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A Canticle for Liebowitz, Pt. II May 7, 2011

Posted by Jeff in Uncategorized.
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Whew, this novel is a handful, and a headful.

I’d like to clarify something. In my previous post, I talked about how (in the novel) Man lost all his knowledge and technology, as if it were a naturally occurring event. After re-reading the book, I realized that the loss came about through purpose. The angry mobs turned on those responsible for the destruction, and soon enough didn’t even stop there.

…records and sacred books were burned, refugees were summarily seized and hanged or burned. The Simplification had ceased to have plan or purpose soon after it began, and became an insane frenzy of mass murder and destruction such as can occur only when the last traces of social order are gone. The madness was transmitted to the children, taught as they were – not merely to forget – but to hate, and surges of mob fury recurred sporadically even through the fourth generation after the Deluge. By then, the fury was directed not against the learned, for there were none, but against the merely literate.

This Simplification so thoroughly eradicated the basis of any culture that there was no seed remaining from which to sprout a reemergence of it. Instead, after four or five generations, a new culture arose, but one based on darkness and ignorance, and thus the pattern was set. Nevertheless, the monks patiently guarded the caches of knowledge, even though they themselves did not understand it, and assigned to the Memorabilia the status of Holy Relics, effectively guaranteeing their preservation.

The novel chronicles the long slow climb back from ignorance and superstition, in 600-year chunks, and by the end of the story Man has regained a partial understanding of the Memorabilia and from that some of his former technological achievement. But unfortunately, after all the evil that was done, it seems that Man remains imperfect, and has not really learned his lesson. The book ends on a note of Doom, but also with a thread of Hope.

In closing, I urge you to get this book and read it. It’s not a quick and easy read, but it’s a rich and satisfying novel in so many ways. Chances are that when you’ve read it, you will be glad that you did. It’s one of those that, when you finish and set it down, will sit back and say, “Whew!” Be prepared to learn some Latin, but again, I can’t find much if anything to disagree with those who regard this as the greatest science fiction novel ever written. It is epic, in the original sense of the word.

Over and out. Be well.

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