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A Canticle For Leibowitz (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Hardcover – 25 Apr 2013


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (25 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575073578
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575073579
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 141,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Angry, eloquent...a terrific story. (New York TIMES)

Prodigiously imaginative, richly comic, terrifyingly grim. (CHICAGO Tribune) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The HUGO AWARD-winning novel of Earth after the apocalypse.

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First Sentence
Brother Francis Gerard of Utah might never have discovered the blessed documents, had it not been for the pilgrim with girded loins who appeared during that young novice's Lenten fast in the desert. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Shepherd on 30 Jun. 2003
Format: Paperback
Canticle is one of the best post-holocaust stories ever written. Told in three separate sections that were originally published as separate stories, it details a post-nuclear war society where (once more) the Catholic church has become the repository for what little learning there still is, complete with monk scribes happily copying by hand the few remaining books. But at least for the first section of the book, the scribes don't understand what they're copying. When they uncover some ancient relics of Saint Leibowitz (a twentieth century engineer who tried to stop the book burnings and other atrocities) they end up enshrining one of his grocery lists and venerate a common blue-print as rare and sacred. Later portions of the book detail the resurgence of science, fueled by the church's repositories of knowledge, but as becomes increasingly obvious as you go further in the book, there is still no change in mankind's basic human nature, and war enters the picture again (and again) - covering almost a two-thousand year span.

There is a large amount of ironical humor suffused throughout this book, which makes its prime message that man is doomed to continuously repeat his mistakes, leavened only by the love of a distant God, much easier to take. In many ways this book is a hard look at both the ultimate value of religion and at basic human nature, couched alongside some heavy symbolism (the Wandering Jew makes multiple appearances) and some very sharp satire.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful By S. Flaherty VINE VOICE on 19 Nov. 2002
Format: Hardcover
I don't usually give books 5 stars so you'll understand that I thought this book to be exceptional. Yet it's a little hard to say why. Possibly it's the combination of religion and SF, which happens very rarely and even more rarely succeeds.
A little about the plot. This is a post-apocalyptic novel as is obvious in the first chapter when a monk of the order of St. Leibowitz is wodering why metal cores are found so often in rocks - said rocks being concrete rubble. The Catholic church has relocated to New Rome, somewhere in the American southwest, and the main setting is the monastery of St. Leibowitz, somewhere in the desert in the American southwest. The main characters are the monks. The action of the story takes place over around 1,000 years, consisting of three stories, each one hundereds of years apart from the others.
The order of St. Leibowitz is dedicated to preserving knowledge in the Memorabilia, a collection of pre-apocalyptic writings and documents. For this, they were persecuted in the immediate post apocalyptic period as the survivors of a nuclear war rose up, enraged, against technology. The first story takes place a few hundred years after this, when civilisation is just starting to be even thought about again. The Church of New Rome is a repository of knowledge (especially the Order of St. Leibowitz) and a force for social cohesion. There are obvious (and, I'm sure, intentional) parallels with the European Dark Ages after the fall of Rome here. As there are in the second part, which deals with the rise of an empire (perhaps based on Charlemagne?) that looks like it might unify the American southwest but, perhaps inevitably, comes into conflict with the Church. Again, historical parallels can be seen.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By BleakWisdom on 24 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
This post-apocalyptic tale is narrated by the survivors of a 20th century "Flame Deluge" (nuclear war). Modern civilisation is decimated and the world's population largely annihilated. The anger of the few survivors is channelled toward the remaining scientists and politicians, leading to a cull of the inteligencia which culminates in book burning and the slaughter of anyone who can read. The novel is set mostly within the walls of an abbey constructed to preserve the remaining knowledge until the population is ready to understand it and rebuild. The author revisits the abbey three times over the next two thousand years, charting the technological and philosophical development of civilisation at each point in history. The subsequent emergence and renaissance of this fictional civilisation parallels that of our own and the author uses this as a plot device to discuss the failings of humanity and the propensity of society to make the same mistakes throughout history. Is history destined to repeat itself?

So the cold war brought the world to the brink of the apocalypse, this may be so, but this period instilled a level of fear and paranoia in the mind that can germinate great creative ideas, and this book is full of them, I can't recommend it highly enough! The prose is beautifully written and incredibly readable, although at points intensely depressing I was surprised how richly comic I found this novel given the subject matter.

I'm a massive Sci-fi fan but must concede that although some of the great literary ideas are produced in this genera, the quality of the writing and characterisation frequently falls short of the mark. I would often tar even the `greats' such as Azimov and Clark with this brush, although don't get me wrong, I hugely enjoyed some of their books.
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