Patrick Gibson's Reviews > A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
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's review
Mar 28, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: the_apocalypse, science-fiction
Read in March, 2011

This is one of the first post-apocalyptic fiction novels (1959). Not many since have come close to nailing the genre as this one. I first read Canticle in college, and realized it was one of those rare books that -- like Orwell's Animal Farm – offer different things upon subsequent readings.

Humankind has nuked itself almost to oblivion. The question Miller poses is: will we do it again?
Miller's split the book into 3 sections: Fiat Homo (Let There Be Man), Fiat Lux (Let There Be Light) and Fiat Volultas Tua (Lord, According To Thy Will). Fiat Homo address the question: what happens when men start organizing themselves into statelets. Fiat Lux addresses the question of what responsibility scientists bear for the application of their findings. Fiat Voluntas Tua addresses the issues of church v. state, sin (original or otherwise) and will we repeat or sins. Given its title, this section title particularly terrifying. Wandering through the book is Lazarus, whom Christ raised from the dead. Watch for him, he's interesting.
This is an extraordinarily powerful book. Its message, once one cuts past the Catholic overtones, is one that applies as much today as it did in the fifties, perhaps even more so than it did then, in light of the insanity in India and Pakistan North Korea and Iran. If ever there was a stronger literary work against nuclear war, I have yet to see it.
"Canticle" is amazing -- from its delicately layered symbolism to its overwhelming waves of sadness and, eventually, hope. This is my third read and Miller's carefully built metaphors seem to become deeper and more complex with each new reading.

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