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A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

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Apocalytic Blast from the Past

  • Apr 21, 2012
When reading this book one must remember that some of it was first published in 1955 only ten years after Hiroshima.  It was only two years since the Korean war and the Rosenbergs had just been executed in 1953.  The story is in three pieces and the entirety was not assembled, polished and published until about 1960, though some sources say 1959 and some 1961.

Yes this book is from the dim mists of time.  I certainly have not read it in 30 years.  But it is amazing how much floats up from the depths of memory as I read it again.  Monks going blind from the reinvention of the arc light is difficult to forget.  But I also remember "duck and cover" and hiding under desks in grade school.  I thought it was funny.  I did not know how seriously stupid it was.  I did not know that the United States had 30,000 nuclear weapons in the early 60s.  I hardly understood what a nuclear weapon was.  I did not know the Russians were quite out classed when I was in high school.  But with nuclear weapons it does not particularly matter.  What would 1000 nuclear weapons set off nearly simultaneously around the planet do?  Who wants to find out?

But that is the background reality to this fictional story and it cannot be properly judged without taking that background into account.  But does the story matter any more?  Now the US only has 10,000 nuclear weapons and the former Soviets not much more than that.  But now we have Peak Oil, Global Warming and 7 billion people.  In general people behave as though the nuclear threat has gone away.  IT HAS NOT!  But the reasons for the nukes possibly being used and the possible opponents have changed since 1960.  There were only 3 billion people back then and no one was worrying about running out of oil.

The Canticle begins centuries in the future long after the nuclear war.  Mutations are as common as starvation.  A monastery in the wilderness is preserving remnants of the scientific knowledge of the destroyed civilisation.  In many ways the story is a commentary on religion, both its usefulness and its foolishness.  

The story goes on into politics and war and barbarism and finally the plateau of technological civilisation is reached again.

After reading this book it might be a good idea to read The Mote in God's Eye.  The similarities are too obvious to miss.

By the way, I think I first read this book in 7th or 8th grade.  I would not give this book to grade school kids.  The third section is just too graphic about some things.  Another funny thought though.  How can anyone give a damn about Catcher in the Rye after reading this?  LOL  High school English Lit is so absurd.
Apocalytic Blast from the Past Apocalytic Blast from the Past Apocalytic Blast from the Past

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April 21, 2012
Good review!
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Quick Tip by . October 05, 2010
"Canticle" is considered by many to the the ultimate science fiction work of all time. Count me as one of the many.
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Book, Dystopia, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller


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