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A Canticle For Leibowitz
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A Canticle For Leibowitz (St. Leibowitz #1)

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  49,243 ratings  ·  2,333 reviews
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 St Leibowitz, that reads: "Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels--bring home for Emma." To the Brothers of St Leibowitz, this sacred shopping list penned by an obscure, 20th-century engineer is ...more
Paperback, Library binding
Published May 29th 2008 by Paw Prints (first published October 1959)
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Manny
I'm not a Christian, but I live in a Christian society, and it's all around me. Reviewing on Goodreads brings home how many authors can be classified as some kind of Christian apologist. I have very different reactions to them. At one end, I can't stand most of C.S. Lewis - I feel he's there with his foot in the door trying to sell me something, and I'm just hoping that I can get him to take his foot away without being openly rude. At the opposite end, I think Dante is a genius, and that The Div ...more
Stephen
Odd as it sounds, this is hot toddy, warm blanket comfort food for me. Admittedly, that’s not the typical description of this cynical, bleak-themed, post-apocalyptic SF classic. However, the easy, breezy style with which Miller explores his melancholy material manages to pluck smiles from me whenever I pick it up. This go around, I listened to the audio version which was recently released it was as mood brightening an experience as my previous read through.

Despite dealing with dark, somber subje
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Jennifer (aka EM)
ETA 09/03/13: Cloud Atlas to the reading path, below.

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I was conceived somewhere late summer/early fall of 1963, roundabout the time the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed by the US, UK and Soviet Union; close to a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis and about two months before JFK's assassination. There had been an earlier miscarriage, a child who would have been a year or so older than me.

I may have picked up, in the womb, an interest in the politics of that time. My father, in particular,
...more
Tedb0t
Jul 02, 2008 Tedb0t rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: big fans of pap sci-fi
I read this immediately following another well-known 1950s apocalyptic / nuclear holocaust novel "Alas, Babylon." That book, which I gave 4 stars to, was an excellent story and made no pretensions to literature; its prose was plain and transparent. The novel in question, "A Canticle for Leibowitz," turned out to be one of the most irritating kinds of genre sci-fi: one with ambitions to beauty and importance that falls far short of the mark.

Now, I hate to put it that way, because I would never cr
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 16, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books
One of the best sci-fi that I've read so far.

A Canticle for Leibowitz is composed of three parts. In between each part is a period of 6 centuries. This reminded me of Roberto Bolano's 2666 (5 stars) that I recently read and found amazing. I am not sure whether Bolano got the idea from here but if it was a coincidence then there must be something happening around that time. Creepy. This first part, Fiat Homo or "Let There Be Man" happens 6 centuries from the 20th century. This book, the only one
...more
Greg
Maybe it was the time of year. Maybe it was because my copy of the book was in an advanced stage of acidification with the pages cracking and the glue failing so I feared taking this book with me on the subway (images of high school moments when a dropped binder in a busy hallway could destroy a years worth of work in about three seconds). Maybe I read this too slowly, taking too many days off in between each sitting. Maybe it was the stress and anxiety of working retail, yet again, for another ...more
mark monday
bleak themes with a light touch. although not an easy book to get into, once i realized the effort was a worthy one, it became an increasingly absorbing read. the structure in particular was interesting, challenging - and distancing. novels with religion at their core are often absorbing to me personally, and this novel is all about the impact of religion on the building and rebuilding of society. i appreciated the humanist values and found myself agreeing with the at times progressive, other ti ...more
Jan-Maat
This is a story about humanity. It was born of the author's experiences taking part in the destruction of the monastery of Monte Cassino during WWII and the reasonable fear of nuclear annihilation that haunted many people for many years.

