The Leibowitz of this novel’s title was, the reader is told, a technician engaged in weapons development at the time of the nuclear war which destroyed all civilization in America and in the rest of the world. A natural reaction of the survivors of this holocaust was to turn on all scientists, on all fragments of science, and to destroy them for being in some degree responsible for the devastation that had taken place. Leibowitz, however, though repentant of his past, received permission from the pope to form a new monastic order of Albertus Magnus, whose role would be to save books and manuscripts from the “simpleton” mobs. The order’s formation was successful, but Leibowitz himself was caught in the act of “booklegging” and was martyred by simultaneous strangulation and burning.
Leibowitz himself never appears in the novel, but its three separate parts follow the affairs of his order at roughly six-century intervals into the future. In “Fiat Homo,” relics of the Blessed Leibowitz are discovered by chance in a fallout shelter and are skillfully used by the abbot of his monastery to have the order’s founder elevated to sainthood. In “Fiat Lux,” the books so carefully preserved by Leibowitz’s followers are at last read by a man capable of making some sense of them, as a scientific civilization begins once more to develop and North America takes a few steps toward reunification. In “Fiat Voluntas Tua,” scientific progress makes a...
(The entire section is 540 words.)