"Cantacle" follows the Monks of the Order of St. Leibowitz during three successive epochs:
- A few generations after the first Nuclear Holocaust, where we learn their mandate--to preserve the surviving remnant of Human knowledge for posterity
- At the dawn of a new Age of Reason, where the Order's mandate approaches fulfillment and it is unclear what the future holds for them
- Leading up to the second Nuclear Holocaust, where we learn that their new mandate was to prevent a recurrence of Nuclear Holocaust and in case they fail, to launch a mission to another planet, once again, to preserve the remnants of Human knowledge
Ultimately, the book comes off as a deeply thoughtful meditation on Nuclear Apocalypse, largely from a Humanist-Religious perspective. The exploration of suicide and the comparison to "mutually assured self-destruction" in the final part is quite though-provoking, if not altogether profound. Actually, it's all really good. The dialog between science and religion in the second part. The many Humanist vignettes. The tongue-in-cheek humor throughout.
Quite often, I end these posts in the "Tales of Blood and Glory" series with my thoughts on how to apply it to gaming, but here it's a hopeless case. The only substitute for reading "A Canticle for Leibowitz" is reading "A Canticle for Leibowitz". So seriously, if you haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for? It's just that good!