A Canticle for Leibowitz, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (4 ratings)


The atomic Flame Deluge was over. The earth was dead. All knowledge was gone. In a hellish, barren desert, a humble monk unearth a fragile link to a twentieth century civilization.

A hand-written document from the Blessed Saint Leibowitz reads: Pound pastrami can kraut six bagels - bring home for Emma.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Science fiction
  • ISBN: 9781857230147

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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

A Canticle for Leibowitz was a surprising read. It tells three accounts of the life of the monastic order of St. Leibowitz, a religious order founded after "the great flame deluge", i.e. nuclear war. Only small remnants fo the technology from before the disaster survives, most of it in the vaults of the monks of St. Leibowitz, who have woved to keep the information for future generations.Reading about the daily lives of monks sounded a bit tedious to me, but Miller has such an enchanting voice that he makes all the monks alive as different and very flawed (and funny) persons. So after the first episode I thought that it would be a delightful romp through the post-apocalyptic ages.But in the third story the book started to get more serious undertones. It placed some very serious moral dilemmas, and did not give any easy answers to them. Don't get me wrong, it was still hilarious, but also thought-provoking.So, even if you do not care about religion in general, you should really read A Canticle for Leibowitz for its wonderful prose, quirky characters, and moral pondering.

Review by

This is just dull. Like The Road with an extra dose of theology.

Review by

One of my favourite books, which I have read several times and reviewed in the bookwyrmmes community on Live Journal:I was really glad that "A Canticle for Leibowitz" was chosen, as it gave me an excuse to re-read one of my all-time favourites. At school I learnt Latin and we had Latin Mass every month or so, so those aspects of the story didn't give me too much trouble (not that my Latin is good enough to understand all the Latin in the book, but at least I can get the gist of it). I found a few questions about the book on a website, and have used them to structure my review.<i>The book is divided into 3 stories. Does it work as a whole? Do you prefer one story to the others?</i>It is a book in three sections, each of which occurs at an important time in the history of the ancient Leibowitz Abbey and culminates in death and circling buzzards. The first is during the dark ages after a nuclear holocaust in the mid-20th century, at a time when the process of making the order's founder a saint is underway, the second during the renaissance, when the abbey receives its first visit from a scientist eager to study the Memorabilia and the third during the build-up to a second nuclear war, as the monks prepare for the end of the world. At each stage there is hope of something better and fear of something worse - I think the last section is my least favourite as the theme of mankind being doomed to repeat his mistakes over and over becomes even more marked, and the suspicion that mankind can't leave his fate behind even when he heads for other worlds, is inescapable (and rather depressing). After the original nuclear holocaust, the world was plunged into barbarianism. The simplification, with its mobs killing first scientists and technicians, but later anyone who was even literate, is unfortunately easily believable, having strong echoes of the Cambodian killing fields of the Khmer Rouge which happened 20 or so years after the book was written. Mankind always seems to need a scapegoat. <i>Do you think the role of the Catholic church in the story is realistic?</i>The monks of the order of Leibowitz attempt to keep the vestiges of the old knowledge alive down the centuries, copying and recopying the scraps of ancient books even after their meaning has been lost, keeping them safe from simpleton mobs and marauding nomads alike. They built their abbey at an oasis in the south-western deserts of the former USA and went back to the life of a mediaeval monastery, working as copyists and providing scribes for the powerful families of the region, while the dangers facing the bookleggers and memorizers hark back to those of Catholic priests in Protestant countries during the reformation. I think the role of the Catholic Church in the story is totally believable. If any organisation is going to survive over such traumatic periods of historic then it is the Catholic Church - a long-lived, international organisation with a strong centre and even stronger convictions.<i>What role does Benjamin have in the story?</i>The story implies that Benjamin is the Wandering Jew, doomed to wait until the second coming, although in the third story the townsfolk refer to him as Lazarus, saying that what Jesus raised from the dead, stays raised. He is drawn back to the Abbey over the centuries due to its connection with the one for whom he waits and his presence, both in person and in the form of the old statue with the odd smile, ties the three parts of the story together.And finally, I love the last couple of lines and have quoted them in my sig in the past. I find them really evocative of the desolation of the post-nuclear world: <b>"The shark swam out to his deepest waters and brooded in the cold clean currents. He was very hungry that season."</b>

Review by

I just didn't get it at all. The book should have been seperated in 2 distinct parts. The first 100 or so pages, where we have the story of the young novice who discovers the artifacts of the soon to be Saint Leibowitz, and the second part where a multitude of characters and scenarios unfold and the sotry becomes more and more complex. The second part of the book I found to be less and less interesting. I'm sure it's just me missing something or reading the book in fragments over a period of time, but I really didn;t enjoy it very much at all. I liked some ideas that were present in the book, the debates about simply preserving knowledge or using it for the good of mankind, only for it to be abused. Knowledge being something which cannot be controlled once available, or something to that effect. Also i enjoyed the elements of humour present throughout the book, these really do help you warm to the characters and a little to the story also. As I stated earlier on I think I probably just didn't get it.

Also by Walter M. Miller