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Review: A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz
By Walter M. Miller
(Harper Voyager, Paperback, 9780060892999, May 2006, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

First published in 1960, A Canticle for Leibowitz is at once a telling tale of what happens to civilization after a nuclear war, and a reminder that history has a tendency to repeat itself.  

The Rest of It:

This story spans thousands of years as civilization attempts to rebuild itself after a nuclear war. The monks of the Albertian Order of Leibowitz are charged with preserving historical remnants and protecting technological advances until the world is ready to once again accept them.

I’m not even sure what to say about this one. In a lot of ways it’s a brilliant novel, yet… there was a simpleness to it which made it seem less so. At least, while reading it, I didn’t get a sense that this was one of the greatest literary works to have been published. However, it was (and is) considered a literary masterpiece by many.

As quiet as the delivery is, the message that Miller delivers packs a powerful punch and that message is clearly, that history has a way of repeating itself. As he describes the “simplification” process where all who are learned are either killed or attacked by mobs, you can’t help but think about other historical events which involved the hatred of others just because they were different.

Oh, and let’s talk about industrialization for a moment. The advances in technology that we make use of each and every day are welcomed for the most part, but at some point, the effects of having them will take their toll. We know this, so while reading this story, I found it amusing that these monks were fighting to protect technology.

This is definitely the kind of book that you have to ponder for a while and I must say, I’ve read a lot of apocalyptic novels yet none of them had this “bigger than self” feel. There is so much to discuss between the religious themes, the theme of recurrence and the balance between church and state.

My book club chose this book and we discuss it this Thursday. It will be interesting to hear their reactions.

Source: Borrowed from the library.

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