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.