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A Canticle for Leibowitz

Narrated by: Tom Weiner
Length: 10 hrs and 55 mins
4.2 out of 5 stars (212 ratings)

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Summary

Hugo Award Winner, Best Novel, 1961

Winner of the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Novel and widely considered one of the most accomplished, powerful, and enduring classics of modern speculative fiction, Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz is a true landmark of 20th-century literature - a chilling and still-provocative look at a post-apocalyptic future. 

In a nightmarish, ruined world, slowly awakening to the light after sleeping in darkness, the infantile rediscoveries of science are secretly nourished by cloistered monks dedicated to the study and preservation of the relics and writings of the blessed Saint Isaac Leibowitz. From there, the story spans centuries of ignorance, violence, and barbarism, viewing through a sharp, satirical eye the relentless progression of a human race damned by its inherent humanness to recelebrate its grand foibles and repeat its grievous mistakes. 

Seriously funny, stunning, tragic, eternally fresh, imaginative, and altogether remarkable, A Canticle for Leibowitz retains its ability to enthrall and amaze. It is now, as it always has been, a masterpiece.

©1959 Walter M. Miller, Jr. (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic reviews

“Chillingly effective.” (Time)

What listeners say about A Canticle for Leibowitz

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    4 out of 5 stars

classic.

Great story, set over millennia. It was very thought provoking too. Good characters and a nice pace.

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting

The story is both interesting and thought-provoking. It gradually becomes more contemplative, and at moments is even mystical. It isn't for everyone, however. It shows its age, and its ideological underpinnings may be problematic for some readers. The book is deeply Catholic (apart from one Wandering Jew, no other religions are mentioned) and male-dominated. On the gates of the monestary on which the novel centers there is a sign forbidding women entrance , and this seems to apply to the novel too (apart from a short, intriguing moment towards the end.) The Catholics are the undisputed good guys; atheism, even when well-meaning, leads to ruin. If the reader can accept this and suspend her disbelief, the book is recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic

I read this book many years ago. I was going to a party and took the book with me. I was so enthralled I spent the night reading curled up in other people coats. This book is a classic and has stood the test of time. May I recommend it and the narrator. Enjoy

1 person found this helpful

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A good, not great book read competently.

Although falling under the category of science fiction, this is an allegorical tale. One that , I think, would have been better if it hadn’t attempted to be so literary. Then extensive use of Latin, while contributing a certain atmospheric verisimilitude, was largely unnecessary, perhaps even pretentious in its classical aspirations. On the whole the book was intelligently written, at times clever and entertaining but diminished by the author’s overriding intention to deliver its message.

1 person found this helpful

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Great Writing and Perfect Narration

This is the story of Earth, North America specifically, after a future war and how civilisation might shape and rebuild itself in its aftermath. It is told from the perspective of the occupants of a religious monastery over incremental periods of time, stretching many hundreds of years, starting in a pre-technological age and progressing to a highly industrial society. Sure, there is a close enough similarity between this fictional advancement as recounted by the author and what really occurred in our own history, with Mr Miller providing some rationalisation in respect of the good and the bad that befall the main characters.

I didn’t know what to expect when I purchased this book, other than it came highly recommended, and noting that it was published in 1959. What the reader gets is a witty, gripping, fast paced novel; a real page-turner that is perfectly narrated. Certainly, the author’s own religious beliefs and political opinions leak through at certain points, but not in a heavy-handed way. Although the sequel to this book, written 36-years later mind you, has not been received as warmly, I thoroughly recommend A Canticle for Leibowitz to anyone seeking light, enjoyable entertainment.

1 person found this helpful

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Very Badly Read

What would have made A Canticle for Leibowitz better?

A good reader was needed. Mr Weiner read it with as much feeling as reading as if it was a Seed Catalogue.

What didn’t you like about Tom Weiner’s performance?

