Miller's 1959 classic examines the distant future at three distinct points: maybe half a dozen centuries after a nuclear war destroyed much of civilization (in the 1960s), and life has returned to fairly the sparse and primitive; in 3174 AD when kingdoms have gathered considerable power and are warring conventionally; and in 3781 AD when robots, atomic bombs, and rocket power have returned. The unifying factor (and location) of the story is a small desert monastery of the Order of St. Leibowitz, dedicated to preserving and enhancing pieces of human scientific knowledge, although most of it is unintelligible to the monks. In each era, the abbot and his priests and novices have to deal with warring political factions, encroachments on their faith and "database," and their own doubts. By the climax, when nuclear war once again threatens humankind's very existence, the monks know what to do. With wry humor and penetrating thoughtfulness, Miller creates an entire cycle of humanity and its challenges within 340 pages.
This report prepared by David Loftus