Does anyone recognize this science fiction/fantasy novel?

Someone has asked elsewhere what the following novel is: This person (who’s 73 years old) has just reread A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller for the first time in a long time, perhaps since reading it shortly after it was published, since he’s old enough to have read it then. He says that he confused it in his mind with something else that he read around the same time. The novel that he’s confused it with is “set in a post-nuclear holocaust world, in which some of the main characters appear to do miracles or magic, but it turns out they’re actually using technology - either rediscovered or reinvented. So we have ‘spears’ that emit killing beams - actually lasers - etc.”

Can anyone help him? Do you know of an old novel that fits this description?

Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light? It’s the closest I can think of.

One of the Foundation series is sort of along those lines. I forget which one. It was probably only a part of it, come to think.

“Gather, Darkness” by Fritz Leiber sounds possible - the rulers of this society pretend to have holy powers, which are actually technology, so their opponents pretend to be satanists/magicians. This site says this: "this story concerns two warring groups of priests, who wear hooded brown and black robes. Each carry “Rods of Wrath,” short metal hilts from which spring a blade-like terminated beam of violet light, which can cut through just about anything. "

Gene Wolfe’s “Book of the New Sun” series is set in a world that might be misremembered as post-apocalyptic, wherein some of the main characters are described as doing magic that is actually technology. IIRC " ‘spears’ that emit killing beams" describes some of the warfare weapons rather well.

Heinlein’s Sixth Column?? It was published much earlier than Canticle (1949 vs. 1960), so I’m probably wrong.

Any sufficiently primitive magic is indistinguishable from technology.

I thought of this too, but Severian doesn’t believe in magic, and is contemptuous of those who do. He is well aware that the devices people use are remnants of lost technology, and so are most of the other characters in the books.

I came here to mention “Sixth Column”.

A person could have read them both at the same time; Sixth Column certainly existed when Leibowitz came out.

Got your nose.

Most of the first book is about the religion that the Foundation created (or had thrust upon it) when it reintroduced atomic technology to the provinces which had left the Empire & lost it. But it wasn’t rediscovered or reinvented - the Foundation had it all along. And pretty much every character seen in the book (anyone from the Foundation, plus the leaders of the Four Kingdoms & other provinces) knows it isn’t magic - it’s only the faceless masses that believe in the religion.

Of course, this is a fairly common theme.

Harry Harrison’s Deathworld trilogy is from around that time, and Deathworld 2 fits the description, from what I can recall.

The protagonist ends up on a post-apocalyptic, tribal warlord run planet, and uses his technical knowledge to survive. I remember he reintroduced IC engines, (with “DRM” protection in the form of acid-filled-enclosures and other booby-traps to prevent reverse engineering) and gave the operators some mystical mumbo-jumbo to explain how it worked. All technology was presented as magic.

I could see where this book might confused with Canticle in some respects, for example:He builds “prayer wheels” to be operated by devoted monks, which use the supplied kinetic energy to power a “GET ME OFF THIS FREAKING ROCK!” radio signal.…around the same time, and also had a priesthood toiling over crude machinery.

Not exactly. The engines with booby traps already existed, as did the booby traps, and it was already all explained as magic by the locals. He defused the traps and rebuilt the engines to work better, and explained it as just being technology. The various tribes were the ones that presented their technology as magic; each tribe had a segment of technological knowledge that they knew in a rote sort of way and the others didn’t. One knew some chemistry, one engines, another electricity and so on. He did talk about it as being magic occasionally, when dealing with a tribe’s own specialty in order to get along with/manipulate them.

There are a set of novels by Piers Anthony (very early) collected as Battle Circle. They are set in a post nuclear age and have one set of people using science described as magic.

Ah, thanks. (I haven’t picked up those books since ~1986, it’s a little fuzzy…)

Interestingly, “Sixth Column” and “Gather, Darkness” are related books. John W. Campbell, the editor, wrote a novel called “All”, which he persuaded Heinlein to use as a starting point for “Sixth Column” and I’ve heard that Leiber was given the same request, leading to “Gather, Darkness” (Campbell had no concern about giving two authors the same idea - he knew their treatments of the idea would be different)

Hey! This thread just got mentioned over at io9!

So, is Charlie Jade Anders (or someone at io9) one of us?

((And I would suggest Lord of Light myself.))

I’ve read “All” (It was published after Campbell died). It’s awful. The only real resemblance to Heinlein’s book is the basic situation and the names of the gods.
How about Keith Roberts’ Pavane – it’s not post-holocaust (it’s alternate history – Elizabeth I gets assassinated and the Spanish Armada takes England), but it has monks using technology.It’s from the 1960s.

I’ve read both & think either could be the book described in the OP.

I hope Wendell is able to confirm the correct answer with the fellow with the original question.