A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.


It isn’t often that I find a book that is not only beautifully written and thought provoking, but also at times downright terrifying. This can all be attributed to this novel. This novel went far and above what I expected from it and days after having read it I still find myself thinking about it.

The story is broken into three separate stories all of which take place a few hundred years after each other. All the stories take place long after a nuclear war that threw the human race back into the dark ages. The story focuses on a catholic monastery located in the deserts Utah. The monastery was set up by Saint Lebowitz, a Jewish electrical engineer who worked for the US military during the nuclear war. After the war he converts to Catholicism and sets up an order of monks whose sole job is to preserve the knowledge of the world from before the war which is being destroyed by the survivors as being evil. The stories cover three major points in the monastery’s history. The first covers a the conflict the monastery goes threw in order to get Lebowitz to be declared a saint during which a potential miracle appears. The second story involves the place of the monastery in the beginning of a second Renaissance. The third story tells of the end of the monastery through a second nuclear war.

As I said before all three of the stories are thought provoking.  The first deals with the place of miracles in society. The second deals with the massive frustration caused between religion and the state, and the third deals with euthanasia and religion.

The third story was for me the most troubling as well as the most poignant. The horrifying picture of a second nuclear war and the local  government’s response to the survivors of a nuclear blast are reminiscent of On the Beach by Nevil Shute.

Besides being thought provoking, the story also gives a wonderful description of the inner workings of a monastery and the Catholic Church. In this respect it is also exceptionally interesting.

This book has found a place in my heart as one of my favorite books and I highly suggest it to anyone who is into thought provoking science fiction.


9 thoughts on “A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

  1. My favorite nuclear apocalypse novel from the 50s is contemporary with Canticle — although, told in a strangely detached and thus, disturbing style — Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7 (1959). I highly highly recommend it!

    Miller published little in his life unfortunately — he has another incomplete novel which is really awful (finished by one of his friends after his suicide) — however, he did write a lot of short stories which have been published in three collections in the 60s. I recommend them!

    • Oh, and in case you’re confused — Canticle was written in ’59 and copyrighted for ’59 but first published in ’60…. It also feels like a 50s novel for sure.

  2. Thank you! I’ll be sure to look them up! (^_^)

      • It was such an interesting book! I consider myself an atheist, but I was raised a catholic, and I have a certain pride for having been one. This novel helped to solidify that pride in my heritage. I read it before my sister’s confirmation, of which I was her sponsor lol. The entire ceremony I was thinking of this book. It is so beautiful. I really wish more people would read it. I’m checking out you blog. It’s most interesting. We really must discuss Phillip K. Dick. I’ve read he two famous works The Man in the High Castle and A Scanner Darkly. I found them both rather “eh” is there anything by him that you consider exceptional that I might read?

      • Miller was very very conflicted in his faith — he became a recluse and committed suicide unfortunately…

        Well, my tastes are rather more esoteric (probably because I’ve read the majority of the classics and am moving on to other authors)… I enjoy Philip K. Dick but definitely his earlier works — Martian Time-Slip for example and any of his short stories from the 50s and early 60s. But, in terms of his famous works, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Ubik are his best.

  3. I remember reading that about him. He was a late in life Catholic right? Thank you I’ll have to try them out!

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