Read Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm Online


Before becoming one of today's most intriguing and innovative mystery writers, Kate Wilhelm was a leading writer of science fiction, acclaimed for classics like The Infinity Box and The Clewiston Test.Now one of her most famous novels returns to print, the spellbinding story of an isolated post-holocaust community determined to preserve itself, through a perilous experimenBefore becoming one of today's most intriguing and innovative mystery writers, Kate Wilhelm was a leading writer of science fiction, acclaimed for classics like The Infinity Box and The Clewiston Test.Now one of her most famous novels returns to print, the spellbinding story of an isolated post-holocaust community determined to preserve itself, through a perilous experiment in cloning. Sweeping, dramatic, rich with humanity, and rigorous in its science, Where Later the Sweet Birds Sang is widely regarded as a high point of both humanistic and "hard" SF, and won SF's Hugo Award and Locus Award on its first publication. It is as compelling today as it was then.Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is the winner of the 1977 Hugo Award for Best Novel....

Title : Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
Author :
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ISBN : 9780312866150
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 254 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang Reviews

  • mark monday
    2018-11-22 04:12

    David Sumner has a problem: the world as he knows it is about to end. what's a brilliant young man and his equally brilliant family to do? why, bring back members of that extended family, store supplies, circle the wagons, and build a lab which will eventually help the Sumner family to repopulate the earth, of course. sounds like a good plan to me.there's something about the 70s that I just really dig. many things, actually. besides the wonderfully hideous clothes and the wonderfully not-hideous moustaches and of course all of the brilliant movies, one of the things I like about that decade is the science fiction that came out of it. sci-fi that is confident mankind is headed for cataclysmic change any day now; sci-fi writers that came up with all sorts of ways that mankind can survive or transform or transcend or even just die. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is such a book. one of the very 70s things about this novel is its sweet but not saccharine attachment to nature... if you don't dig nature, you have a lot to learn man. there's a vagueness to that sentiment just as there is a vagueness to what exactly is causing the world to break down. and that vagueness is also pretty 70s. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is not the sort of novel that will spell things out for you. you either dig it or you don't dig it.Molly of the Miriam Sisters has a problem: she went on an expedition to see what could be found out there, and she came back changed. she doesn't see things the same way. she should probably try to change back; she's making her duplicate sisters uneasy and her community deals with unease in fairly drastic ways. but she doesn't want to change. she's not sure why she is drawing these disturbing images or why she finds such new comfort in nature, in being by herself. but she likes it. she likes being an individual.and that's another great thing about the 70s, in sci-fi and beyond: that interest in exploring the necessity of both individuality and community. Wilhelm does not paint this after-the-fall society in broad strokes so that the reader can easily hiss at it. there is a nurturing, loving vibe to this future community. people support their siblings automatically. sexuality is nonchalant. it is a community that cares for its citizens. well, in its own way. but of course in the end Wilhelm cherishes individuality and this community is shown to be deeply flawed. if this sounds like the novel may be some kind of didactic screed on individualism, well, it's not. Wilhelm is subtle. she is a lovely writer but she is also fine with making the reader a bit uncomfortable. Molly's "descent" into individuality is eerie and unnerving, haunting, as strange an experience for the reader as it is for this new and vaguely threatening Molly - no longer of the Miriam Sisters.Mark has a problem: he is not like the lab-bred brothers & sisters, and they don't like that. the clones don't like this natural-born kid. but they need him, they need his skills, they need his bravery, they need his ability to understand nature and to be by himself. unfortunately, they don't actually know they need him and how badly they need individuals like him for their survival as a race. at one point Mark builds a snowman. the young clones don't understand it and they don't really see it - because it is a lone snowman, no lookalike snowmen surrounding it. so they pelt it with snowballs and tear down the monstrous lone thing.I love how this kid is portrayed as an arrogant little asshole who mercilessly pranks his clone relatives, blithely uncaring of the genuine harm they can and often expressly want to do to him. assholes make the best heroes for me because I can often see myself in them. I like their flaws, their humanity; heroic heroes are often quite tedious in the end. the 70s had no problem with asshole heroes. but although Mark is quite a jerk, he has something his family members don't understand outside of their clone groupings: empathy. jerks who are empathetic know how and where to hit the hardest. and so Mark hits the clones hard, right where it hurts.great novel! a classic.

