A Canticle for Leibowitz

I found this book around the time I was reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road, and I may have gotten a recommendation due to the post-apocalyptic theme. I picked up a Kindle copy of Canticle and read the first part of it, then put it down and promptly forgot about it for years. It weighed on me, though, as incomplete commitments often do, so I resolved to get through it in 2022. It took a month and a half of evening reads, and this was during a time where I'd been training to do "close readings" for editing purposes, so I was taking my sweet time.

I can't say I was riveted by the work, not in the way that McCarthy's book glued me to its pages, but it was readable. The way that Miller Jr. plays with time in Canticle is excellent and evoked a little of Isaac Asimov's Foundation in the way it moves through the ages. While this is fundamentally a religious tale, I didn't feel like I was being beaten over the head with it. I came away from the read with some fresh perspective on how time and history have ways of evolving and mutating fundamental organizations. The final pages are beautifully written, and I was glad I'd finally taken the time to finish the book.

What this book isn't is an action-packed Damnation Alley or a thrill ride. It's slow and ponderous, and a lot of it takes place in the hushed halls of a fortress-like abbey. There were more than a few moments where I felt like I was sitting through a sermon that I wasn't completely engaged with, and the heavy use of Latin didn't really do me any favors. From an author-publisher standpoint, this book is an interesting case study: the author assembled it from three similar novellas, it did gangbusters at the press, and he never published another book in his lifetime. A dream come true for some.


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