"Nature imposes nothing on you that Nature doesn't prepare you to bear" quoth the abbot Zerchi in the final part of this book, not long before we are to find out humanity, in contrast, seems quite capable and determined to impose on its self that which it is not prepared to bear.
Are we in an endless cycle in which we build up and then destroy our civilization in our relentless attempt to restore our place in Eden? In our dark ages must he church gather and protect knowledge and wisdom from the vandals who would destroy it, then dispense when again we re-discover their thirst for it but then try to guide humanity's application of it so that we don't jeopardise our own souls? This is one the central question this book explores, looking at the place of religion in society and the tensions that may arise between it and secular institutions.
Divided into three parts, each set centuries apart and after a nuclear war that nearly wiped out humanity in the twentieth century, each at a crucial stage of our apparent cycle of destruction. As stories in their own right, I preferred the first part which I found most pleasurable to read. The other two, while not being as good stories, explored the more interesting moral dilemmas and were more thought-provoking.
A great book that deserves its place in the SF Masterworks series and leaves me we a desire to see what else this author has written.