  • Nandakishore Varma
    2018-12-08 10:51

    (Edit to add: the review below contains what some may consider to be spoilers. But on the whole, I do not think that reading this review will spoil the enjoyment of the book for you.)Science fiction stories usually concern the impact of the progress of science on human beings. When the science part dominates, it is called “Hard SF”: when the human part dominates, it is “Soft SF”. However, this is not a rigid categorisation as most Hard SF stories (for example, Asimov’s Foundation series) contain some sociology, and most Soft SF cannot exist without some science. The most fascinating Soft SF stories deal with a society unalterably modified by science, and how human beings come to term with it.Did I just say “human beings”? Well, as far as Kate Wilhelm’s Hugo and Locus award-winning novel, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is concerned, you can add the word “almost” – since most of the characters in this story are clones.The StoryThe novel is a dystopia: one that many science fiction writers seem to love – the whole world having gone to hell on a handcart. Wars, pollution and pestilence of Biblical proportions are slowly wiping out life on earth. To compound the problem, human beings and animals are becoming increasingly sterile. It seems that the world is doomed to extinction.The filthy rich Sumner family, up in their farm on the Shenandoah Valley, have read the signs early and have found a solution. They will preserve an island of stability and sanity in a world gone volatile and mad in their mountain citadel – and led by the gifted Dr. Walt, Harry Vlasic and David Sumner, they develop the ultimate answer to sterility – cloning.So far, so good. Only, they discover too late that clones are not humans in the true sense of the word. Much more single-minded and efficient than their originals, and sharing an extra-sensory empathy with one another, they soon take over… and the world seems ready for a new species. A society where individuality is unknown and any deviation from the group is frowned upon; where sex is a group activity and the production of children, other than the cloned ones, is by harvesting a handful of fertile women as “breeders”. It is the end of humankind as we know it.Or is it?On a field trip to gather information and building materials (a perilous one that a few hardy individuals periodically make – it is literally a matter of life and death for any clone to be separated from the group for too long), Molly, the artist, is touched and permanently changed by nature. She can’t go back to the group existence any more: she has rediscovered humanity. Her art becomes steadily less utilitarian and more idiosyncratic, and she begins questioning group values. Of course, this striving for individuality is major deviant behaviour among the clones, so they isolate her in the old house, with its hoard of books. Unknown to them, she is carrying something else – the son of the doctor Ben in her womb.Molly and her son Mark enjoy an idyllic existence in the old house for five years until they are ultimately discovered. Mark is taken away to live in the communal nursery with other children, and Molly is assigned the role of a breeder, a baby – producing machine. But once touched by nature, man cannot become a machine again. As the clone community declines because of lack of innovation, abhorrence of nature and the steadily dwindling resources from a dead world, Mark, the earth-child, provides the spark to ensure that humanity is born again.***The novel is structured in three parts: the first part (and in my opinion, the weakest) showing the development of the society of the clones and their takeover, the second part detailing Molly’s “conversion” and the third, the renaissance of humanity through Mark. Even though it attempts to be nothing other than science fiction, the mythical overtones are hard to miss. David Sumner is the original savior prophet/ hero, who creates the chosen race and is ultimately sacrificed by them: Molly, the Mother of God/ Mother Goddess: and Mark, the persecuted God Child/ Hero/ Messiah of the new world.Kate Wilhelm wrote this novel in the seventies, when the cold war was going strong. For Western Europeans and Americans, the Soviet Union was the Devil Incarnate and the ultimate dystopia, a place where human beings have lost all claims to individuality and function only as cogs in the machine, as epitomised by the communist bloc (we now understand that this was far removed from the truth). In those days, a communist takeover of the world was a real threat in the mind of the average American; the end of civilisation as we know it. Part of the success of this novel is that that particular paranoia is explored in detail, without being judgmental.“The Freedom of the Individual” is at the heart of the American secular religion, sometimes (in the opinion of citizens of other countries) carried to ridiculous extremes (one cannot imagine a philosophy like Ayn Rand’s meriting serious consideration anywhere else in the world). Collectivism of any kind is to be abhorred. So imagine the situation if the human race becomes collective, not through force, not through choice, but as an inherent feature of their biological make-up? That is what the author does, and her prediction on the fate of such a society is clear and unambiguous: death by atrophy of the spirit.The passage reproduced below encapsulates the author’s philosophy in a nutshell.…He looked over the class, and continued. “Our goal is to remove the need for sexual reproduction. Then we will be able to plan our future. If we need road builders, we can clone fifty or a hundred for this purpose, train them from infancy, and send them out to fulfill their destiny. We can clone boat builders, sailors, send them out to the sea to locate the course of the fish our first explorers discovered in the Potomac. A hundred farmers, to relieve those who would prefer to be working over the test tubes than hoeing rows of carrots.” Another ripple of laughter passed over the students. Barry smiled also; without exception they all worked their hours in the fields.“For the first time since mankind walked the face of the earth,” he said, “there will be no misfits.”“And no geniuses,” a voice said lazily, and he looked to the rear of the class to see Mark, still slouched down in his chair, his blue eyes bright, grinning slightly. Deliberately he winked at Barry, then closed both eyes again, and apparently returned to sleep.The community where everybody is forced to work in the fields and children belong to the group and not to their parents seems like a parody of Chairman Mao’s China.It is interesting to note that Mark saves the society because he is more in tune with nature than the clones who needs the presence of each other for sustenance and cannot survive alone. While stressing individuality, Ms. Wilhelm also seems to advocating the recognition of our umbilical tie to Mother Earth (Gaia, Bhumi, call her whatever you will). Presumably it was the separation which brought about the unnamed catastrophe at the beginning of the story – a scenario which eerily parallels the situation we find ourselves in today…

  • Erich Franz Linner-Guzmann
    2018-12-15 06:55

    "She shook her head, her eyes fixed, staring at the nightmare scene before them. Who had done this? Why? It was as if the people had converged here to destroy this place that had failed them in the end so completely."The scene that is described here was indeed nightmarish, as was a large portion of this story. Although there were a lot of dark scenes throughout, it did have some bright and uplifting scenes to redeem its eerie disposition. I was on a roller coaster of emotions while reading this - which is rare for me, not many stories can evoke such an array of feelings, as this did. The many different scenarios depicted page-after-page, were filled with fantastical ideas that held a deep-down plausible truth.I have read many books about robotics being used in extending the lives of individuals or prolonging the existence of mankind. However, in this 1977 Hugo and Locus Award winning novel by Kate Wilhelm, she shows humans living beyond their original due date, by way of cloning. Even though much has progressed in the science of cloning in the past 30 years, the ethical questions are still the same and the controversies may never change. I assumed the heated controversies on this topic started in the 90's, with the birth of Dolly, the cloned sheep, but actually it appears to have been a heavy subject way before that. These ethical issues were concerns in the 70's, made apparent by Kate's writings, and perhaps even began far sooner than we know.Whether or not you have a solid opinion on the cloning of humans, reading this book, will broaden your ideas on man's finite existence on earth, for it has mine.UPDATE:I recently learned where Kate Wilhelm got the title of her novel. It was from a quotation of William Shakespeare's Sonnet 73.That time of year thou mayst in me behold,When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hangUpon those boughs which shake against the cold,Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.In me thou seest the twilight of such day,As after sunset fadeth in the west,Which by and by black night doth take away,Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,As the death-bed whereon it must expire,Consumed with that which it was nourished by. This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.–William Shakespeare

  • Bradley
    2018-12-18 04:16

    1977 Hugo winner for best novel.We've got some serious competition out here for best dystopia, but what about the old SF classics that decided to do it first, and often better, than all the modern trash out here?Sure, there's a seriously 70's vibe here, man, with all the deep concerns for community versus individuality, but it's not like we've really outgrown the issues. You can read the novel as a deep condemnation for conformity and group-think and the logical extremes of extroversion and as a reader identify with the introverted outcasts and their iconoclast talents, even if such things are considered, among most, as a euthanizable offence. Sound familiar, modern YA dystopia readers?Well this isn't a YA novel, either. It starts out as a pretty horrific descent into chaos as the world turns sterile and plagues decimate the population, but fortunately, for the deeply optimistic and appreciated optimism of SF of the day, science comes to the rescue... with Clones! Cool, right? Just think, an Army of Clones! I mean, it's such a classic idea, right? I mean, first Star Wars did it, and then everyone just... ooh... wait... I think I'm mixing up cause and effect here... Still, this novel isn't a war novel. If anything, it's a bit humorous watching a nature boy lead a bunch of cloned children through the forest to go on raids. Sure, the world has gone to hell, but Science Wins. I can't fault the optimism, and all of these characters are very well drawn.We've taken free love into whole new territories, decided that art therapy can have seriously bad repercussions, and that individuals really out to be allowed to be, you know, individual. :) But I did find it just as fascinating to see how their society dealt with Extreme Communalism. :) Scary, too. The breeding farms were major-ick.I would have been killed as a kid as a nonfunctional unit. :) They'd have expressed sympathy and all, but it doesn't change the fact that I'd be pasteurized. This may not be my favorite SF novel ever, mind you, but I really enjoyed it. It didn't decide to be very dark and wallow in all the things that modern dystopias pride themselves on... like complete and utter hopelessness. :)Definitely a worthwhile read.

