Because I am a bit of a sci fi and fantasy junkie, it would probably surprise a lot of folks that I went so long without finishing this widely acknowledged classic of twentieth century science fiction. I first remember encountering this book (though not beginning to read it at the time) at the Dunedin Public Library. At that time, there was no widely available internet with no top ten or top one hundred lists floating ’round it. Knowledge of the books one ought to read were passed around by word of mouth like samizdats.
Canticle is a compelling book, despite lacking a consistent cast of characters on account of covering more than a millenium’s worth of future human history. In short, after a devastating nuclear war that cost humankind almost all of our scientific knowledge, a small monastery keeps alive the memory of the non-canonized Saint Leibowitz, who was apparently a scientist working on a nuclear weapons program who, after the ‘Great Fire,’ went out to try to keep scientific knowledge alive.
Well, he eventually gets canonized and the Order of Leibowitz becomes both a spiritual and technological center for mankind. Later, as science is rediscovered and advances, the Order becomes an advocate for moderating scientific advancement with wisdom.
Throughout, the Order’s role as a Catholic institution is respected (by the author, I mean) and sometimes, it appears that Saint Leibowitz himself is still walking the earth in some form, keeping an eye on us. Other events which might be miracles (the author does not allow for it to be known definitively) occur, as well.
Anyway. It’s a great freaking book. Should have read it years ago.