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)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
The Scooby Do cartoon voices really drain the life out of this groundbreaking but already sort of wooden story.
As I continue to read through the classics of Science Fiction, this book easily makes the Top 50 list of most of the people who know. Billed as one of the finest examples of a post-apocalyptic world I was looking forward to seeing what that world would look like from the eyes of a writer from the 1960's. Miller's most important assumption is one I agree with completely: if the world blows itself up, the Church and it's teachings (including a full Latin vocabulary) will survive. Miller was specific about the members of the Church he uses as his characters in each section, focusing less on the world after the burn and more on how the Order deals with the events of the world in each time and how it impacts their overall mission. On the whole, it's a good read and definitely worthwhile for any lover of SF. As a book on its own it's horribly dry. Whatever sense of conflict you may feel is so drawn and thinned out over the course of the chapters by the time the resolution comes you simply shrug your shoulders and move on. The lack of intensity in the prose is worsened by Weiner's monotone and bland recording. He uses the exact same inflection for the most impactful of sentences as he does the most mundane. I had to pause the recording several times and ask, "Whoa, what just happened?" because the sentence had been passed so quickly by the narrator. Weiner's Latin pronunciation is excellent, and as a former Latin student it was fun to flex my Latin muscles and see how much I remembered. For anyone but the hardcore SF fan, I doubt I'd recommend this book, and I'd certainly recommend any other recording of it. But Miller's lessons of a nuclear world shine through clearly, as are how the Church will thrive and ensure mankind's legacy is preserved in spite of our collective propensity to destroy ourselves.
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