Thursday, December 31, 2009

27. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller jr.

A classic of the post-apocalyptic genre, A Canticle for Leibowitz has been on my stagnant on deck shelf for months. I figured it would be good to read during the pre-xmas vacations.

It's too strong to say that A Canticle for Leibowitz doesn't actually fit into the PA genre. But it does feel much more like classic sci-fi. It takes place far in the future, after a civilization and knowledge-destroying nuclear war that sets humanity back to the dark ages. I use the term Dark Ages precisely because the author deliberately sets it up so that the church is the last and only outpost for knowledge, where little bits of information are stored as relics and artifacts from a past age, both to be worshipped and copied. The book takes place in the three parts, covering three periods, each separated in time by several generations, as humanity slowly reclaims the knowledge it lost and starts to make the same mistakes again.

The book is well-written and despite the over-arching themes, each segment contains rich characters and their own compelling storyline so that you get quite caught up in the book. It has some nice touches of black humour as well. It ends up achieving a nice balance of lightness and heaviness while making you think about our relationship with knowledge and humanity's progress such that it deserves its reputation as an all-time science fiction classic.


Lantzvillager said...

It has really been so many years since I read this book that I think revisiting it for me would be like completely reading it anew.

You short but thoughtful review has piqued my interest.

Doc said...

I have this opinion that post-apocalyptic novels have to be set within a 100 years or so of the apocalyptic event. Otherwise, the story really isn't dealing with the aftermath anymore. I still enjoy other books where the amazing machines of the mysterious ancients are a factor, but they really just turn the corner into fantasy or science fiction and the "PA" part is more of a trapping.