A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

a_canticle_for_leibowitz.large.jpg   Any story that starts off with monks and a monastery, I’m IN.   I have a thing for monks and monasteries and ancient books, lost papers, stuff like that.

A Canticle for Leibowitz was Miller’s only novel, and it was first issued in 1960, and has never been out of print since.  It is a post apocalyptic story of how knowledge of nuclear technology destroyed mankind, and because of this, the remaining people decided that knowledge was indeed power, but evil power, and took on the task of destroying all books so that the surviving population would have to start over completely and hopefully avoid the almost-annihilation of the species which had just taken place.

This story is set 600 years after the destruction of a global nuclear war.   Isaac Edward Leibowitz had been a Jewish electrical engineer in the army, but converts to Catholicism, and founds the monastic  Albertian Order of Leibowitz, which has as its task to secretly save as many books as they can.  Centuries after his death, the monastery is still preserving anything written they can get their hands on.  Much of it is technical instruction manuals which are just gibberish to them.

It is an intricately plotted story that spans the years from the 26th century to 3781.  It is the story of how mankind recovered their lost knowledge and what they do with it.

The book is in three parts, which roughly correspond to crucial phases in Western history.  This makes it all sound so much more dry and academic than it really is.   What it really is is a compelling story that is hard to put down, and although we can easily see the references to the cyclical history of our species,  they do not dominate nor interfere with our immersion in the story.

It is filled with wonderfully colorful characters, and a way of telling the tale that brings them all to life.  It is sci fi, and futuristic and contains a warning about the use of technology and power.

But then, we already know all about that, right?  Right?

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