Sunday, September 23, 2007

Walter M. Miller Jr/A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ


Following a thermonuclear holocaust that beset the earth in the 1960s, what survives of human civilization has destroyed all of its refinements (down to all of its own books). Reduced to a simple existence, communities cling to the Catholic Church, which has retained some sense of order in the chaos. The book follows the [re]evolution of [hu]mankind in three stages as it heads toward redevelopment and a second nuclear holocaust.

This book came highly recommended by three different parties, so I gave it a shot even though I always end up hating dystopian fictions. Miller was a talented and clever writer, and I really do think that his writing sets this apart from a lot of other purely conceptual speculative fictions. But his vision of the future (first published in 1959) has dated itself and for me it is too much work to suspend disbelief. I can't believe, for example, the Roman Catholic Church would be the one institution to survive (perfectly intact) the destruction of all civilization--and that it would stay strong in the Latin-speaking status quo for almost 4,000 years. Also, Miller's dystopia has no women in it.

Anyway, this is a dark, clever, often fun read (NYT called it chilling...chilling, fun, two sides of the same coin?), but for me the material is so dated that reading becomes an exercise.

5 comments:

vivian said...

I've heard about this so many times, but based on your description, I think I'll skip it. This is one of the things that's so useful about The Book Book. Thanks, Moonrat.

moonrat said...

:)

RedHawk said...

I really loved this book. But then I am from an older generation.

This is one of my favorite books.

moonrat said...

the writing was great--he is a really clever guy. i'd like to see a review of this book by someone who likes dystopian fiction more than i do. redhawk, you should post.

Pete Young said...

I loved it, and dystopian fiction in general... my review is here.

PS. You'll see I've added The Book Book to my Blog roll... feel free to do the same with Fictionstream if so inclined...