Almost everything was wrong. He had no expression in his voice nor was he able to differentiate between characters in the book for the listener. He spoilt a very good novel.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

This is a book I enjoyed immensely some years ago. I was looking forward to hearing it as an audio cd. It is a great Sci Fi Novel.

Any additional comments?

I am so disappointed that a very good novel, one I had enjoyed reading in the past, was spoilt by very bad reading. Lesson to be learnt - always hear a sample before you buy.

5 people found this helpful

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Enticing story

Narrator was good and varied. He gave the book a lot of character. The story was really well crafted and darkly funny at times. Made me think too.

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What is the point of this book?

A plot? Not really. Characters? None that serve as much more than speakers of dialogue, devoid of much personality. A purpose, message, or moral? None than I could see. This book squanders the one thing it had going for it: the interesting idea of monks in an Abbey in future, overseeing the gradual renaissance of scientific knowledge. It fails to turn that one good idea into a memorable story or even a narrative with any obvious purpose. This is one of those books where you instantly want to ask the author, "why did you write this?" Very disappointing.

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Really liked this book.

It's a very good audiobook. It makes you think about human nature, how short termed our collective memory as a species is, and the fact that we never really learn from our mistakes however horrible they might be.

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Brilliant!

I absolutely loved this! Can't believe I hadn't found this earlier. Took a little while to get used to the reader but really grew on me as he went on. The story is just incredibly interesting (and given its vintage has been really influential) and has really stuck with me since finishing due to many layers of story and some surprising conclusions (as I read them anyway). Also surprisingly funny despite the dark subject matter. Highly recommended.

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  • richard
  • 20-03-13

Introibo Ad Altare

One of the landmark jewels of science fiction, Walter Miller's Canticle will be, for some readers of a certain age, a treat for the ear, the heart, and the soul. However, so much has changed since the author crafted this work, e.g., the thaw of the Cold War, the disappearance of Latin since the Second Vatican Council in 1965, and the steep decine of the Catholic Church with its rigors and obedience, that many of the central premises and conceits of the book simply no longer commonly exist today. For me, the book was as fresh as when I read it in 1967 as a high school student. I hope that a younger audience enjoys it as much as I have.

Warning: There is a LOT of Latin in this work. This could make it difficult to parse as an audio experience unless you have a pretty good grounding in this tongue. You might want to get the kindle text to read with it. I think you will find it to be worth your while.

151 people found this helpful

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  • Joel D Offenberg
  • 01-09-11

A Classic

A Canticle for Leibowitz tells 3 tales (spaced 600 years apart) of a monastic order in the American Southwestern desert, founded by an engineer named Leibowitz who tried to preserve the knowledge of the human race following a nuclear holocaust. The first story is set 6 centuries into the new Dark Age, when a simple monk receives an unusual visitation...the second is set in the early renaissance, when an early scientist comes to study the old knowledge...the third is set in a newly modern age, as the world is on the verge of another nuclear war.

It was a brilliant set of stories...today it seems a little dated [e,g, the heavy use of Latin which, today, has largely vanished from the Church], but the stories are very powerful and the symbolism is thought-provoking.

Walter Miller wrote a bunch of great short stories and novellas, but this is the only novel he published during his lifetime. In fact, he never published another work after this one, except for another novel set in the same millieu which was published posthumously.

Tom Weiner's reading is good without being great...at several times, I wondered if he was the best choice for a reader, just because his style seemed a little incongruous. But he's a great reader and he does a good job with this.

70 people found this helpful

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  • Aaron
  • 30-06-12

Not what I expected, but worth reading

I found myself thinking about Ecclesiastes 11: 1-11 many times throughout this novel.

"Is there anything of which one can say,
'Look! This is something new'?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them."

The author has created a book that seems to me to be based on the supposition: "what if?", or "maybe, like this...", and then proceeds to connect the dots in an interesting, albeit dialogue-filled and character-driven chronology. The book displays characters that have a 'true faith' in their beliefs while at the same time allows for some (perhaps justifiable) speculation, although they flirt closely with some heresy at times. I was myself amused at how important Leibowitz had become to the story, especially when his former life is mentioned in passing as it related to the story. Less focus was placed on Jesus by the monks in the story (maybe intentionally?) although they did mention Jesus as Messiah when speaking about him, which must be taken into account.

