Book Review: A Canticle for Leibowitz

It’s a strange story of the world after a nuclear holocaust and the lone Catholic monastery that preserves the remains of mankind’s natural science only to see the unthinkable on the verge of happening again.

The style is funny and surprising as it spans two thousand years of future history, but the characters are realistic. They are people you might bump into and others you’ve known deeply for years.

Miller’s novel is soaked in the Catholic Faith with many uses of Latin, mentions of obscure doctrines and thoroughly Catholic characters, yet he is not preachy. The religious themes are so genuinely woven into the story that the reader sees a glimpse of the Faith at its best: being lived by real people doing only their best, though they remain imperfect nonetheless.

As a dystopia, Canticle does not disappoint. If it doesn’t beat Brave New World, it comes close. Miller’s characters are certainly more compelling, and he leaves the reader with a bit more hope for humanity.

It’s a pity this book isn’t more widely read. I’m guessing the Latin is a bit off-putting.

Ultimately, after reading this, I was reminded how close nuclear weapons have brought us to edge of annihilation and how closely we remain to it, though atomic war isn’t at the forefront of our minds anymore.

I was reminded of how deadly free will has been and can be and how quiet God’s providence works through it all, no matter how wretchedly we screw up.

Miller’s position on some of the questions that dog the faith are wholly satisfying such as the relationship between Faith and science and ethical dilemmas that make the world cringe.

A Canticle for Leibowitz, though fictional, stands as a towering testament to the compatibility between science and religion and indeed, science fiction and religion. The former, in Miller’s estimation, seems to need the latter.

Have you read this book? What are some good science fiction books (or any book) with strong religious themes that aren’t preachy?