A Canticle For Leibowitz written by Walter M. Miller, jnr.
SO, can’t remember when exactly I first heard of this book, but the name stuck – for a long long time. Honestly had no idea what it was about but that name.
I picked up the book in a second hand shop, and the first thing I was struck by was the text on the cover:
-bring home for Emma.
Written in the form an illustrated script, which suggested this would be a funny, funny book.
And it was. Mostly.
The book is broken up into three parts, separated by hundreds of years, each section dealing with the rebuilding of civilisation following an atomic war.
I found the first book funny and moving, telling the tale of the Novice Brother Francis and his discovery of the remnants of Leibowitz – dead centuries- who, following the atomic wars had become a catholic and formed an order of monks who would attempt to preserve and remember the knowledge of the world (knowledge which was mostly destroyed when people turned against technology and scientists in the aftermath of the war).
This whole section is very funny, despite some of the darker stuff running deep within it. It was only towards the end that the grislier stuff bubbled up. (Unexpectadly for me, since I hadn’t expected the next section of the book to jump forward from the 26th Century to the year 3174.
In book 2, the reality of the Leibowitz memoribelia is unquestioned, Leibowitz has been granted Saint hood, and the Albertian Order of St. Leibowitz is slowly starting to build technology again.
This book deals with that interface between the secular world and the religious, and while the humour is downplayed, it’s still present in some of the characters.
Book 3, set in the year 3781 is funny, but considerably darker, and, oddly, the chapter I struggled most with.
I’d recommend you go read it.
(But don’t read this wikipedia entry about it, until AFTER you’ve read it – spoilers!)