Review: A Canticle for Leibowitz

But neither infinite power nor infinite wisdom could bestow godhood upon men. For that there would have to be infinite love as well.

That was an interesting book. In a nutshell, humanity finally managed to blow ourselves up–and then the story begins. Years after Armageddon, we pick up with a religious order founded to preserve knowledge (a worthwhile goal).

Warning: the rest of this summary contains minor (IMO) spoilers on the structure of the book.

In the first part, they find the ‘sacred writings’ of Leibowitz. Of course at first, they have no idea what they’ve found (cool concepts: coloring a copy of a blueprint blue–just because that’s how it appeared; an illustrated manuscript version of an electrical diagram). And then… everyone dies .

In the next part, time has moved along and now we’re seeing that perhaps they do understand those sacred texts after all. Electricity and light are back and humanity is starting to get back to that point where we kill one another. So once again everyone dies .

Listen, are we helpless? Are we doomed to do it again and again and again? Have we no choice but to play the Phoenix in an unending sequence of rise and fall? Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Carthage, Rome, the Empires of Charlemagne and the Turk: Ground to dust and plowed with salt. Spain, France, Britain, America—burned into the oblivion of the centuries. And again and again and again. Are we doomed to it, Lord, chained to the pendulum of our own mad clockwork, helpless to halt its swing? This time, it will swing us clean to oblivion.

And then finally, we’re back to nuclear weapons, but this time in space. And this time, just before everyone dies... a few manage to escape into space ! Progress?

It’s fascinating to see the huge span of time and how humanity bounces right back. The religious backing made for interesting reading, even if the idea that the supernatural elements might very well be real was not what I’d usually expect in science fiction (and you don’t necessarily have to read it that way).

Was it my favorite book ever? Nah. But it was an interesting read with an interesting story structure and it makes me want to dig more into post-apocalyptic fiction, which is a win in my book. Worth a try.