- Paperback: 334 pages
- Publisher: EOS; Reprint edition (May 9, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060892994
- ISBN-13: 978-0060892999
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (592 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Canticle for Leibowitz Paperback – May 9, 2006
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Walter M. Miller's acclaimed SF classic A Canticle for Leibowitz opens with the accidental excavation of a holy artifact: a creased, brittle memo scrawled by the hand of the blessed Saint Leibowitz, that reads: "Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels--bring home for Emma." To the Brothers of Saint Leibowitz, this sacred shopping list penned by an obscure, 20th-century engineer is a symbol of hope from the distant past, from before the Simplification, the fiery atomic holocaust that plunged the earth into darkness and ignorance. As 1984 cautioned against Stalinism, so 1959's A Canticle for Leibowitz warns of the threat and implications of nuclear annihilation. Following a cloister of monks in their Utah abbey over some six or seven hundred years, the funny but bleak Canticle tackles the sociological and religious implications of the cyclical rise and fall of civilization, questioning whether humanity can hope for more than repeating its own history. Divided into three sections--Fiat Homo (Let There Be Man), Fiat Lux (Let There Be Light), and Fiat Voluntas Tua (Thy Will Be Done)--Canticle is steeped in Catholicism and Latin, exploring the fascinating, seemingly capricious process of how and why a person is canonized. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Extraordinary ... chillingly effective.”— Time
“Angry, eloquent ... a terrific story.”— The New York Times
“An extraordinary novel ... Prodigiously imaginative, richly comic, terrifyingly grim, profound both intellectually and morally, and, above all ... simply such a memorable story as to stay with the reader for years.”— Chicago Tribune
“An exciting and imaginative story ... Unconditionally recommended.”— Library Journal
From the Trade Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Keep in mind that Miller was writing in the 1940s and 1950s. Among other things, he has characters argue or mull over intelligent design, euthanasia, "removable" conscience, politicians placating their country's "patriotic opinionated rabble," the line between church and state, and the destruction and rise of civilizations over millennia. Two examples of some phrases that jumped out at me:
- When scholar Thon Taddeo questions how a great civilization could destroy itself, the answer from the monsignor is "Perhaps ... by being materially great and materially wise, and nothing else."
- Brother Joshua, about to colonize space in order to save shreds of civilization as his current world implodes, thinks that, "the closer men come to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well." Joshua thinks that a dark world can yearn and hope, but a world "bright with reason and riches" begins to "sense the narrowness of the needle's eye," and the realization rankles.
My one complaint is that Miller uses way too many Latin phrases that I didn't take time to look up the first time through. (And I'm Catholic and even studied Latin in high school.) I will re-read this book with a dictionary at hand in order to mine even more from its depths.
This book kept being drawn to my attention until I finally purchased it, drawn in to a certain extent by the stunningly beautiful cover art of the Eos/HarperCollins edition. I would be interested in seeing more work by John Picacio (the cover artist). The introduction was mixed, and I was not sure what to expect, but was sold almost instantly once into the actual novel. The three-part structure is used to great effect, and each parcel of the overall story has its own merits. Unless I am mistaken, A Canticle for Liebowitz was Miller Jr.’s first and only novel, not counting the posthumously published sequel finished by Terry Bisson, St. Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman (1997), which is very firmly on my to-read list. Intriguingly, it seems that after writing A Canticle for Leibowitz, Miller Jr. released no further work. What a shame! If all first novels could be this powerful!
Miller Jr.’s religiously motivated philosophy is made fairly clear throughout the work, and will not be to everyone’s taste, but it was to mine. I became very attached to many of the characters and especially to the Abbey, a bastion of pre-disaster knowledge that is being safeguarded for future generations against the twin monstrosities of barbarian military might and soulless scientific scholarship. The author destroys arguments for euthanasia in a supremely satisfying sequence in the third part; I metaphorically stood up and clapped.
The back cover claims that the work is “seriously funny, stunning, and tragic, eternally fresh, imaginative, and altogether remarkable”. Now, back-cover copy is often wont to gush, sometimes in disturbing excess of praise for hellaciously untalented work, but in this case, the back cover has nailed it. This book is one of the finest pieces of twentieth-century American literature, let alone speculative science fiction. Do yourself a favor and give it a read.
After that I thought it was time to reacquaint myself with this Classic and memorable Book. Not Sorry I did!
This book was one of my first ventures into Science Fiction almost 40 years ago and it has been a story line in my thoughts on and off during that time.
I remembered the plot line and the note with Pastrami, Kraut and Bagels very vividly.
But I had forgotten the actual word smithing that was the heart of the Book iIt was something that has been lacking in many of the current publications.
It took a mastery of words and intellect to craft this Classic, Long Lasting, Intelligent and a Compellation that still over 55 years later still holds value and relevance.
Cold war Iconology and the loss of related history still holds true in a different form but it still can be interpreted and applied in todays world of threat and insecurity.
It is a Compelling and Great Read and a book that should be included in a true SCI/FI aficionado's Library.
Read it and ENJOY!