Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kirkus Style Review: A Canticle for Liebowitz

A Canticle for Liebowitz

Author: Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Review Date: JANUARY 28, 2010
Pages: 352
Price (hardback): $14.95
Publication Date: 1960
ISBN: 0060892994
ISBN (hardback): 978-0060892999
Classification: NOVEL

Miller's (Saint Liebowitz and The Horse Woman, 1996) first novel tells the story of humanity after "The Flame Deluge"; otherwise known as nuclear war.

In 3 connected stories, we learn of the fate of the human race. "FIAT HOMO" details an incident where Brother Francis Girard of Utah on a lenten vigil discovers the "tomb of the blessed Liebowitz". To backtrack, Isaac Liebowitz decided after the bombs fell and civilization collapsed to endeavor to save as much knowledge as possible. After the "Flame Deluge" wiped civilization off the face of the Earth, the survivors chose to be "simpleton's" and burn all books, cd's, etc. They found, so no one could destroy the world again. The Simpletons were given to religious fervor, so Isaac Liebowitz founded an order of monks to do his work, and save all possible knowledge from the book burning simpletons. Many generations later, Brother Francis is of the "Albertian Order of The Blessed Liebowitz". In the fallout shelter, he discovers relics which strengthen the order's case to sanctify the name of Liebowitz, and establish the man as a Saint.
In "FIAT LUX", we find the world having returned to the technological level of Thomas Edison. Brother Kornhoer of the Liebowitzian order is busy trying to perfect an electric light source. He is greatly aided by a scientific scholar and cousin to the now 'King of TexArkana", Thon Taddeo.
Thon Taddeo manages to assist the monk ably, and prevents his cousin's forces from figuring out how to use the abbey as a fortress. With "FIAT VOLUNTAS TUA" humanity despite itself has returned to its age of technological wonder. There have even been colonies established on other worlds. As this last part of the book opens "Lucifer falls". Lucifer is the code name for a massive thermonuclear warhead set in orbit around the Earth. Why it falls, is almost immaterial, as it's explosion on the Earth will bring nuclear war once again. The abbot Dom Zerchi, must determine a path to save as many humans as possible before the war breaks.

This is a very important book, and details a very honest potential vision of our future. Unless we manage to curtail the threat of nuclear weapons.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Road Dogs: The Return of Jack Foley

Road Dogs
by Elmore Leonard
2009 William Morrow
Genre: Thriller
Related Authors: Denis Lehane, Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler.

I can honestly say I have not read nearly as much crime/Thriller fiction as I would have liked to. As a film major, I've devoured many hours of Crime cinema, often based off of books by great writers (The Godfather Saga, The Maltese Falcon, Jackie Brown, etc.), but I really did not delve into this book genre with any depth until this very week. Boy howdy, was I missing out!

I am familiar (as I'm sure many people are) with the Elmore Leonard bank robber Jack Foley from the 1998 film Out of Sight, which explores amongst other story threads Foley's brief but serious romantic encounter with an assistant US Marshall, Karen Sisco. Since in that film George Clooney played Foley, he's the voice I heard whenever he spoke. This book would make a great follow up film for that character, not that anyone seems to be developing it at this point.

Here we have Jack Foley landed in prison for 30 years for the combined crimes of kidnapping a US Marshall - Sisco, and escaping prison. The fact that he was being pushed into the escape vehicle by same dangerous digger types who had harmed him, and he only shoved Sisco into the trunk to protect her was of no concern to his honorable Justice 'Maximum Bob' - so named for dishing out the longest possible sentence for any felony. Maximum Bob tried him in Florida, so Foley finds himself admitted to prison the same day Cundo Rey, a Cuban murderer, transfers to the said Florida prison. There they develop a fast friendship when Foley disarms the white supremacists who were about to hurt Cundo badly at supper time. With Cundo's help, Foley gets a good lawyer who has his sentence reduced to 3 months.

Upon achieving freedom, Cundo offers him hospitality at his homes in Venice, CA. Its there that the story takes off. The caper and double crosses come fast and furious. There is great humor in this book, and Elmore Leonard possesses a very crisp and clean writing style. He only uses the word 'said' whenever a character speaks, thus allowing the language to let you know the emotional state of the speaker. He believes in brief books, this apparently is one of his longer 'tomes' at 262 pages.

While its clear by the end that Jack Foley may not be involved in any more capers, it's a very satisfying story that I could not put down. I read the whole thing in four hours. A very wondrous book. I highly recommend it for anyone above the age of 13.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

This is my blog locale for S524 Adult Reader Advisory. I shall hope to fill this blog with assignments and genuflections brought about by the six new genres I'm going to undertake reading. Rest Assured, there will be strange (at least for me) stuff posted here.