pass between sections it is easy to "catch up" and worth it. There is a plethora of Latin which is sometimes not translated within the text so it may be worthwhile to look for annotations if you're interested. In either case it is a wonderful novel, full of symbolism and religious allusions and serious issues to debate. Science and religion get rather interestingly mixed. Another novel that I find something new in each time, this being my 3rd. There is humor, but there is also an ominous shadow over the narrative.
I had read this book a long time ago and was always impressed by the author's grasp of the essential destructiveness of humans. Listening to this was a refresher on the bleak possibilities in a post-nuclear holocaust future. A morality tale, well told.
This was not a book of characters, so no one stands out. It was a book of circumstance and plot.
Will we never learn?
The voice performance is great... the different characters, the Western accents speaking latin, etc. Unexpected and as strange as the story. Reading it would be a completely different experience.
Not really; it's pretty disjointed and isn't really a narrative story. I found myself thinking more about how Miller came up with it rather than aspects of the story.
Strange, but worth a listen.
I had wanted to read this for quite some time since I'm a huge fan of post-apocalyptic fiction in general, and for the most part this novel is the inspiration for post-apocalyptic sci-fi as we know it. It's a particular influence on the Fallout video game series, which I am a huge fan of. The whole concept in post-apocalyptic fiction of a nation like America being destroyed, returning to tribalism, and then slowly over time building up new socieities and cultures over the course of hundreds of years after an apocalypse, that whole concept in post-apocalyptic sci-fi has it's roots in this book.
The general summary is that there is eventually a nuclear war in which the US is largely decimated. However, immediately following the war's aftermath, there is a great surge of hatred and prejudice towards the educated elite who are blamed for the catastrophe. Scientists, engineers, doctors, professors, etc. are all murdered by mobs of people in cathartic rioting immediately following the war. The Catholic Church, being the massive global organization that it is, somehow has the resources to communicate that monasteries and churches are to be refuges for men and women and women of learning and to preserve as much pre-war knowledge as possible.
Thus, the premise of the novel is that it follows the story of a single Catholic monastery in the Arizona desert over a huger period of time following the nuclear apocalypse. They end up becoming a bastion of scientific knowledge and learning in a chaotic, barbarous wasteland, which often makes them a target and a lightning rod for violence. However, the monastery survives throughout centuries and is slowly able to effectively use the knowledge and skills they have preserved and collected, to hopefully ensure a better future for humanity.
It's more of a collection of short stories than one continuous narrative with each story taking part in a different part of America's post-apocalyptic history.
One of the things I thought was great about that is that several smaller subnations develop in America's wasteland. One of them being a powerful kingdom with Texarkana as it's capital, which I just found hilarious and awesome.
In terms of general themes the novel is very pro-religion and pro-Catholicism. Although science and technology are the saving grace of humanity the novel makes the case that they are also it's greatest downfall, and that science and technology must be guarded and controlled to prevent their misuse. Also, the final segment of the book has the ethical question of euthanasia as the theme of it's climax, and I found the book's take on the problem was so obviously Catholic I thought it was a bit heavy-handed.
This is a great novel though, a great and interesting take on post-apocalyptic America. I can easily see why it inspired a genre and the fallout series.
As for Tom Weiner's performance. While it was ok, he definitely mumbled through parts of it and I found it hard to understand. I wouldn't mind hearing this from another narrator, but still a solid buy if you're interested in this sort of literature.
"Very Badly Read"
A good reader was needed. Mr Weiner read it with as much feeling as reading as if it was a Seed Catalogue.
Almost everything was wrong. He had no expression in his voice nor was he able to differentiate between characters in the book for the listener. He spoilt a very good novel.
This is a book I enjoyed immensely some years ago. I was looking forward to hearing it as an audio cd. It is a great Sci Fi Novel.
I am so disappointed that a very good novel, one I had enjoyed reading in the past, was spoilt by very bad reading. Lesson to be learnt - always hear a sample before you buy.
"Dear oh dear."
If it had never been written
Yep, dreadful book.
I'm probably far to unkind about this book, but honestly I was expecting something to happen and I don't think it ever did.
"Great Writing and Perfect Narration"
This is the story of Earth, North America specifically, after a future war and how civilisation might shape and rebuild itself in its aftermath. It is told from the perspective of the occupants of a religious monastery over incremental periods of time, stretching many hundreds of years, starting in a pre-technological age and progressing to a highly industrial society. Sure, there is a close enough similarity between this fictional advancement as recounted by the author and what really occurred in our own history, with Mr Miller providing some rationalisation in respect of the good and the bad that befall the main characters.
I didn’t know what to expect when I purchased this book, other than it came highly recommended, and noting that it was published in 1959. What the reader gets is a witty, gripping, fast paced novel; a real page-turner that is perfectly narrated. Certainly, the author’s own religious beliefs and political opinions leak through at certain points, but not in a heavy-handed way. Although the sequel to this book, written 36-years later mind you, has not been received as warmly, I thoroughly recommend A Canticle for Leibowitz to anyone seeking light, enjoyable entertainment.
"Disappointing and dated"
This book is three loosely related short stories jammed together fairly roughly (which is historical fact, not my opinion). The tone of the stories is rather ponderous, which does not make for interesting or lively listening.
It IS an interesting artefact of Sci Fi history... as a post nuclear apocalypse tale from the late 1950s. My Latin is actually quite good, but not adequate to understand much of the Latin statements in the book when spoken (as opposed to seen).
It was the first one I downloaded with my initial free credit and it is still the best I've listened to.
Any of those genre of sci-fi books that I call post-apocalytica. So Earth Abides by George R. Stweart or I Am Legend by Richard Matheson but also future history novels like H.G. Wells the time machine or Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon.
I haven't heard anything else he's done but I would certainly like to.
The end of brother Francis' story made me gasp.
I love this book. Despite spanning many centuries and dealing with big issues, it manages to be about individual characters wants and needs. One of those rare Sci-Fi pieces that combines the cerebral with the personal successfully.
"Those who don't learn from histories mistakes"
Original, cautionary and brave
I liked the unusual fact that this story doesn't take place during one setting but over a period of time thats set in the future but features settings that can be considered ancient, medieval and futuristic. In some ways its tragic but talks about human nature in a way that often makes people uncomfortable.
I think its refreshing to find a book in a sci-fi setting that incorporates sincere religious belief not just as a feature but as a central tenant to the novel.
"The Best Author Ever."
I've listened to it several times and have even about a copy of the book. This book is a poem to the circular nature of humanity. A prophetic testament to our desire to control the cataclysmic power of physics and its inevitable triumph over us.
"A true sci-fi great"
Walter Miller's Canticle for Leibowitz stands as tall as anything produced by Arthur C. Clarke or Azimov. The post description of post-deluge America and the reconstruction of education draws on obvious historical parallels. It also points out the church's manipulative and controlling attitude by seeking to rule through fear; much as it did in the middle ages. A great novel, full of allegory and meaning (and some humour!)
I went into this Audiobook thinking I was in for a real treat. In reality I found it incredibly slow and difficult going. It is a very interesting concept and I can understand why so many people rate it highly. However, I would suggest that you don't raise your expectations too high, as you may then get more out of it than I did.
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