Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Canticle For Leibowitz

 As I am reading books, I thought I'd post some of my comments on them.

I just finished reading A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.  I'd seen it multiple times on lists of science fiction greats and so I decided that it was about time that I read it.  I wasn't sure exactly what I was getting into, but the novel ended up being a post-nuclear apocalyptic account viewed through the perspective of Catholic monks.  As the twining of religion and science holds special interest for me, I found myself immediately hooked.

The book is separated into three different sections.  After I finished reading it I found out that these were published in scifi magazines as novellas prior to their being put together.  This makes sense, because although the stories are all in the same fictional universe, they follow the viewpoints of different characters.  Leibowitz, the patron Saint of the abbey, is a permanent fixture in each story.  I connected most with the characters in the first and the last sections.  I found the middle story to be a bit dry at times, but it is certainly a necessary installment in the book.  Leaping from the first account the last account would be fairly difficult.

A couple of things were incredibly attractive to me about this book.  First, even though I'm not a Catholic (I'm a Baptist, if we're being nit-picky), the religious community in this book was very gratifying to read about.  Most strikingly, Miller writes about real people.  The monks have as many faults as anyone else, and they don't try to cover it up with moral superiority.  There is a certain genuineness about the characters that makes you want to keep reading.  In this way, his writing very much reminded me of Russian writers like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

I don't want to give too much away, so you'll have to read the book for yourself.  It was certainly engaging.  And with the threat of nuclear war still hanging over us, it's just as relevant today as it was when it was published during the Cold War.

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