I found myself shaking hands with the author, while at the same time keeping him at arms length. It is such a unique book, one that presents ideas I may have even accidentally thought about before. I wondered that no one had written something like it before.

Not what I expected, but worth reading

46 people found this helpful

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  • DragonRider
  • 17-05-13

Still doing ourselves in...

Where does A Canticle for Leibowitz rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This audio book is a good deal. The recording is well done, given the complications of the story. I first read this story when I was in college, and we were not too far past the Bay of Pigs. It seemed more realistic and yet fascinating at the time. This time around, I have seen too many repeats on the part of so-called civilization to do itself in. I found it much sadder. It is a well written book, and the premise continues to capture the imagination.

Would you recommend A Canticle for Leibowitz to your friends? Why or why not?

Yes, but with some precursor statement about the content.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The gilded reproduction of the blueprint was a perfect example of how a uninformed group of people can make something out of nothing. The fact that the thieves took the reproduction instead of the original says something about the human fascination with bling!I was also torn by the choice of the mother to end her life and the life of her child rather than deal with the pain of radiation poisoning.

28 people found this helpful

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  • Bryan
  • 07-10-11

Proving Why It's A Classic

Every since its appearance in 1960, this has been one of the science fiction novels that anyone interested in the genre (and even those not interested in the genre) has loved. Three separate stories set 600, 1200, and 1800 years after a nuclear war - the monks of the Order of Leibowitz have had their mission in the US Southwest. The bookleggers and memorizers of the order preserve the knowledge of civilization that existed prior to the war and keep it in trust for mankind until it can be used again.

There are much better reviews of the book as a whole that can be found elsewhere. This is a story that grabs you by the lapels at the start and keeps your interest all the way through. The message of Battlestar Galactica - this has all happened before - is presented here in a way that will keep you listening till the end.

The narrator is really wonderful - providing difference cadences and voices which help you differentiate characters and plot lines easily.

Just one historical note. 50 years ago a book could be published with the expectation that the general public would have enough knowledge of Latin as a language to understand phrases without complete interpretation. What does it say about our educational system that this could never be the case today?

41 people found this helpful

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  • Christopher P. Sheridan
  • 09-06-17

And the world goes on

A cyclical story of a post apocalyptic Renaissance. difficult to read at the beginning but picked up by the end.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Jay
  • 22-11-16

didnt know that I needed to understand latin

Ok plot but all the untranslated latin pulled me out of it too often. Not a fan myself but if you are enough of a scholar to get the latin, then perhaps it would be more enjoyable.

12 people found this helpful

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  • William
  • 08-11-11

Must Read Classic

I do not know why it took so long for me to actually listen to this book, as it has been on my "to read" list for decades. It is a wonderful and thoughtful story (3 actually) that asks tough questions and will cause you to rethink your opinions on some weighty matters.

It is a product of it's time (late 1950's) but is still relevant today. It is a great book to read with a group due to the discussions the book generates. Highly recommend to all!

21 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 27-06-17

A bit disjoint

I did struggle to finish this book. I'm a big fan of dystopian novels. And there were elements that were quite unique to this story that were enjoyable. In the end however, it lacked cohesion , and the story became cumbersome and confusing.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Jennifer Broekhuizen
  • 01-06-17

Classic SF Hugo winner

I know this book is one of the most acclaimed novels that SF has to offer, but it just didn't work for me. I was really involved in the story at first, but when the main characters changed and the action jumped​ forward several hundred years, it just lost me. I know this is a fix-up novel and many people have enjoyed it as such, it just was not my cup of tea. I found the first third of the book to be engaging and when everything switched I just lost interest. I finished reading it for posterity sake, to make sure that I wasn't missing anything, but I kind of wish I hadn't.

16 people found this helpful