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A Canticle for Leibowitz | [Walter M. Miller]

A Canticle for Leibowitz

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

“Chillingly effective.” (Time)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Joel D Offenberg 09-01-11 Member Since 2009
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    "A Classic"

    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.

    17 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    richard Arlington, VA, United States 03-20-13
    richard Arlington, VA, United States 03-20-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Introibo Ad Altare"

    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.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen 05-17-13
    Karen 05-17-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Still doing ourselves in..."
    Where does A Canticle for Leibowitz rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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.


    Would you recommend A Canticle for Leibowitz to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes, but with some precursor statement about the content.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    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.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aaron 06-30-12
    Aaron 06-30-12
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    "Not what I expected, but worth reading"

    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

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Winter Park, FL, United States 11-08-11
    William Winter Park, FL, United States 11-08-11 Member Since 2004
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    "Must Read Classic"

    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!

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bryan Monument, CO, United States 10-07-11
    Bryan Monument, CO, United States 10-07-11 Member Since 2005

    ColoradoRight

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    "Proving Why It's A Classic"

    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?

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristi Winder, GA, United States 10-19-14
    Kristi Winder, GA, United States 10-19-14 Member Since 2003
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    "Past its prime...."

    While the perils of technology and humankind's struggle to use it wisely are timeless themes... this book is not. It is tiresome, horribly preachy, and extremely dated. I'm sorry I wasted the time to finish it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason 09-19-14
    Jason 09-19-14 Member Since 2013
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    "A sci-fi classic now showing its age"
    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    While the premise of this book, humanity destroying itself with nuclear war, has been rehashed many times, it was probably novel when this book first came out. The added aspect of Catholic monks preserving ancient scientific knowledge after the apocalypse is a delightful nod to the work of medieval monasteries. However, the author uses some portions of the story as thinly veiled Christian evangelism, and that gets tiresome after the third of fourth time.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott South Burlington, VT, United States 10-17-13
    Scott South Burlington, VT, United States 10-17-13 Member Since 2008
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    "A classic ... revisited."
    Would you consider the audio edition of A Canticle for Leibowitz to be better than the print version?

    Not "better," but just a different experience. The narrator, Tom Weiner, does a simply beautiful job. I read A Canticle for Leibowitz originally when I was a teenager, and was delighted to see it pop up in my Audible queue.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The effortless way Miller compresses 1,500 years of future history into three linked volumes - not a bad trick in a book you can listen to in 10 hours.


    What about Tom Weiner’s performance did you like?

    Everything. Weiner performs the book perfectly, down to the different southwestern and midwestern accents.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Funny, but when I read the book originally 30 years ago, I believe it did just read it cover-to-cover.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darryl Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 08-07-12
    Darryl Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 08-07-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Apocalyptic Classic"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 63 results PREVIOUS127NEXT
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  • TREVOR
    6/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very Badly Read"
    What would have made A Canticle for Leibowitz better?

    A good reader was needed. Mr Weiner read it with as much feeling as reading as if it was a Seed Catalogue.


    What didn’t you like about Tom Weiner’s performance?

    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.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. S. Mould
    Sheffield, England
    6/9/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Loved it"
    Where does A Canticle for Leibowitz rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It was the first one I downloaded with my initial free credit and it is still the best I've listened to.


    What other book might you compare A Canticle for Leibowitz to, and why?

    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.


    Have you listened to any of Tom Weiner’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    I haven't heard anything else he's done but I would certainly like to.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The end of brother Francis' story made me gasp.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. Keith S. Mason
    Bournemouth, UK
    5/22/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Those who don't learn from histories mistakes"
    If you could sum up A Canticle for Leibowitz in three words, what would they be?

    Original, cautionary and brave


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tamra
    Leeds, United Kingdom
    6/29/13
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    Performance
    Story
    "The Best Author Ever."
    Would you listen to A Canticle for Leibowitz again? Why?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Newbury, United Kingdom
    4/8/13
    Overall
    "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!)

    Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mark
    United Kingdom
    6/11/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Over hyped"

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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