A Canticle for Leibowitz was a recommendation from a friend, an avid Sorry Television reader who makes my day every few weeks when we run into each other socially and talk books. After our most recent such encounter, I dug through my memory bank for his long-ago recommendation and promptly ordered it online. What arrived in my mailbox two days later (thank you Amazon Prime) was this, a weighty paperback whose intimidating cover art is paralleled only by its introduction’s promise of frequent use of Latin. Apprehensive and intrigued, I dug in.
It’s difficult to explain what ACFL is “about,” a struggle not entirely helped by my edition’s vaguely worded back cover, which devotes a third of its real estate to phrases like “one of the most accomplished, powerful, and enduring classics of speculative fiction.” The book opens in post-apocalyptic times—roughly the 26th century—when the human race has long since crippled itself in a nuclear war known as the Flame Deluge. Off the bat, we meet Brother Francis, a monk in the “Albertian Order of Leibowitz,” a monastic order devoted to the preservation of knowledge, a task they accomplish by hoarding, hiding, memorizing and copying books whose value has been drastically reduced by a post-Deluge society that frowns upon literacy. Leibowitz refers to Isaac Edward Leibowitz, a 20th-century electrical engineer employed by the U.S. military, who after being martyred for his devotion to scientific knowledge, was beatified by the Romance Catholic Church (“New Rome”). At the time of the book’s opening, he is a candidate for sainthood. Continue reading “Working title: Monks in Space!”