Monday, April 25, 2011
After Reading: A Canticle for Leibowitz
Walter M. Miller's acclaimed SF classic A Canticle for Leibowitz opens with the accidental excavation of a holy artifact: a creased, brittle memo scrawled by the hand of the blessed Saint Leibowitz, that reads: "Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels--bring home for Emma." To the Brothers of Saint Leibowitz, this sacred shopping list penned by an obscure, 20th-century engineer is a symbol of hope from the distant past, from before the Simplification, the fiery atomic holocaust that plunged the earth into darkness and ignorance. As 1984 cautioned against Stalinism, so 1959's A Canticle for Leibowitz warns of the threat and implications of nuclear annihilation. Following a cloister of monks in their Utah abbey over some six or seven hundred years, the funny but bleak Canticle tackles the sociological and religious implications of the cyclical rise and fall of civilization, questioning whether humanity can hope for more than repeating its own history. Divided into three sections--Fiat Homo (Let There Be Man), Fiat Lux (Let There Be Light), and Fiat Voluntas Tua (Thy Will Be Done)--Canticle is steeped in Catholicism and Latin, exploring the fascinating, seemingly capricious process of how and why a person is canonized. --Paul Hughes
I received this book for my birthday and all I can really say about it is WOW. I've been incredibly busy lately and haven't had my normal amount of reading time, but digging into this was quite an effort. It was rich, detailed, nuanced, and deeply disturbing. I've been freaked by the prospect of nuclear war ever since I was a kid and watched Terminator (dates me a little there, right?) but this pretty much just mounted that fear on itself. I'm not sure I completely agree with Miller's ideas of what would happen after a nuclear holocaust--not that humanity is smart enough to avoid its past mistakes--I totally am with him on that one--but that we would take the same course to get there. I mean, I know history repeats itself to a degree, but not in such a complete way. Anyhow, overall this is one of the foundational works in sci-fi, and rightfully so. Though, don't read it if you're looking for something light, or that isn't going to make you really start worrying about the fate of humanity.