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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.

Critic Reviews

“Chillingly effective.” ( Time)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • richard
  • Arlington, VA, United States
  • 03-20-13

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.

116 of 122 people found this review helpful

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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.

60 of 68 people found this review helpful

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And the world goes on

A cyclical story of a post apocalyptic Renaissance. difficult to read at the beginning but picked up by the end.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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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.

24 of 28 people found this review helpful

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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

39 of 47 people found this review helpful

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  • Bryan
  • Monument, CO, United States
  • 10-07-11

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?

38 of 46 people found this review helpful

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Three stories in one and no climax

Religion persists along side mythology not very dystopian. It sounds very 1950's culturally. Not even one strong protagonist the only up side was the narrator.

15 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Could not Finish

I couldn't get into this story. I'm not sure if I'm just used to more first/third person and not so much narration but I was waiting for something to happen. It seems the world was the major story and not the people. Since I was between 1/4 and 1/2 way through and wasn't invested in any characters, I stopped it and went to something where characters develop and thrive.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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CIRCUIT DESIGNED BY LEIBOWITZ, I.E.

DEO GRATIAS
This is one of those books I have tried more then once to read. It is supposedly a classic. Science Fiction Book Club included it in their 50th year Anniversary Collection. This is the first time I have listened to it and I do believe I got more out of it that way. I still am not a fan. It seemed more about the inner workings of the Catholic Church and not a good look.

SIMPLETONS
Leibowitz seems to have been a engineer and not necessarily a good one at that. I also believe that Leibowitz is a Jewish name? The church in the future after the world is almost blown up wants to make him a Saint. Truthfully, I think people in Academia who are not even Science Fiction Fans claim this as a classic. It is funny in parts, but not funny enough.

The narrator is not one of my favorites. He basically has two voices. A regular voice and then a gruff voice.

81 of 101 people found this review helpful

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A bit disjoint

I did struggle to finish this book. I'm a big fan of dystopian novels. And there were elements that were quite unique to this story that were enjoyable. In the end however, it lacked cohesion , and the story became cumbersome and confusing.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for TREVOR
  • TREVOR
  • 06-11-14

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • dave nolan
  • 03-08-18

classic.

Great story, set over millennia. It was very thought provoking too. Good characters and a nice pace.

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  • Steve Downing
  • 10-30-17

Thought-provoking story from the nuclear age

I was drawn to this title when I found out it was the basis for the Brotherhood of Steel in the Fallout series. I doubt I'd have read far if I'd gone with the book version, but Tom Weiner's masterful performance is perfectly suited to the monastic theme running throughout, complete with ecclesiastical Latin to boot.

Definitely worth a try x

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  • Jamie Goode
  • 04-26-17

really enjoyed this.

really enjoyed this. ment to be the inspiration for the fallout franchise and you can really see it.

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  • decco999
  • 02-21-16

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.

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  • Roderic
  • 07-11-15

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).

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  • Mr. S. Mould
  • 06-09-14

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.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Keith Mason
  • 05-22-14

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.

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  • Tamra
  • 06-29-13

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.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 04-08-13

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.

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  • Peter
  • 12-14-16

Follow The Marked Path..

Based on a commonly known "yarn" this story outlines a possible scenario for ongoing religious belief based on the events of an apocalyptic world event and post apocalyptic interpretations of events..
worth the read..

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Dominic
  • 04-06-17

Past, Present and Future Apocalypse

What did you like most about A Canticle for Leibowitz?

it is almost 60 years old but its message is never so timely, crucial and urgent.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A Canticle for Leibowitz?

The final chapter and pages were spellbinding and almost peotic

What about Tom Weiner’s performance did you like?

A very versatile voice

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

Brother Francis's journey

Any additional comments?

A great and grand & deeply disturbing sci fi saga of apocalyptic past, present and future...a bleak, nihilistic dystopian story, often mixed with philosophy, spirituality, flashes of joy and happiness, dark humour and sardonic wisdom....first published in 1959-1960, the technology is dated but the message and theme are as crucial and urgent as ever. The somewhat long winded Latinisms and Catholicisms, were a little tiring, even for an ex Catholic Latin scholar like me, and parts of the plot superfluous or overly symbolic. Overall, however, a magnificent story...and a damningly powerful polemic against the absolute and almost endless myopic stupidity and cruelty of mankind.....