Eli's Reviews > A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
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's review
Jan 09, 08

bookshelves: religion-myth, sci-fi
Read in May, 1999

Though told through the lens of the Catholic Church as it survives centuries after nuclear holocaust, this book is less about faith and more about human reason as it clashes with the forces of xenophobia, greed and ignorance.

We see a picture of the church as a giant institution, slow to change and long to deliberate, and an order of scholarly monks who sometimes bump against this inertia. Within the order are disparate personalities kept together by the code they've adhered to and the rule of the abbot. And outside the abbey's walls, humanity makes its slow trek from chaos to tribalism, feudalism and industrial advancement.

Rarely does a sci-fi book avoid hovering over the artifice of technology, or invest more in characters than in setting, but A Canticle does both masterfully. Miller's writing concerns itself more with the close personal revelations, fears, choices and conflicts of his characters than of inventing gizmos or distractions. Along the way we get periodic and sometimes brutal glimpses of the world outside the abbey, in stunning prose. Add to all this a touch of irony and comic pathos, and you have a profound depiction of humanity's best and worst impulses.

Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a good tale.
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