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on 1 May 2017
As an admirer of "A Canticle for Leibowitz" I read this book with a great sense of anticipation and I was not disappointed. It does not have the great sweep of Canticle and instead focuses on one time period and one set of characters in the long post-apocalyptic Dark Age. These characters are well fleshed-out and their virtues as well as their flaws drive the plot forwards
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on 22 May 1998
Long, complicated, misled, bloated, massive. These all describe Walter M. Miller's long-awaited sequel to the revolutionary novel "A Canticle For Leibowitz." However, it is too easy and too hasty to discredit "Saint Laibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman" simply on these merits alone. The awe that surrounds ACFL comes only in part from the story itself. Most of its sense of wonder comes from what it represented and who wrote it. Miller had converted to catholicsm a few years before the book was published. His hopes for christianity are prevalent throughout the book, particularly since only the righteous survive the second flame deluge at the end of the novel. In SLATWHM, most of his hopefulness is gone. Blacktooth, who is obviously Miller, has seen that the forces that drive his religion are no different than those that drive our tyrants and despots. Unable to reconcile religious politics with his christian spirituality, Blacktooth ultimately abandons the church. Now, it seems that (according to Miller) not only is the secular world cyclical, but the religious as well. Those who would read SLATWHM for the purpose of being merely entertained should expect to be disappointed. It is rather a study of Miller's belief system and its subsequent deconstruction. The novel took seven years to write, but I expect that the development of Blacktooth/Miller's worldview extend back much further than that. SLATWHM should be read in the same frame of mind that one should read Philip K. Dick's "Valis." The reader knows that Dick was insane when he wrote it, Dick knew he was insane when he wrote it, and the central character Horselover Fat (an extension of Dick into the novel like Blacktooth for Miller) knows that he is insane. Nevertheless, he is able to treat the subject with considerable clarity. Sad, and convincing, SLATWHM seems like less of a novel than a documentary of Miller's decline into incurable despair. Bisson's ending is adequate for the nove! l, but not accurate. Miller wrote the final words when he told a 911 operator that there was a dead man in his front yard.
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on 8 August 2009
As a sequel this book fails. Although set in the timeframe of the second novelette of the Canticle, it is a very different book from its predecessor.

Miller's idea that history is doomed to repeat itself is used here for a re-enactment of the Renaissance, complete with gunpowder, worldly Papacy and a struggle between nascent secularism and shaken faith. However, the story fails to come together as neither of the characters is significant or interesting enough to make the reader sit up and take notice.

This book reminded me of the sequels to Dune that poor Frank Herbert was forced to churn out by his publishers. The magic and urgency of the original book long gone, a meandering plot, and all too many references to the protagonists's nether parts, brought in to jazz up the story but ending up by merely making it tawdry and amateurish.

