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A Canticle for Leibowitz Mass Market Paperback – Feb 1 1961

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra; New Bantam ed edition (Feb. 1 1961)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553273817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553273816
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.5 x 17.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #6,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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 the Paperback edition.


“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.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 on May 3 2004
Format: Paperback
This novel from the 1950's is a deserved classic among the sci-fi intelligentsia. Maybe its laborious title has kept it from being noticed by the popular masses, but this book is a hidden gem for those looking to broaden their horizons. This is probably one of the earliest stories to speculate on a post-nuclear apocalypse, and here Walter Miller created one of the most imaginative and far-reaching examples of that motif. Later nuclear winter stories would get predictable and formulaic, but not this originator. In this masterpiece of storytelling, three ages of human development pass by over the course of 1800 years, but in the end we see that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. While it's a bit dated in places, this brilliant and disturbing novel will keep you thinking for a long time after you're done reading it.
In addition to its unique take on historical processes, this book is essentially about the pros and cons of organized religion. In Part 1, humanity is stuck in the middle of several centuries of dark ages after a nuclear war, and once again the Catholic Church (or what's left of it) holds sway over a fearful and unenlightened society. Among the few records of the pre-war world that have survived are some inconsequential notes and blueprints by a minor scientist called Leibowitz. The church has made Leibowitz a saint, and here Miller appears to be commenting on the reverence of organized religion toward matters of doubtful authenticity and importance. Is religious belief built upon weak foundations? In Part 2 humanity is entering a new renaissance of knowledge, with religion being unable to adjust to the new enlightenment. In Part 3, humanity has reached a new technical age, but society is again oppressed by nuclear paranoia and mutually assured destruction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charles J. Rector on June 19 2004
Format: Paperback
A Canticle for Leibowitz is not a novel. Rather, it is 3 linked novellas concerning the Order of Saint Leibowitz. Each of these novellas have different focuses and at first glance, would seem to have little to do with the other novellas. However, when you get down to thinking about it, they are actually pieces of a united work.
The first novella, Fiat Homo, is squarely about the Abbey of Saint Leibowitz and begins with the discovery of the Sacred Shopping List. It is the story of how the brothers seek to have Leibowitz officially recognized as a saint.
The second novella, Fiat Lux, is an espionage thriller dealing with the diabolical plans of the Emperor of Texarkana for continental domination. The third novella, Fiat Voluntas Tua, deals with the Second Nuclear Age as the nations that arose from the ashes of the First Nuclear Age and the nuclear war that ended that age, grapple with both nuclear weapons and the knowledge that a previous civilization died from those weapons.
As you can see, the 3 novellas deal with diverse subjects, but it is the way that Miller weaves his stories that the 3 become one.
A Canticle For Leibowitz is a most intriguing and well executed book and should be required reading in classrooms today.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The first thing that struck me about A Canticle for Leibowitz is just how well it reads over 50 years from its publication—released in 1959, even before the Cold War really took off, this classic post-apocalyptic novel still reads like a modern-day cautionary tale against nuclear weapons. In the first third of the novel, we meet Brother Francis, a young monk of an order that preserves the relics of a twentieth-century humanity that was nearly wiped out by a nuclear war. While fasting in the desert, Francis stumbles upon some relics from Saint Leibowitz, the founder of his order. These 'relics' are in fact electrical diagrams—Leibowitz was a Jewish-American electrical engineer—and Francis is eventually, after much debate as to the diagrams' authenticity, tasked with transporting them to New Rome. Here, they are added to the Church's slowly but inexorably growing scientific libraries, eventually spurring a new industrial era in the second third of the book. The pace of research continues to grow over hundreds of years, with Church scientists rediscovering things like general relativity and, inevitably, the secrets of the atom that had destroyed civilization over a millennium ago. By the final third of the novel, a nuclear-armed humanity is once again poised on the brink of armageddon.

Though the Fall of Man is an ancient literary theme, A Canticle for Leibowitz is probably one of the first science fiction novels to raise the question of whether we really are doomed to fall through technological rather than supernatural means. Miller makes his opinion on this matter fairly clear. I myself work on projects related to disarmament, and therefore (or despite this?) I have higher hopes than Miller for the future of humanity and technology.
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By Jack Purcell on May 16 2004
Format: Paperback
Imagine a Benedictine monastary, monks going through their daily rituals, preserving and reproducing holy documents without understanding them or why they're holy for hundreds of years through the dark ages. Now imagine that same monastary in some future time, some future dark age after the fall of all those things we believe make us a civilization. That's the basic theme of Canticle for Liebowitz.
As the churches of past times strove to have their Saints and holy artifacts recognized by the Church, so they do in Canticle. It's a good yarn, an intertaining one, an absorbing one. I'm not certain why this book isn't among those listed as 'classics', reviewed by hundreds of reader-fans. I do know I loved it when I first read it several decades ago and I've loved it every time I've read it since.
I see in the editorial review that the book had a sequel I'd never heard of. I'm going to try to chase it down. Meanwhile, I recommend you get yourself a copy of this one and begin the sustained process of enjoying it occasionally for as long as you have eyesight and enough light to read by.
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