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A Canticle for Leibowitz [Mass Market Paperback]

Walter Miller
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 1961 Bantam Spectra Book
In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, a monk of the Order of Saint Leibowitz has made a miraculous discovery: holy relics from the life of the great saint himself, including the blessed blueprint, the sacred shopping list, and the hallowed shrine of the Fallout Shelter.

In a terrifying age of darkness and decay, these artifacts could be the keys to mankind's salvation. But as the mystery at the core of this groundbreaking novel unfolds, it is the search itself—for meaning, for truth, for love—that offers hope for humanity's rebirth from the ashes.

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A Canticle for Leibowitz + The Left Hand of Darkness + Neuromancer
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From Amazon

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

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucifer is Fallen May 3 2004
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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5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazing Work June 19 2004
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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5.0 out of 5 stars After the Fall May 16 2004
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Great example of 'Future History' March 29 2004
Canticle for Lebowitz is a story that will appeal to all types of readers: science fiction readerers because of its speculative aspects as well as fantasy readers due to its projection of people into a strange (but all too possible) world.
This novel does a great job of describing how certain human organizations (religion, in particular) could survive apocalypse and become the vessel of knowledge into a future age--not unlike the function of the Middle Age monasteries preserved Classical knowledge. It also provides a very believable account of how people might perceive technologies that have become incomprehensible. For example, one of the characters marvels over why ancient people put metal bars into stone (it is rebar reinforced concrete). It shows us how even things that we perceive as mundane in the modern world could take on a mystical nature to those who lack understanding.
For me, the best of this book was the first two thirds. These are the parts where the writing really shines and the you get a sense of how humanity could endure and rediscover science through a neo-dark age. The last part is very good as well, but I think the authors voice begins to creep into the story and the characters, and events unfold more for the benefit of the point he's trying to make more than any other factor.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It is absolutely fantastic. Easily the best book I've read this year...
This is an absolute must read for any lover of just not sci-fi but fiction in general. It is absolutely fantastic. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Pierre MacKay
1.0 out of 5 stars Complete waste of paper!
I found this novel to be one of the worst things I have ever read. Reading it was laborious, meaningless and a complete waste of my time. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Larry Eldreth
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
The book deserves this rating for its ability to meet expectations. I enjoyed its setting and plot. I reccomendd it to readers of books like The Chrysalids. Read more
Published 5 months ago by David Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
A classic for a reason.

I don't know what else to say beyond that. If you have any interest in the genres of apocalyptic stories, the future or humankind, the... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Brent L
5.0 out of 5 stars While society dissolves, the Church merely genuflects....
This novel is timeless! Whether we are examining the supposed eras of recovery from nuclear holocaust, the reformation of oppressive armed combatants, the redeployment of nuclear... Read more
Published on June 18 2011 by Ronald W. Maron
4.0 out of 5 stars A curiously allusive work
Unlike much work in this genre, this book does not focus on the violence and danger of a post-apocalyptic world (although that certainly is present) but on the thoughts and... Read more
Published on Dec 3 2008 by Ryan B. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
I read this one for the first time a few years ago. I've read it a couple times since. It's thought provoking and original. Read more
Published on June 24 2007 by J. Niskanen
4.0 out of 5 stars unique and wonderful
Well, amazing. So many novels in this general genre completely discount the power, much less the existence, of faith and ritual in human culture, or else they deride it. Read more
Published on June 8 2004 by katla
5.0 out of 5 stars Miller's highly personal struggle with religion and science
Walter Miller's only major novel is not simply a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel but also a multi-layered meditation on the conflict between knowledge and morality. Read more
Published on May 23 2004 by D. Cloyce Smith
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