This is a pity, because Miller had so much to say. Unfortunately this is the book of his depression years, lost in the meanderings of his tormented mind. It is a disappointment, but has many gems and hilarious bits hidden in-between. Please be warned, however, that a good grip on the history of the Renaissance is a pre-requisite for reading this book...
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HALL OF FAMEon 22 December 2003
One author sets murders in a medieval Roman Catholic monastery and it becomes an object of popular acclaim. Another author sets Papal politics in a post-nuclear holocaust society and it's dubbed "Sci-fi", and tossed in the remainders bin. Neither book deserved the fate it received. Miller's second look at post-nuclear North American society reveals a church divided within and still struggling with Caesar after three millennia. Popes tend to church politics with one hand and civil society with another. Somewhere in the middle are the lesser religious tending their adherents or hiding from the conflicts.
One such "lesser religious" is a monk, Blacktooth St George. A resident at the monastery long dedicated to the memory of Isaac Leibowitz, nuclear scientist and martyr, Blacktooth harbours doubts about his calling. His roots are from the Plains people and their pagan heritage conflicts with the Roman Catholic Church's ideal of monotheism and self-sacrifice. Attempting to shed the burdensome vows, Blacktooth is conscripted to the service of a lawyer cardinal. Elia Brownpony, too, is a former Plainsman, but has risen quickly in the Church hierarchy due to diplomatic talents. Diplomacy usually involves conspiracy, and Brownpony must be adept at both for he is struggling to reunite the broken church. Theology isn't the basis of the schism, however. The expanding empire of Texark has challenged the Pope's power. Brownpony, wheeling and dealing, uses Blacktooth as a major instrument.
Politics are a lesser challenge to Blacktooth than the condition of his own spirit. Beset by visions and his glands alike, this mid-thirties adult is known as Nimmy, an appellation applied to young boys. He encounters a genetic mutant, a heritage of the holocaust, whose only flaws are an uncanny insight and a rampant libido. She seduces Nimmy, who doesn't quite break his vows, and supposedly produces two children. Her image haunts him as he goes about his role of personal assistant. He's also haunted by the multi-figured image of a pope of African descent. All these conflicting visions keep Blacktooth on edge and in peril. His reconciliation of all these disparate forces are the theme of Miller's "midquel" of Canticle for Leibowitz [this story commences at the middle of Canticle, not the end].
The swirling roles of church and state and the Church and the individual formed the basis of Canticle. They are expanded and enhanced in this book, with the convulsions that shook the Roman Catholic Church after the 1960s beautifully integrated into the story. Bisson has done Miller's original draft proud in completing a compelling story of the pressures on faith. Throughout the complex plot, the characters are kept realistic, if somewhat bizarre. Religious institutions, particularly under stress, are never simple, and the complexities are well handled and you never lose the threads, no matter how tangled.
[stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 25 July 2001
I wasn't aware of this book until a few weeks ago. I read 'A Canticle For Leibowitz' quite a few years ago. This continues the same themes of human existence but widens it to cover the power struggle between the Catholic church and the emerging states in the Central & Southern USA in the 33rd century, as seen from the point of view of a (reluctant) monk from the Order Of St Leibowitz. It is quite savage in parts and, like James Jones later works such as Whistle, contains a lot of sexual references that would not have been acceptable in the earlier book. I found it confusing because of the multiplicity of unusual names of individuals, tribes, quasi-nations, and other groupings. It would have been easier to follow what wwas going on if a 'who's who' had been included. Nevertheless, it was something of an hypnotic read, and worth the effort.
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on 13 August 2001
This very belated follow-up to 'A Canticle For Leibowitz' takes up the story of the struggle for power between the Catholic Church and the still growing states which are expanding across the former USA in the period of post nuclear recovery.
The book has a much more confused narrative than it's predecessor and this not helped by the multiplicity of names many of the characters have been given. A list of dramatis personnae would have cleared much of this confusion. Miller also seems to have put much more of himself into the main character, the lapsed monk Brother Blacktooth St George, than was in evidence in the first book. The prose style is much more explicit, especially in it's sexual content than 'A Canticle For Leibowitz', clearly reflecting the changing standards in the 30 plus years that have lapsed between the two books - a change which I also noticed in James Jones's 'From Here To Eternity', and his later book 'Whistle'. Another similarity between the two author's is that both these latter books were completed by their literary executors - with somewhat greater success for 'Whistle', as the ending of Miller's book is rather rushed, and the additional writing does not blend seamlessly with the rest of the novel.
Despite these difficulties 'St Leibowitz' is a worthwhile read for those who read Miller's first novel, though I doubt whether other readers would enjoy it without impetus that the first novel engenders. I would rate it at 3 stars.
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on 4 December 2013
I had hoped that this book would at least follow the outlines of the original story but if there was a plot I missed it. The whole thing seems to just ramble on and on. In comparison to the original story a considerable disappointment. I will most certainly carefully preserve my copy of the original "Canticle" story but this volume has gone in the charity bag.
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on 1 July 2016
I read the first book and now this one and I enjoy the pure difference to the normal 'after the apocalypse stories. Mind you it does take a bit of effort to get your mind set to realise in your mind what is going on and 'see' it as if you are an invisible watcher. Well worth the effort as it will stay in your mind for a long time.
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on 2 March 2015
This is a very quirky book. Based in the USA following a nuclear war society reverts to a medieval type of existence where the church regains its grip on society. I've given it four stars, but wether I can say I like it, is dubious. I do keep reading it and prising thoughts out of it each time. Definitley not a chewing gum read.
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VINE VOICEon 21 February 2003
The problem with sequels is that they have a lot to live up to. 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' was one of the best SF books ever written and any sequel will be (perhaps unfairly) judged against it. This one doesn't live up to its predecessor.
Set roughly 100 years after the second story in 'Canticle', this deals with the politics of the Church and the the Empire. So it follows on from the second story which introduced that theme. But it doesn't grab the imagination like 'Canticle' did. The most interesting character is a Christian mystic who seems very Zen-like and gets elected to the office of Pope, which pretty much triggers a war between the Empire and the Horse Nomads. Apart from that, there's little to hold the attention in this book. Disappointing. Worth reading for completeness' sake, if you've read 'Canticle'
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