  • Ignacio
    2018-12-01 07:03

    En su promoción se habla de La estación del crepúsculo como la mejor novela sobre clones y este tema por sí solo me da un poco lo mismo. Sí me deja sin palabras cómo Wilhelm entremezcla este contenido con la literatura apocalíptica y la distópica para tejer una historia que bebe de todas y cada una de esas temáticas, saca partido a cada vertiente sin terminar de decantarse por ninguna y logra una personalidad singular.La descripción de la sociedad de clones que nace con el colapso de la civilización es tan brillante como su evolución. Lo mismo cabe decir del retrato de los personajes alienados del grupo, los protagonistas sobre los que se focaliza el relato y, tristemente, padecen el yugo de una organización cada vez más alejada de sus comienzos. Hay detalles detrás de la parte conceptual que me han costado más asumir, caso de la maniquea confrontación entre humanos y clones sustentada en la imposibilidad de estos últimos de apreciar ciertas cualidades, digamos, más interiores y subjetivas. Obcecados en la eficiencia y en factores objetivos, entre insensibles e incapaces de sentir la más mínima empatía por sus antecesores. Parecen primos hermanos de aquellos cucos aterrizados en Midwich 20 años antes. Pero una vez aceptado esto, el resto entra solo.Wilhelm se entrega a una narración que, a pesar de las elipsis y de un ritmo vertiginoso, sabe detenerse en las escenas adecuadas, sugiere tanto como muestra y culmina con un clímax intachable. Si no es el premio Hugo más injustamente olvidado en España, poco le falta. Y eso que su última reedición tiene menos de una década.

  • Candiss
    2018-12-09 07:11

    I should have read Kate Wilhelm’s stellar Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang years ago. I had it in the back of my mind as a seminal work, a must-read, for just short of forever, yet I never found myself actually diving in to that first page. Then I won a copy through the Goodreads Firstreads contest, and I knew my time with this speculative classic had finally come. I received my copy, became flush with excitement…and reverently shelved the book, as I didn’t have the time and energy to do justice to a story I’d been anticipating for so very long.Finally, the time was right, so I pulled the book from my shelves and was immediately charmed by the story’s warmth and humanity. The first few chapters perfectly set the stage for what is to come, introducing the central family at a time when things are mostly normal, a time before the world began to disintegrate and life took on a thousand forms of adversity and complexity. I liked this family, appreciated their strong loyalties and values. I wanted things to go well for them.But things do not go well, or at least not as planned. Ecological, economic, and environmental turmoil ensues, and the process is wholly believable to a modern reader. Wilhelm was remarkably prescient in her writing, and the book feels neither dated nor far-fetched in its allusions to these societal troubles. She writes as a realist, neither heavy-handed nor preachy. Yet she is unflinching in authenticity, and I was fully convinced that her future is not only plausible, but at least partially probable. This apocalypse makes a bang for the world at large, but in the microcosm of the world of the central family, the effect is more akin to a whisper spreading out through the generations, impossible to ignore, until finally it is the only sound left.Lest I spoil anything essential, I will only circle around the novel’s plot beyond what is plainly told on a dust jacket synopsis. Due to the aforementioned worldly catastrophes, fertility is drastically impaired – both for animals and humans. One large, extended family, blessed both with resources and the ingenuity of a number of brilliant and resourceful individuals, devises a long-long-term plan to both allow the family to survive and to provide for the clan in the future. The result is the single most insightful, well-rounded, and horrific exploration of the wider implications of cloning I’ve ever encountered, (Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go included) as well as a true-ringing exploration of one family's struggle in a post-apocalyptic world. Labeling these people "tenacious" only scratches the surface of their character. I kept hearing Robert A. Heinlein in my head, chanting a litany: "Specialization is for insects." Indeed, specialization is what initially allows the family to survive, through their polymathic panoply of diversely-skilled members. But over time, an almost insect-like efficiency and homogeneity prevails and affords the family the strengths it needs to thrive. (Of course, as things tend to be cyclic in nature, what goes around comes around again...) The book is organized into sections focusing on successive generations of the family, and each is at once more alien and more familiar than the last. Wilhelm is adept at engendering empathy in the reader, coaxing you to understand the motives and choices the family must employ, even when those paths seem unthinkable or distasteful. Whatever gets to you on a personal level - a young man struggling with unrequited or lost love, a young woman determined to be independent even at the expense of her heart, a father figure making hard decisions for his family, a woman wanting something better for her child, a boy striving to fit in yet be different, a woman afforded no rights, a scientist desperately seeking solutions, an artist seeing the world differently, a youth determined to make his own path in the world...selfish, selfless, self-sacrificing, self-centered - they're all here, and more. In fact, nearly every conceivable facet of "the self" can be found in the whole of the entity of "the family", filtered through thematic lenses of adaptation vs stagnation, conformity vs self-determination, tradition vs innovation. This is social/anthropological/archetypal science fiction at its absolute best, exploring with unclouded eyes the ability of humanity to endure through adaptation, through re-inventing itself as something new as many times as necessary, to discover, re-discover, and explore territory both new and old, and to finally emerge from its chrysalis reborn, yet perhaps even more fully human than ever.I feel Kate Wilhelm has created an absolute classic of speculative literature which is tragically under-exposed. I was enormously enriched by this reading experience, and I know I will revisit this title again and again over the years, now that its seed has been sown in me. (In fact, it took me many weeks after reading to be able to fully express my thoughts, as well as to gain enough distance for an even marginally-objective review.) I enthusiastically recommend Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang to all fans of intelligent fiction.

