Considered to be a science fiction classic, Walter Miller’s A Canticle For Leibowitz, first published in 1960, is one of the best known post apocalyptic novels.
Spanning some 2000 years into the future, its vast sense of scope and depth is mesmerizing. Worthy of dissection in a literature class, the treasures are plentiful in these pages and clearly beyond the scope of this short review.
After a full-scale nuclear war, a small order of Catholic Monks strive to preserve a collection of scientific and historical records for posterity. This small monastery, located in the southwestern United States, struggles for centuries to preserve and protect the remnants of a forgotten age. Initially, the monastery is organized to safeguard scientific records during the violent anti-technology backlash that follows the great “Flame Deluge”.
Later, over the centuries, documents and parts of ancient books are carefully preserved from decay through the passing of time. The story progresses through several eras covering a nearly 2000 year time span.
Often viewed as a cautionary tale, A Canticle for Leibowitz explores the repetitive nature of the rise and fall of civilizations and the inevitable destruction that seems to be the pinnacle of mankind’s technological progress. Obviously, the story is religiously oriented though it does not promote any particular religion. In fact, the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church is often the object of the author’s discourse. Some of the extensive Latin dialogue and references may be considered tedious by some, however, it does add to the grand scope of the book.
While A Canticle for Leibowitz is not light reading, it is brimming with insight, satire and imagination and is certainly a must read for connoisseurs of apocalyptic & post-apocalyptic fiction.