A Canticle for Leibowitz has stood the test of time for a reason: the issues under discussion remain as poignant in the 1950’s when it was published as they do today. What is the value of knowledge, and how should it be used? Is technology productive or destructive in the hands of government? What role does religion play in a technologically advanced society? Under discussion in the work—and the reason it has garnered so much critical attention—are these profound themes, as well as Catholicism, scientific discovery and its subsequent application, the importance of preserved knowledge, and euthanasia.
Told in three windows of time, the narrative focuses on three basic steps of social evolution (from a technological standpoint) and what role the church plays throughout. Though classed science fiction, two of the post-apocalyptic eras Miller describes are not wholly unlike civilizations and cultures that exist in the world today. The only complaint about the book is its bias toward Catholicism; there are no Inquisitions or Crusades and the subjectivity of its beliefs is never questioned. The issues discussed, however, are important enough to ignore this flaw, as what remains becomes more pertinent with every technological advance society makes. All in all, one of the most interesting examinations of technology and religion literature has ever produced.