If in The Day of the Triffids there is a certain gladness on the part of the author that a society they didn't much like has been destroyed by a bright comet and wandering killer plants and now they can get on with rebuilding a new order much more to their own t
...more
Kat  Hooper
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

It’s the dark ages again. A 20th century nuclear war spawned a “Flame Deluge” which destroyed human civilization’s infrastructure and technology, killed most of the people, and created genetic mutations in many of the rest. Then there was a backlash against the educated people of the world who were seen as the creators of both the ideas that started the war, and the weapons that were used to fight it. They were persecuted and killed and all knowledge was b
...more
Guillermo
It's nice that a story written at the height of cold war tensions 52 years ago still manages to be relevant. This is a post apocalyptic story mostly set in an abbey in the southwestern United States, hundreds of years after a nuclear holocaust. That event becomes a sort of mythology for the times as the church tells the story of "the ancients" (us) in the form of a parable about the "Princes" of the world being given these weapons in the hope that mutually assured destruction would be enough of ...more
Jon
Mar 31, 2013 Jon added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: SciFi and Fantasy Book Club April 2010 Selection
Christopher
TEN stars. A book that would NEVER EVER make it through to a small-time SF magazine let alone a major publisher today, far too Catholic (and unapologetically so) and one of the greatest books I've ever read. I think it's fortunate that I waited until my middle age to read this as I'd likely not have had the depth of understanding to fully appreciate all the layers of this. Unfortunately it's the kind of book that also makes me question why I even try to write at all, it's shown me again that the ...more
Jim
I've tried to read this in paperback several times & the first section always put me to sleep much like The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, yet both are classics that really should be read. Ben's bio was great as an audio book & this one certainly went along far better & was well worth listening to. It truly is a classic showing chilling possibilities to the cyclical nature of our history & uses the Catholic Church as its vehicle.

Told in 3 sections roughly 600 years apart, th
...more
Chloe
It's rather difficult these days to understand the sheer terror that gripped the world in the aftermath of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent decades-long arms race with the Soviet Union. In fact, I find it hard to get overly worked up about most existential threats. Perhaps it's threat burn-out. We're kept so constantly primed to expect something big and calamitous- climate change, bio warfare, outbreaks of nanobots, zombie plagues, pestilence- that I think most of us ...more
Werner
May 24, 2008 Werner rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of serious science fiction
Recommended to Werner by: It was required reading for a course I took on science fiction
Shelves: science-fiction
Following the destruction of 20th-century civilization in a nuclear war, Jewish nuclear scientist Edward Isaac Leibowitz converted to Catholicism and founded a monastic order charged with salvaging the books that record humanity's heritage of literature and knowledge. Though the novel opens centuries after his death, his influence lingers throughout it, as the Order of Leibowitz fulfills its mission (like their monastic predecessors after the fall of the Roman Empire) to preserve written culture ...more
Simon
"Nature imposes nothing on you that Nature doesn't prepare you to bear" quoth the abbot Zerchi in the final part of this book, not long before we are to find out humanity, in contrast, seems quite capable and determined to impose on its self that which it is not prepared to bear.

Are we in an endless cycle in which we build up and then destroy our civilization in our relentless attempt to restore our place in Eden? In our dark ages must he church gather and protect knowledge and wisdom from the v
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rob
Without a doubt, A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the classic post-apocalyptic novels. That it strikes so mercilessly at so many of our deepest fears, it is no wonder the tale has held up well over time. There is a fantastic interplay here of innocence vs. corruption, of reason vs. faith and intuitions, of hope vs. despair... The novel was significantly more emotional and gut-wrenching than I'd expected.

The novel is certainly worthy of a thoughtful and detailed review but I fear I may need mor
...more
Dustin
Yeah, its preachy. Yeah, most of the plot happens off the page. Yeah, its light on action and heavy on a secular vs. religious debate. But it has a two-headed woman and an immortal Jew, medieval warfare AND rocket ships. Dude.

Also, I liked the structure. Supposedly the three sections were different novellas that Miller linked together to form this novel, which gives it a stop-and-go sensation that he uses to good effect in spanning over a thousand years of story, dropping and picking up charact
...more
Yael
Where do I start? A Canticle for Liebowitz, first published in 1960, is one of the greatest English-languge novels. I first read it the year after it was introduced to the public, when I was 16, and it drove home an understanding of just what global nuclear war was likely to do to the world. Somber, heart-wrernching, the novel is nevertheless written with wry, sardonic humor that counterbalances the horror of what has happened to the world . . . until it dawns on the reader that what is sardonic ...more
Kim
I'm still in two minds about the rating I gave this book. On one hand it was well written and engaging throughout. On the other there were quite a few times, especially towards the end, where it felt like I was reading a sermon.

