Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

I finished reading Canticle. It's a post-apocalyptic novel set in a Catholic monastery a few centuries after a nuclear war reduced the world to Iron Age-level technology. This is a dynastic novel that follows the monastery's inhabitants throughout the ages, as humanity gradually rebuilds. Miller has written a carefully-crafted work, where each word and phrase, particularly in the dialogue, is thoughtfully selected. A substantial portion of the novel is in untranslated Latin, but it's possible to get the gist of what's going on, even if you can't read that language. The book is an interesting sociological and theological exploration, and I think that many Christian readers of this blog might enjoy it.

I'm also working on two other novels. The first is The Foresight War, an alternate history of World War II by Anthony G. Williams. There are, I think, two types of alternate histories. Many novels labeled as such are murder mysteries or whole plots simply located within alternate realities, such as Fatherland and The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which address the larger alternate events only tangentially. Others focus primarily on those changing events themselves, as one finds among the works of Harry Turtledove and Harry Harrison.

I prefer the latter category, and The Foresight War fits squarely within that subgenre. The point of departure is that a British military historian is transported back in time to 1934. No explanation is given -- it is simply a deus ex machina. He is able to persuade certain British politicians that he is indeed from the future, and that his warnings about the rise of Nazi Germany are real. Consequently, the UK is far better prepared for war when it breaks out in 1939.

The other novel is Depth of Revenge by Richard Golden. It is about an Israeli nuclear missile submarine. One day, they receive information that a surprise nuclear attack has essentially destroyed their nation, as well as the chain of command that authorizes them to launch their missiles. Inside the captain's safe is a letter, written by the Prime Minister, that he is to open in the event of such a disaster. Golden's book has very little dialogue and focuses on the action and the captain's thoughts. That's the way that I like speculative fiction in general -- shut up and get to the action.

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