Review of ‘A Canticle for Liebowitz’

A Canticle for LiebowitzA Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am continuing with my trek through all the end-of-the-world type books I can find. And this is one of the most famous.

There is not a single main character throughout the whole book. Rather, it follows the history of a Roman Catholic monastic order (think monks living together for worship and scholarship). The order was founded by an engineer turned monk after a great nuclear cataclysm that killed most of humanity. Learning and books had become despised and dangerous, so Saint Leibowitz founded his community to gather and safeguard the few books that had not been destroyed after the cataclysm. His hope was that once humanity had recovered from its state of barbarity the preserved books would then be of use again.

One might compare it to Asimov’s Foundation, except that here the community is explicitly religious and it is formed after civilization has been eradicated. It is a pleasure to see how, with many twists and turns, the vision of St Leibowitz comes to fruition–sort of.

Strengths: there is a lot of philosophy and ethical reasoning in the book. I like philosophy. I like religion. I find both topics interesting, so I enjoyed the fact that the author focused on these topics more deeply than other books in the sub-genre, like The Dog Stars or Earth Abides.

Note to readers: If you know anything about Roman Catholicism before the second Vatican Council (1962-5) it will help. The form of Roman Catholicism envisioned by Walter M. Miller Jr. was very clearly the continuation of the Church before the major changes introduced at Vatican II.

As noted, the overarching narrative continues for centuries in the book. I found it satisfying and surprising. My main complaint is that I didn’t realize we’d be jumping centuries down the road every now and then. But once I got used to it, it was fine. Some of the secondary characters felt a little flat to me.

View all my reviews

Advertisements

Author: duanemiller

I was born in Montana and grew up in Colorado and Puebla (in Mexico). I completed a BA in philosophy at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and then an MA in theology at St Mary's University (also in San Antonio). Later life took me to Jordan where my wife and I studied Arabic, to Israel where I helped found a seminary, and to Scotland for doctoral work, among other places. I live in Madrid now where I teach and minister. I'm highly interested in the interactions of Islam, Christianity and secularism in modern contexts. My main areas of research for my PhD in divinity were religious conversion from Islam to Christianity, contextual theology, and the shari'a's treatment of apostates. I've also published research on global Anglicanism and the history of Anglican mission in the Ottoman Empire. I've had the pleasure of teaching in many places over the years: from Costa Rica to Turkey, and Kenya to Tunisia. I am at-large lecturer and researcher in Muslim-Christian relations at The Christian Institute of Islamic Studies (www.tciis.org), and deacon at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer in Madrid, Spain. Visit my blog (duanemiller.wordpress.com) or academia.edu page for more information or to have me speak at your church, university or seminary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s