  • Althea Ann
    2018-11-28 05:52

    I had read this before, but so long ago (early teens?) that I couldn't really remember it. I've liked other stories by Wilhelm, so decided to re-read. Starts off with a nicely promising apocalypse, but quickly becomes a story of oh-no-the-clones! They're not Human! The (very thin) scientific premise is that individuality must be developed at an early age, and if a group of clones grows and develops together, they will fail to develop individuality (and associated traits like creativity, imagination, the ability to fall in love, the possibility of genius, etc). The clones think they are awesome and aim to create a safe, communal society. Only a couple of people see the deadly trap the remnants of humanity are falling into.Not only is there no logical reason that clones would develop the traits that Wilhelm gives them, the book's message about the importance of creativity and individuality seems like a straw man argument. Would anyone seriously argue that the ability to innovate is NOT important? Maybe there's a bit of a cold-war era residual paranoia about communism that contributed to this; I'm not sure. The "happy" ending of the book is also problematic. OK, the one 'individual' man kidnaps a harem of fertile women and sets out to repopulate the earth with hardworking innovators. Hmm. Are we concerned about genetic diversity, anyone? The numbers of individuals required for a viable population? Nah, everything'll be fine. (I'm fairly certain that people did know about the problems associated with extreme inbreeding even in 1976.)I have to admit that I still found the book enjoyable - I just like this sort of apocalyptic novel. But it's definitely flawed.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2018-11-26 06:59

    Well, I definitely expected to like this book more than I did. Almost everyone I know who has read it has rated it very highly. I take a few issues with it:1. Half the book is more of a summary, and the book is just plain too short for the story it is trying to tell. It reminded me of A Canticle for Leibowitz in that way, told in three parts, from an author whose greater strength, arguably, is in the short story. Wilhelm is well known for her decades of contributions to Orbit (see recent anthology of her work in that magazine in Kate Wilhelm in Orbit, Volume One.) Either it should have been broken into separate books to really give the author time to tell the full story of each part, or she should have given us less of the backstory - a true summary, no characters. In the end, why do we care which family owned the land? They didn't end up mattering one bit, other than the fact that they provide the genetic code for the future society.2. Breeders. Every book that demotes women to baby factories as a "solution" for our "future society" is never going to win with me. The men get to decide what happens, and the women have the children. It is frustrating coming from a female writer in particular, I don't care that this was written in the 1970s. She is talking about clones! Why can't they just be in the test tube so women can have another role? 3. The book is a framework to allow Wilhelm to spout her ideas of adaptability and creative thinking (my terms are taken from this Guardian review which also explores why we like post-apocalyptic literature so much.) I don't disagree with these ideas but I prefer story over message. The Cory Doctorow novels that do this same thing bother me in the same way (Pirate Cinema just being one example, although not all Doctorow suffers from this, to be clear.)4. I also found the survival tactics to be a bit unbelievable, relying on outside food sources and recon missions for multiple decades? When the major cities have burned or been hit with something radioactive? Perhaps the after-effects of radiation were not fully known in the 1970s but there would have been mega contamination issues. At least they were traveling in the water and not on roads. She seemed more interested in the nuclear winter concept, focusing on dropping temperatures and ice fields. Actually, this was a popular future-disaster trope in the 1970s and I almost could have used far more of it rather than the focus on the clones and the incest.5. The audiobook itself may have taken this book one notch. The narrator is female while most of the points-of-view in the book are male. So most of the time she is trying to do male voices and not really pulling it off. I would have picked someone else to fit the feel of the book better.

  • Raul
    2018-12-06 06:02

    Este livro fala-nos de um mundo pós-apocalíptico. Depois de destruida a espécie humana, subsistem apenas os clones humanos.A visão da autora é muito interessante. Mostra-nos uma civilização formatada, com relações de dependência  em relação aos outros clones, mas uma dependência meramente física, uma dependência tão básica como o respirar. Os laços de afeto são inexistentes e a promiscuidade sexual é parte do seu quotidiano.Estes clones não dispõem de sentido de orientação que lhes permita andar pelo mundo e são desprovidos de criatividade.É uma visão alternativa mas interessante sobre aquilo que, quem sabe, um dia poderá ser a realidade de um planeta imensamente fustigado pela poluição e destruição provocada pelo Homem.

  • Kirsten
    2018-11-17 11:08

    I rarely give out 5 stars, but when a book is this moving and enthralling it deserves it!This book is disaster, science fiction, dystopian - and also an expose of what it means to be human. What if man was not just a social animal, but part of society closer to what bees and ants have? What would happen? Would we still be human?That's what this book sets forth. There is some disaster that one highly educated family sees coming and tries to hedge their bets with cloning. It explores this with 3 interlinked parts, novellas really. They are interlinked, yet they are their own stories. But this is more than just pure science fiction. It is more a character study of three disparate but similar characters. There is David who lives through the end of civilization (as he knows it) and helps start a new one (without realizing it) and learns to regret it. There is Molly of the new civilization who is forced out and ends up being a catalyst for change. And there is Mark who sees the dangers and finds away to save mankind. A wonderful book, even if you're not a sci-fi fan.There were some items to note. (Don't go farther for spoilers.)-- how does one family create a healthy group of people? wouldn't you need to go outside for fresh DNA?-- I loved the idea of the hive mind. At times cruel and insensitive. You wondered if because of this there could be no crime, no war, no violence.-- In the end, the deterioration of the clones, the lack of initiative, the voices they hear in the trees... very affecting.

  • that_scarlet_girl
    2018-11-24 05:02

    3 1/2*

  • Sandi
    2018-11-25 05:47

    I think that Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang really needed to be longer. The scope of the novel is much too large for for its short length. (The audio version is about 11 minutes shy of 8 hours.) The story covers several "generations" and many decades.I found Wilhelm's prose to be beautiful. Her descriptions of the Shenandoah Valley are richly detailed. She brings each season to life in the imagination with words. The problems I had with the story were mainly with the SF details. I just couldn't believe that the clones from any given genetic stock would be so much of a hive mind. I also found it difficult to believe that the clones would fail to value individuals who were born the old-fashioned way as something more than clone material once they realized that there were outer limits to the number of generations that could be cloned from one individual. I would have especially thought they would have encouraged individuals and individuality simply so they could have people who could travel away from their "siblings" for their much-needed explorations. The audio production of this story is okay. Anna Fields does a fine job even though she does seem to have a bit of trouble with male dialogue. I do question the use of a female narrator for this book. It is told from the points of view of 3 people of differing generations. 2 of the three characters are men. The woman's part is the shortest of the three and most of the book's characters are male. I think it would have made more sense to use a male narrator or two narrators.

