Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Canticle for Leibowitz

by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Story summary: Through three eras, three distant periods of Earth's history, a single blueprint is discovered, and treasured. And I don't want to give away too much more of the actual plot, so that's all you get. You can read the Goodreads description if you want more. It's nice and not spoilery.

Thoughts: For such an excellent, classic, and well-loved scifi novel such as this, I really don't feel adequate to properly review it. I'd need to spend more time thinking about it and discussing it with other people, and what with the enormity of school's stress right now, I just can't do that. It really deserves it, though. It's a fascinating book, which manages to portray insights into humanity as a whole, whilst still having interesting and complex characters.

 So here are a couple points we'll have to make do with:
--It gave me a similar feeling to the play "Arcadia" by Tom Stoppard, in some ways. There were the contrasting eras of history, and how the future viewed the past. And there you were, outside it all and viewing the flow of time, and how certain small things unknowingly had huge repercussions.
--The view of the Church was excellently done as well, I thought. You could see how different ages of the Church had different difficulties and errors, but it still "flies thundering through the ages, [...] reeling but erect" (from Chesterton's Orthodoxy).
--The characters were a good example of these two above points. They were firmly trenched in their own period of history, with definitive faults and strange ways of thinking, but still people. I also got the impression that we would appear equally faulty and strange to those in the future, though I do think most people have a perhaps unconscious belief that we have now reached a new height of understanding in our age.
--I was happy to note that there was a short reference on page 213 to St. Augustine's evolution-like theory of creation. In fact, that whole section with the scientist discussing science with the monks was quite amusing and enjoyable. It quite annoys me how there is a tendency to think the Church as a whole was anti-science, when in fact, quite the reverse was generally the case.

Grade: 4 1/2 stars

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