A Canticle for Leibowitz (Walter M. Miller, Jr. 1923-1996) - Lippincott - 1960

Six centuries after the Flame Deluge (global nuclear war), the Catholic Albertian Order of Leibowitz and its abbey in the southwest U.S. desert exist to preserve books and knowledge after most of them were destroyed in the Deluge and the Simplification that followed.  Mankind has plunged into another feudal stage destined to last for many more centuries.  The first of three Fiats (Fiat Homo) follows young Brother Francis who makes a startling discovery while serving one of his many Lenten fasts during which he must not eat a lizard.  Brother Francis eventually becomes a scribe who spends several years copying an old blueprint in his spare time.  Six centuries later in Fiat Lux, a wise man (Thon Taddeo) travels from Texarkana to view the Leibowitz collection.  When the Thon gets there, he soon discovers that Brother Kornhoer has developed a treadmill-powered electric light.  Meanwhile, the feuds continue.  The final Fiat (Voluntas Tua) finds mankind totally mechanized again after another 600 years with nuclear weapons in abundance.  The abbey is now led by Father Zerchi who struggles with his role in the current emergency that involves radiation poisoning and doctors who prescribe euthanasia.  Author Miller was apparently traumatized during World War II when he flew 55 bombing missions over Italian targets including an abbey at Monte Cassino.  The book examines questions of church vs. state and faith vs. technology.  Miller was a prolific writer of short speculative fiction stories for publications such as The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Three of his stories were reworked and reissued as this novel that is widely regarded as a classic of the genre.  Miller committed suicide one year before the publication of his second novel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman. [JAM 1/20/2012]