Books Reviews 2022

A Canticle For Leibowitz

by Walter M. Miller Jr.

I first encountered this book through a reference in After Virtue. I found the reference strange enough that I decided to read the former (although perhaps I haven't read enough ethics, perhaps this is a fairly common practice to reference 1950s science fiction). 

In form this was a fix up novel consisting of three interconnected stories centered around a fictional, catholic order of monks. These monks are dedicated to preserving knowledge after a nuclear exchange has obliterated society. On a superficial level each of the three stories was entertaining, but arranged collectively they tell a story of a clash of mindsets: one modern, one ancient.

It is the exploration of these mindsets that captivated me. The first mindset, represented in the lay community, is a product of the 1950's impending sense of doom. It is curious, industrious, and inventive, but reckless and vain. The second mindset, present in the clergy, was likely inspired by Miller's encounters with Italian monks during the World War II. It is an infinitely patient, resilient, and uncompromising. In the novel, the monks come off quite well, but as the predicted doomsday has not yet arrived, it is too soon to tell. 

I give this book 6/7, but I think some of the stories might be a 7/7.


by Blake Crouch

My friend Tom recommended this near-future thriller to me. Set in a world where genetic research is banned after reckless experimentation caused a global famine, the novel follows is a government agency, the GPA, tasked with preventing further genetic research. The protagonist, Logan Ramsay, is a GPA agent that is ambushed and forcibly altered with a host of beneficial DNA changes (the eponymous upgrade). Now hunted by his former employer, he must figure out who has upgraded him and why. Twists and turns ensue. 

Overall, this book was entertaining, and it would make for a fun beach read. The author clearly did quite a bit of research with respect to genetic engineering in an attempt to ground the science in a sense of realism. Notwithstanding this effort, the substantive result is that Logan Ramsay ends up super hero, with the requisite super strength and super intelligence. Unfortunately the upgraded Ramsay's was not written as a real genius, more like a Hollywood genius who can multiply really fast and catch bullets. Other than that the setting is fun, but probably too embed in our present conceptions of the future.

I give this book 5/7. It was entertaining if shallow.