  • Kerry
    2018-11-30 06:09

    When I dug out my grotty old paperback of this book, I checked the publication date out of curiosity. It is a 1981 edition that I clearly bought second hand. So I'd guess I bought it in the late '80s when I was in my late teens. That feels right with my vague memory of first reading it and means it is now well over 20 years since I read Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. That long ago read had left me with a good feeling about the book, but I had no idea how it would hold up all these years later. Considering it was already around 10 years old in my hypothetical "late '80s" (it won the Hugo Award in 1977) it can certainly now be classed as an old book and maybe even a classic. It was republished as part of the "SF Masterworks" series in 2006 (with the nice cover shown above and not the horrible one I have) so there are clearly people out there who do consider it a classic. In terms of the book "holding up", I had two main reactions. A yes and a maybe. I think the scientific premise stands up very well. In fact the end of the world as it comes to David and his family could be an eerily close future. It is a world of pollution, climate change and declining population where humanity's science can't keep up with what we have done to our planet. The solution the family reaches - to clone themselves - has been a science fiction staple for a while now, but I suspect was much newer in 1976 when the book was first published. It is, in fact, disturbingly much more possible now that it was then, making Wilhelm's vision of what such a drastic step might do to our cloned descendants still very timely all these years later. As for the maybe, that concerns the writing style. This book is very much a "tell" book, rather than a "show" book. I can't truly say if this is a product of when it was written and published - too many years and other books have gone by, not to mention brain cells, for me to remember. However, I have my doubts that it would be published today in this form for just that reason. It's an older style of story-telling now and with demands for a first paragraph "hook" and lots of "show" from modern writers, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang may well have a style that would not resonate with modern readers. Did it work for me? Yes, it did. Whether that is because the style still works (well, of course it does if it tells the story well) and stands on its own, or because I read it with the awareness I was rereading an older book, I really can't say. But hey, I enjoyed reading it and surely that what counts? All the same, for all that it is about people, their personalities, individuality (or loss of same) and psychology, it is an idea book more than it is a character book. Considering that, Wilhelm does an excellent job of making you care for the characters as, twice over in quite different societies, we watch people forced to stand back as their youngers take over their place in the community and wonder if things will be better or worse in the new future. I liked David a lot. I'm not sure why, as in many ways there isn't all that much too him, but I remember I did last time and I did now as well. He starts out young, disbelieving and a little idealistic, but faced with the coming catastrophe, embraces the only solution they have found to save themselves and make a future. All the same, he and the other "elders" clearly see cloning as a short term solution that needs to be replaced by sexual reproduction as soon as fertility returns. It is the clones themselves, really not the same as their progenitors, who change the plan. And David is forced to stand aside to let what he sees as a dangerous future fall into place without him and those like him. I don't know if it is a fault in the writing or a deliberate choice of the writer, but on the whole the clones themselves, both in the early generations and later in part 2, have very little personality and none of them really stand out. It seems to me that the only one who truly has character in the book is Barry. All the other main characters, David, Molly, Ben and Mark, have their own personalities and individuality. It is Barry who remains part of his brother-group, who feels right that way, but still can stand back and see the bigger picture. For all I liked David and Mark, on this reading it was Barry who impressed me most. It is Barry who can see that the community is failing, that with the successive generations the clones are losing creativity and that without inspiration to solve an unexpected problem, failure is the only possible result. The next generation, led by Andrew and his brothers, can still see this, but see no reason to do anything about it. Their solution will inevitably lead to the end of the community, but this does not seem to concern them unduely. Barry cannot do anything to change things himself and like David however many generations before (I do wish there was some idea of how much time has passed between part 1 and part 2), he must stand aside as the future forges on, however disastrously, just as David was forced to do. But what saves the community is Mark. Strange, single, individual Mark, who is still creative, inspired and ingenious. And Barry has enough wisdom to stand back and let Mark do what he can’t do himself.I didn't remember the bit of psychological theory thrown into the mix that suggests there is an optimum age for individual ego to develop, that in the clone groups it is swamped by the brother or sister group and never occurs. But Mark is still with Molly at that age and has no clone brothers, so in him that development does occur, no matter how many generations it is since the original catastrophe. It's an interesting idea. I have no idea if it makes sense in terms of modern psychological theory, but it certainly works for the book. I ended up taking away two main things from Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. Okay, on reflection, make that three. First and most clearly, the book is an ode to individuality. It is that individuality and inspiration that lets David and the others find a solution to ensure survival, one that that they consider must be only temporary. But as the clones form their own small collectives, they wish to maintain that and go to whatever ends to see that happen. As they lose their individuality to conformity, all those things that allowed humanity to reach the heights it did begin to be lost. It is only with the rediscovery of individuality in first Molly (and a little in Ben) and later in Mark, that humanity has a chance to escape a second possibility of extinction. But it is also about the lengths we will go to in order to maintain our own kind, and for the purpose of this book the clones are a totally different type of "own kind" from humanity such as we are out here in the real world as represented by David and later by Mark. David's generation saw the cloning as a necessity to survival - but they weren't setting out to make a new kind of human (as they in fact did). They were, as they saw it, creating a stop-gap measure that would allow "real people" (for lack of a better term) to re-emerge on the other side. On the other hand, the clones wanted their kind of people and community to survive. And as they begin to face their extinction in the latter part of the book, they too will go to great lengths to maintain their own kind. The problem is that "their kind" is a dead end - they have lost too much of what it takes to survive and it is only going to get worse. Andrew and the others' solution doesn't seem very practical to me and would probably only hold off the inevitable a bit longer (something that the epilogue seems to endorse). But, unlike David and Walt and their colleagues, the clones lack the ingenuity or ability to risk or “something” that David and the others did have, to try a different way. They choose to maintain their way and in the end they lose. And a smaller third thing, that struck me as I reached the last few chapters was that perhaps, survival is enough. Barry objects to Mark's plan because he sees all the things that will be lost. They will have to be so focused on survival that the "higher learning" things the Valley community has struggled so hard to maintain and gone out foraging for will get forgotten. Perhaps they will indeed, but surely as Mark sees, our very survival is the most important thing. Once you have that, you can start rebuilding those other things, but if you are so determined to keep the electricity and the technology and such without the proper infrastructure to maintain it, then you'll fall. And in the end, that is what happens to the clones, while the reader is left with the feeling Mark and his group will thrive - slowly perhaps, but surely. Hmmm, after having written all this, I find that if I go back to the original question of how the book holds up, I have to say very well. Clearly it has made me think and reflect, and that's what good science fiction should do. Many books these days tell a story and little more - and there's nothing wrong with that - but the classics are the ones that stick with us and have something more to them. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang surely fits into the latter category and I hope it is still being read well into the future. On a simpler note, I've also always felt that it has such a perfect last line. It sums up what much of the whole book and its dominant theme of individuality is all about. And it reads beautifully too. "Because all the children were different."

  • Hugo
    2018-11-19 07:13

    Neste mundo que Kate Wilhelm criou nos anos 70, as consequências da poluição são irreversíveis e dramáticas. O aumento das radiações nocivas é notório e os efeitos ao nível da fertilidade dos seres humanos é preocupante. A família de David, com vários membros ligados às mais diversas áreas da ciência, é rica e resolve construir um hospital genético e bunkers, já a antecipar a catástrofe que se avizinha. Uma vez que as pessoas que se protegem nos bunkers estão, na sua maioria, inférteis, a solução que encontram passa por clonar os indivíduos com as melhores características, de forma a garantir a continuidade da espécie humana. O que ninguém previu foi que os clones fossem sentir tão pouco apreço pelos seus criadores. O livro melhora consideravelmente quando, na segunda parte, temos o ponto de vista de Molly, uma das clones encarregada de trazer informação na primeira expedição que os clones fazem. Nunca nenhum deles se tinha aventurado e afastado tanto do abrigo e quando Molly regressa, as suas irmãs, clones idênticos, apercebem-se que ela está diferente. Acabei por gostar do livro, foi melhorando com cada parte, e tem alguns elementos que me fizeram lembrar o 'Admirável Mundo Novo'.

