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A Canticle for Leibowitz

Written by: Walter M. Miller Jr.
Narrated by: Tom Weiner
Length: 10 hrs and 55 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (33 ratings)

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Publisher's 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.

What the critics say

“Chillingly effective.” (Time)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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One of my favourites

I've read this book numerous times, but hadn't ever listened to it. Tom Weiner's performance really gave life to the Abbots of the Abbey of Leibowitz in a way that reading it hadn't. I didn't think I could enjoy this book any more, but listening to his performance just made it that much better. Such a wonderful book and such a cautionary tale for humanity! #Audible1

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great performance but not a book i enjoyed

the reader was excellent. great pacing and affect. but the story itself was not my favorite. ive read so much SF and this is just not among the ones i enjoyed.

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  • richard
  • Arlington, VA, United States
  • 2013-03-20

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.

138 of 144 people found this review helpful

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  • Joel D Offenberg
  • 2011-09-01

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.

66 of 74 people found this review helpful

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  • DragonRider
  • 2013-05-17

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.

27 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Aaron
  • 2012-06-30

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

44 of 52 people found this review helpful

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  • Bryan
  • Monument, CO, United States
  • 2011-10-07

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?

40 of 48 people found this review helpful

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  • Christopher P. Sheridan
  • 2017-06-09

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 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • William
  • Winter Park, FL, United States
  • 2011-11-08

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 of 27 people found this review helpful

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  • Jay
  • 2016-11-22

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.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim "The Impatient"
  • 2015-09-26

CIRCUIT DESIGNED BY LEIBOWITZ, I.E.

DEO GRATIAS
This is one of those books I have tried more then once to read. It is supposedly a classic. Science Fiction Book Club included it in their 50th year Anniversary Collection. This is the first time I have listened to it and I do believe I got more out of it that way. I still am not a fan. It seemed more about the inner workings of the Catholic Church and not a good look.

SIMPLETONS
Leibowitz seems to have been a engineer and not necessarily a good one at that. I also believe that Leibowitz is a Jewish name? The church in the future after the world is almost blown up wants to make him a Saint. Truthfully, I think people in Academia who are not even Science Fiction Fans claim this as a classic. It is funny in parts, but not funny enough.

The narrator is not one of my favorites. He basically has two voices. A regular voice and then a gruff voice.

82 of 110 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2017-06-27

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 of 21 people found this review helpful