Going into this book I knew nothing about it apart from it being one of those "must-read" sci-fi books. I'd heard the name but that was it. Nothing about the storyline or the author. I went into it with an open-mind and no preconceptions. Now I think if I had read about
...more
David
Sometimes you wonder, among the various apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels out there, which will pass the test of time. I recently re-read Nevil Shute's "On the Beach", whose vision of the aftermath of a nuclear war had chilled me when I read it as a teenager. It didn't hold up well -- the understated, stiff-upper-lip, dignity of his calmly accepting Australians as they waited for the nuclear cloud to waft their way seemed implausible, and hopelessly naive. Where was the rage? Where were th ...more
Nikki
I've been meaning to read this for, literally, years. I'm glad I finally got round to it. I was expecting something a bit more dry, I think, but actually A Canticle for Leibowitz is full of humour. There's a lot of dark themes, yes, but there's also a sort of understanding of human nature. A wry smile at our own expense.

How convincing you find it might depend on whether you believe the underlying idea: that we are more or less doomed to repeat history over and over. I don't believe that, not rea
...more
Sandi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sesana
A Canticle for Leibowitz is different from virtually every other post-apocalyptic book I've ever read. It's set centuries after the nuclear war that destroyed 20th century civilization, but what sets it apart is how it shows people trying to rebuild. It's both optimistic (humanity can rebuild, even from the worst) and skeptical about human nature. (Even knowing what the worst is won't stop people from courting disaster again.) The characters, especially the three stars, are memorable, though non ...more
Dave
I remember reading an old first edition paperback as a teen and having my cousin's confirmation teacher disapprove of it. Want to make a curious teen read something? Act scandalized by it. Anyway, it kind of blew my world and acted as a sort of seed that bloomed into a giant agnostic blossom in my brain years later.I was excited, but a little fearful when it was reprinted a few years ago because I hadn't read it since my early teen years. It was like going to meet a friend that you had lost cont ...more
Greg Strandberg
What a great book. You're really getting early dystopian fantasy here, and it's told from an interesting viewpoint - that of a futuristic monk, although in this world he seems to be living in a time even worse than the Middle Ages.

You'll see some muties in this book, and the way they're presented is quite interesting. It's suspenseful, you're not shown a whole lot, and you want more.

I read this book once, back in 2009 when I was in Hong Kong for National Day. I was buying all the Hugo/Nebula win
...more
Alfred Searls
O how this book touched my heart; how it illuminated the darker corners of my soul with the brilliance of its generosity of spirit and the love with which it was evidently crafted.

What’s that you say? “Enough with the hyperbole - quit it with the over exuberance?” Well it’s my review and I’ll cry if I want to and if there are times in which you’re not moved to tears by this wholly remarkable work of post-apocalyptic science fiction then you have no soul to illuminate.

The book opens in the twenty
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Nicholas
With all the dystopic literature coming out of the collective 20th century psyche of post-Hiroshima anxiety and the realization that as of now we, literally, can 'bomb ourselves back to the stone age,' Walter Miller's contribution runs with that very idea and tosses you into a world at once both familiar and foreign. Through three successive time periods spanning some 1,000 odd years from the 26th century onwards, Miller's protagonist becomes the all-observing spectre of time as the reader is d ...more
Michael
I have some seriously mixed feelings about this one. Here's why.

It's good. It's effective. It wrestles with big ideas. And, I think the author hates science. WAIT! Don't swear at me yet! Read my review, THEN you can start swearing. Trust me, you'll have a lot more ammunition.

For those of you who haven't read this sucker yet, it tells of a time in the future, after mankind has mostly killed itself off with nuclear bombs. Following this event, the common people (now calling themselves Simpletons,
...more
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From the Wikipedia article, "Walter M. Miller, Jr.":

Miller was born in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Educated at the University of Tennessee and the University of Texas, he worked as an engineer. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps as a radioman and tail gunner, flying more than fifty bombing missions over Italy. He took part in the bombing of the Benedictine Abbey at Monte Cassino,
...more
More about Walter M. Miller Jr....
Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman Dark Benediction Conditionally Human And Other Stories Classic Science Fiction by Walter M. Miller, Jr. The Darfsteller And Other Stories

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“You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily.” 20634 likes
“The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they became with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier to see something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle's eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn.” 53 likes
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