  • Erik Graff
    2018-12-10 06:55

    I'm so lucky to have grown up when the science fiction genre was being invaded by women like Kate Wilhem and Ursula K. LeGuin. While a few male writers like Theodore Sturgeon could construct believable characters, the women who made it in the field all seemed gifted with psychological insight and the ability to instantiate it. Furthermore, some of them extended the predicate of the genre to include sciences like ecology, psychology and anthropology in addition to the traditional engineering, chemistry and physics orientations.Growing up during the cold war also made me and many in my generation very sensitive to the problematics of globalism: of geopolitical conflict, of overpopulation, of epidemic disease, of the externalities of technology and of cancerous capitalism--possible disasters highlighted by the threat of a thermonuclear exchange. Consequently, a book like this was very attractive. Since matters have only gotten worse and people less concerned, I recommend it.

  • Bettie☯
    2018-11-22 11:00

    For Valerie, Kriss and Leslie,with loveDescription: The spellbinding story of an isolated post-holocaust community determined to preserve itself, through a perilous experiment in cloning. Sweeping, dramatic, rich with humanity, and rigorous in its science, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is widely regarded as a high point of both humanistic & hard SF, winning SF's Hugo Award and Locus Award on its first publication.Opening: What David always hated most about the Sumner family dinners was the way everyone talked about him as if he were not there.The title of the book is a quotation from William Shakespeare's Sonnet 73

  • Jason
    2018-11-28 10:13

    This novel is, I suppose, a dystopia. And if one thinks about it loosely, one may be reminded of a handful of similar-seeming ones, like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Lois Lowry's The Giver, or any number of other novels in which the rigid and law-bound community controls and destroys the notion of the creative individual. But those similarities are largely cosmetic, I think. Dig a little deeper, and this becomes a novel about the stages humanity will go through, at the edge of the precipice, in order to survive. This is a story of several generations of people struggling with choices as humanity almost dies off, tries to save itself, digs itself into a deep and very nasty hole, and then, finally, almost despite itself, crawls out the other side. It is a warning against our attitudes toward technology, efficiency and control, and a call for a return to the natural world, spontaneity, acceptance, and human instinct. It is an exploration of how much loneliness and isolation humans are willing to suffer in order to maintain their drive, ambition, and curiosity. What is more important, a sense of belonging or a sense of progress? The book suggests very convincing reasons why we can't have both. The issues evoked are thought-provoking, even if, ultimately, it is clear which side the novel falls on. But what is most welcome here is that the story is told mostly in honest moments of discord between people who all mean well. Everyone wants humanity to survive. There are no bad guys here - only bad decisions. The novel treats everyone as if their motivations are honest, even if they are clearly wrong. It is amazing how much this novel accomplishes in so few pages. The book was also stranger than I expected. The clones, when we first meet them, are so off-putting, so smug, so dead inside, that they are horrifying. There is an unexplained whispering in the trees, like in the tv show Lost. There is artwork that makes everyone who contemplates it mysteriously uncomfortable, and they can't explain why. There are women kept as breeders in pens, and given drugs to keep them happy. Main characters disappear from the book half-way through, never to be seen again, and their absence haunts the remaining pages. But there are also moments of joy, and moments of communion with nature. The book is eerie, but also lovely. It is dark, but also full of hope. The tone, this particular combination of effects, was captivating. I just read C. J. Cherryh's Cyteen earlier in the summer, and now I feel I have read two great texts on the subject of cloning. They come from very different places, but both have much to say about the human conundrum, and the choices we face when we decide what sort of civilization, full of what sort of people, we intend to leave to our children.

  • Linda
    2018-12-12 05:03

    WHERE LATE THE SWEET BIRDS SANG was an apocalyptic sci-fi window into the 1970s when the story was first published. The main topic covered was cloning and what would happen, if the world as we knew it, was coming to an end? I figured the title to the story had to come from somewhere; it did. It was a line from William Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 73': how a person was affected by seeing someone they love age. In the book, both men and women, and also animals, had become sterile. The few people that survived needed a way to continue their existence. Was 'the unacceptable' the only answer? And as you would think, it opened up a whole new can of worms.It was a challenge because this type of sci-fi is not something I search out to read. The story made me think of things that I didn't necessarily want to think about. (Does that make sense?) I could very well see this book adapted into an old 'Twilight Zone' episode on TV. Or maybe a black and white show from 'The Outer Limits' with its spooky music. I think most people will either like it or they won't; I don't see a middle ground. As a whole, the narrative had some dated information. There was a lesson to be learned: a moral to the story with some darkness that would only be found in a dystopian society. Ms. Wilhelm's characters were a little bit twisted, somewhat eccentric, and oddly fascinating. They seemed to crawl off the page and into my mind even though I may not have wanted them there. It was one of those stories that I loved, despised, feared and predicted every sentence.

  • Simon
    2018-12-09 11:10

    For me, this was one of those books you come to having heard starkly contrasting opinions about it, that leaves you with confused expectations and wondering what could be so divisive. But now, having finished it, I have to say I didn't find it divisive at all and am left wondering whether the book's harshest critics were even reading the same book.This was great, well written, thought-provoking SF that explores one of the more interesting themes in SF; how important is individuality and how should the needs of the individual be reconciled with the needs of society.Humanity is threatened with extinction due to everyone becoming sterile but one particular group of forward-looking individuals develop cloning technology believing that after a few generations, humanity will regain their fertility. The problem is, the new generation of clones are not so sure that they want to go back to propagating the old way and that humanity can be vastly improved if it doesn't.I loved this book but evidently it's not for everyone. The thing is I'm not really sure why. Often when you read a book, you can see why it might not be everyone's cup of tea. But personally, I can't see why anyone who enjoys thoughtful SF would not get a lot from this book. I know I did.

