A Canticle for Leibowitz

By far, this is my favorite title for any book. Ever. From the second I heard it, I wanted to read this novel. No matter how hard it was or how long, I needed to read a book with such a daring name. I was not disappointed by the material within.

A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of those classic pieces of literature that defy summary. Told in three time-distinct vignettes, Canticle is the story of the world after it ends. It’s about re-growth through the eyes of a splintered, reformed Catholic church after a horrid nuclear war.

It’s a novel for smart people. People much smarter than me. Bring along a dictionary if you want full understanding of the words. And then bring along a theologian to understand the sentences those words create. For Walter Miller will drown you in canon, church theocracy, philosophical debates, and beautiful dialogue.

For the intelligently inept (like me) Canticle is an incredible character study. Others may be able to debate whether Miller was pro-church or anti-church or somewhere in between. But those like me will spend more time enjoying the witty dialogue, the internal repartee, and how those choices play out in the next vignette. For the time jumps between them are very long, but influence the story in major ways. It’s fun to watch the development of a new church, with new holy artifacts and new saints. Saints who you learned were kind of simple idiots in their time.

Sweet and savory, Canticle is a worthy meal. One that if you ate every day you’d be absolutely ruined. But one that makes you wonder if the chef knows magic.

4 out of 4 stars

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