  • Cheryl
    2018-12-13 05:46

    3 and 1/2 stars. To survive an environmental apocalypse, an extended family with money and resources moves onto their farm land and builds a research facility. They find that cloning is the only means for survival of the human race. The human clones develop deep psychological connections within their genetic groups, acting like a group consciousness. Those who want to develop their own individuality are seen as mentally ill and detrimental to the survival of their group. In this setting, the author asks questions about the importance of the group versus the individual, and what it means to be truly human. Is survival worth losing your individuality? Winner of the 1977 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

  • sologdin
    2018-12-15 06:56

    Post-apocalyptic, told in three parts, each separated by an unstated amount of time and involving a change of narrator, with some amount of rebuilding in evidence after they blew it up, those maniacs, but with the rebuilders ultimately consumed anyway, with some small survival thereafter. That level of generality makes it sound like A Canticle for Leibowitz. It does not appear to be derivative of Miller, though; Wilhelm hints at nuclear war through the presence of lethal radioactivity, but the descent into apocalypse is gradual enough to be predictable, with pollution, disease, famine &c. taking a toll until civilization eats itself and then shits itself out (kinda like how The Hunger Games suggests that the end will come).My main complaint about the dystopian subgenre has been that the setting is typically well done, but that the story usually is dreadful: some variation on individual v. the state, with the individual typically partaking in some greater or lesser degree of defeat (Winston Smith loves Big Brother; the Savage dies; Logan goes into exile). Similarly, I now realize that the flaw with the post-apocalyptic subgenre is that the opening premise (end of the world) allows all setting rules to be erased, and a generalized Peril can be imposed on the narrative: every bush is vile; every breeze is dire. So, setting is not really ever developed in these items. Story, also, is just as badly developed as story in dystopia: instead of individual v. state, it's survivors v. environment, with survivors usually partaking in some greater or lesser degree of defeat by the end (they blow up the world again in Miller; the monkeys win eventually in Boulle; the road never ends in McCarthy).So, the basic rule--For any X that is a dystopia, the setting is fantastic, but the story sucks. For any X that is a post-apocalypse, both the setting and the story suck.Any writer thinking of writing a post-apocalypse should therefore immediately revise and resubmit it as a dystopia.None of that will stop these types of books from being written, as both appeal to certain strands of default teabaggerism in most bourgeois readers. For the dystopia, it satisfies the 'bagger sense that big gubmint is evil. For the post-apocalypse, it flatters the troglodyte impression that underlying civilization are neo-hobbesian economics 101 assumptions about survivalism, return to the state of nature, and philistine survival-of-the-fittest eugenics crap. There's a reason that people have described post-apocalyptic stories as basically fascistic, after all.All that said, Wilhelm has written a decent enough novel, and it's classic enough to avoid my complaints, above, with which recent writers might get hit with full force and effect. Quick & fun overall, even if the science is a bit dodgy and the premises may have been superseded by historical events. Main characters are mostly snotty doctors who indulge themselves in cloning and breeding experiments, resulting in borg-like hive-minds. The novel's third section partakes of the dystopian subgenre most strongly to the extent that the narrator is a non-hive-mind "individual" who must fly free &c &c &c. Altogether, the Hugo award is plausible. Ergo:Recommended.

  • francesca
    2018-11-28 04:16

    After a mysterious blight literally wipes out global populations, one economically/socially/intellectually prominent family manages to survive and perpetuate life on their farm by cloning themselves. The exploration of sexuality, individuality, and institutionalism is so deliciously concieved and executed in this book. Better yet, it is beautifully written, which is rare in a sci-fi work of this depth and scope. Wilhelm has given the world a truly relevant and insightful piece of work.

  • Andreas
    2018-11-30 07:56

    A Post-Apocalyptic story about an isolated group of clones in their Appalachian hideout, their history and future. The story itself wasn't that great - simple, predictable, diffuse. Only the ending was emotionally adequate.Main strengths were the nature centric, poetical language which you don't find very often in SF. Sometimes, it read like a description from Colonial North America with native Americans fishing and talking to the trees. Rivers flooding on dam bursts, nature growing as humanity retreats, vast empty landscapes, ruined cities. You'll find poetry everywhere in this novel, starting from the title which cites Shakespeare's Sonnet 73, starting with "That time of year thou mayst in me behold,When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hangUpon those boughs which shake against the cold,Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang."The other part's titles are also citations which fits the general poetic hayfield feeling very well:Second part's title "Shenandoah" refers to the Virginian river, covered by several poems, e.g. one from Carl Sandberg. Third part's title "At the Still Point" is taken from T.S. Eliot's poem strength was the juxtaposition of normal humans and the clone society. The latter one being nearly as pack-minded as the Tines in A Fire Upon the Deep. This contrast remembered me a lot of the newer Beggars in Spain with its new generation of sleepless kids opposing human society.Cloning is one of the central themes of SF: Bokanovsky's process in Brave New World comes to mind. But there are other contestants as well: Nine Lives is a story from Ursula LeGuin which seems to be the basis for Kate Wilhelm's novel. Novelette "Mary" in The Best of Damon Knight or Cloned Lives (note that she is Knight's third wife), only to name a few. In addition, there is the multiple-award winning Cyteen spinning around one clone protagonist.Wilhelm published an eponymous novel on cloning in 1965 with Ted Thomas - The Clone - I didn't read that one, though. It was nominated for the Nebula Award but lost to Dune.If you're hunting for literary references on cloning, I'd suggest I Am the Other: Literary Negotiations of Human Cloning - don't know if that one is really good, though.The novel isn't good at scientific aspect - wherever you dive into scientific motivations, you'll find large holes: cloning and several other predictions like energy production isn't rooted in science at all. It is more the humanistic aspect, the philosophical musings embedded in beautiful descriptions making this work worth reading. In the end, I didn't find the predictions and philosophical questions convincing: The group consciousness is introduced without motivation or understanding, and I don't believe that creativity is linked to individuality, but alone the dispute was very worthwhile.It won the Nebula Award in 1976 and the next year's Hugo Award, it is included in several lists as "must-read" SF. I don't think that it is an outstanding work of literature, but I enjoyed it and recommend it.

  • Sooz
    2018-11-22 05:51

    That time of year thou mayst in me beholdWhen yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hangUpon those boughs which shake against the cold,Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.from a sonnet by ShakespeareWilhelm's choice of title for her 'end of the world as we know it' novel conjures up a whistful rememberance of things past. in the brave new world she describes there is peace and unity and harmony, but there is no Shakespeare. no Van Gogh, a Keats, Mozart or Kid Rock. nor will there ever be. the world that exists after the collapse of civilization and the advent of the cloned world, is stable, peaceful, unified. yet it is a 'bare ruined choir', where no importance is placed on creativity - because that requires individuality. a seperate way of looking at the world. Wilhelm asks the reader to take a couple of leaps with her, and it is not the idea of cloning that i speak of, but rather the unexplained attributes of the clones. they are genetic reproductions and there is no reason why they should develop the e.s.p. like abilities they do. but i'm okay making that leap with her, as the story would be less interesting without it. Wilhelm writes a good book. there is nice character development - she is comfortable writing about emotions as she is cloning. it was a very enjoyable read.

  • Megan Baxter
    2018-12-12 07:53

    I picked this book up at long last as part of my read of all the Hugo nominees. Kate Wilhelm's book won the year I was born, so I tend to figure it was a very good year. And on the whole, this is a very good book. It's chock full of ideas, and raises interesting questions about what subtle things might be lost if we fundamentally changed our ways of interacting with each other.Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  • Stephen
    2018-11-29 09:02

    3.5 stars. Well-written, well thought out post-apocalyptic science fiction story exploring the nature of individuality and what it means to be human. Worth reading. Winner: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction novelWinner: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction novelNominee: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction novel

  • Gray
    2018-12-13 02:47

    "I’m going to dissect your every thought, your every wish, every dream. I’m going to find out what happened to you, what made you separate yourself from your sisters, what made you decide to become an individual, and when I find out we’ll know how never to allow it to happen again.” (p.122)The story begins as civilization is on the verge of collapse. The causes, pollution, disease and climate change, are briefly touched on by the author but she keeps them in the background. Instead, her focus falls on one extended family, the Sumners, and their attempts to survive. They have wealth and education on their side. Their isolated setting near the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia shields them from the worst of the global meltdown until a problem develops with their livestock. They are found to be infertile. When this infertility spreads to the people, the end really does seem nigh. Facing extinction, some of the survivors begin experiments in cloning, first on animals then later on themselves.Kate Wilhelm’s dystopian novel on cloning won both the Hugo and Locus Awards for Best Novel in 1977. The title of the book is a quotation from William Shakespeare's Sonnet 73. This sonnet focuses on the theme of old age: That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.(The first four lines of Sonnet 73)As well as growth and ageing, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is also a book about nature, both human and environmental. The landscape plays a significant part in the story, beginning with the pastoral setting which is brought to life by Wilhelm’s vivid, descriptive prose:‘The river was high with spring runoffs up north and heavy March rains, […] The days had a balminess that had been missing since September; the air was soft and smelled of wet woods and fertile earth.’ (p.63)‘Apples hung red and heavy on the trees, and the maples blazed like torches against endless blue skies. Sycamores and birches burned gold, […] Each blade of grass was edged in frost; it gleamed and glistened until it was melted by the rising sun.’ (p.103)A singular atmosphere is built in which a mixture of nostalgia - a bittersweet longing for simpler times - and eeriness can be felt. The nostalgia is evident in the descriptions of the landscape; the eeriness comes from the clones.‘He stared at their smooth young faces; so familiar, living memories every one of them, like walking through his own past, seeing his aged and aging cousins rejuvenated, but rejuvenated with something missing. Familiar and alien, known and unknowable.’ (p.56)The first generation of clones are physically identical copies of the donors, but there is something different about them psychologically. Wilhelm creates an unsettling otherness in the scenes with the cloned brothers and sisters. As time passes, they appear to develop a kind of collective consciousness or empathy, preferring to stay close to each other as a group. Individuality is frowned upon, as can be seen in the quote at the start of this review.The book is split into three parts, and Wilhelm tells the story through three generations. She uses a different character as a focalizer in each part, and keeps the narrative character-driven. This technique helps to create a very human story, with any science remaining firmly in the background. For some reviewers this is a point of criticism. If you prefer your science fiction to be heavy on the science, then this book may not be for you. Contrarily, if you are looking for a thought-provoking take on the survival of the human race, rich in atmosphere and emotion, which asks questions about the collective versus the individual, then Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang comes highly recommended.https://biginjapangrayman.wordpress.c...

  • Amy Sturgis
    2018-12-15 08:05

    It's a testament to the strength of Kate Wilhelm's grasp of "hard" science and the subtlety of her grasp of human nature that this 1977 science fiction novel (winner of the Hugo Award) is as relevant today as when she wrote it. It easily could have been published yesterday.The novel follows an extended family as they retreat from society to survive a global meltdown (economic, environmental, topped off by a nuclear holocaust). Led by far-sighted leaders and gifted scientists, they seek to preserve their line through an extended experiment in cloning. The result is more Village of the Damned than Paradise, as a new "breed" of people -- intelligent but unimaginative, forming brother and sister groups that share a common mind and experience -- inherit (or take over?) the community. The story follows several generations, ending with the struggle of the lone individual against the dystopian community, with the stakes being both the survival and the very nature of the human species.The premise of this novel and its execution are fascinating, and I was most interested to see how the generational struggles would resolve themselves. For some reason I can't quite pin down, I never felt fully emotionally engaged with most of the characters, and the one who evoked my empathy most had a truncated role in the novel. In other words, this novel always had my mind, but it never quite captured my heart completely, as well. Despite being held somewhat at arm's length from the characters (which may indeed be intentional, given the nature of the characters themselves), I highly recommend it, and I'm glad I read it. It's considered a classic for good reason, and I'm richer for having encountered it.

  • Sarah
    2018-11-22 08:53

    I first read this book when I was fourteen. I read all of Kate Wilhelm's sf novels that same year, and some of her mysteries. Since then, both book and author have always been on my list of favorites, but in truth, I had completely forgotten the actual content.On reread a lifetime later, it absolutely stands up. The language is beautiful. The premise is haunting. It follows a small community of survivors of a slow global cataclysm, and the decisions they make to maintain their community. I can see echoes of it in any number of modern dystopic novels. Some childhood favorites don't hold up to rereads. I'm not sure what I got out of this at fourteen. Now, as a writer, I can admire Wilhelm's skilled use of multiple perspectives and an omniscient third person narrator. As a reader, I can look to the language and the settings and the characters and the way she investigates her premise. Whatever the gut feeling was as a teenager that told me that even if I didn't fully understand it, it was good -- it was right.

  • Nikki
    2018-11-30 05:06

    I really wanted to like this book. Other people spoke so highly of it. But it felt so familiar: the themes, the characters (barely sketched out as they were), the whole setting... Parts of the writing are beautiful, but overall to me it felt too moralising, too typical. The idea that cloning will destroy individuality and thus creativity doesn't seem fresh -- though goodness knows, I haven't tried to work out the chronology of that idea: for all I know, Wilhelm was the first. It just didn't work for me, and in the descriptions of the clones in the first section of the book, I couldn't help but think of The Midwich Cuckoos...It's an easy enough read, and I think deservedly a classic, but I think perhaps it would have had more impact on me if I'd been alive when it first came out. To me it feels outdated, I'm afraid, and it isn't high on the things I value in narratives. I didn't dislike it, but I won't be singing its praises either.