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Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 12 Oct 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (12 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575079142
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575079144
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 363,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

'If all SF was as finely crafted as WHERE LATE THE SWEET BIRDS SANG, we'd have great cause to rejoice' VECTOR

From the Back Cover

Introduction by Lisa Tuttle

The Sumner family can read the signs: the droughts and floods, the blighted crops, the shortages, the rampant diseases, and, above all, the increasing sterility of the population all point to one thing. Their isolated farm in the Appalachians gives them the ideal place to survive the coming meltdown, and their wealth gives them the means. Men and women must clone themselves for humanity to survive. But what then?

'Superb' THE ENCYLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION

'If all SF was as finely crafted as Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, we'd have great cause to rejoice' VECTOR

Kate Wilhelm (1928-)

Kate Wilhelm has won many awards for her writing, including the Hugo for Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. She has also been influential beyond her writing through the Milford Science Fiction Writers' Conference, founded by her late husband, Damon Knight.

978 0 575 07914 4

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Shepherd on 5 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
Much of this world's history has been shaped by the constant attempts to shift the balance between the individual as an autonomous, self-directing, self-centered, and unique unit and the group society, where everyone's efforts go towards the general welfare, where the individual is merely a replaceable cog. This book takes this battle to the extreme, to where, via cloning, there really are no individuals, only copies, where anyone who disturbs the group is subject to extreme measures, from execution to severe behavioral/mind control to expulsion to the wilderness. True individuals come to be considered 'defective', as they cannot always accept the wishes of the group, they keep coming up with disturbingly new and different ideas, and they place themselves ahead of the group.

From this starting point, the book is told in three distinct parts. The first section covers the period when the cloning facilities are being set up against a background of a world society in the throes of collapse. Part two is a look after several clone generations have occurred and an expedition is made to one of ruined cities to salvage needed high-tech supplies for the continuing cloning operation. The expedition exposes both the strength and the weakness of the clone groups, as they find it almost impossible to remain sane when separated from their clone 'brothers' and 'sisters'. One expedition member, Molly, grows so far away from her sisters under the stress that she really becomes an individual. Part three covers the final battle between clones and individuals, as Molly's son Mark grows up as the only 'single' in the group.

Thematically, this book is tautly conceived and executed.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 May 1999
Format: Paperback
Great book, and everyone else who's reviewing here is right. However, the reader should be warned: This book does not delve into characters very well. Many are introduced, very few are explored. In hindsight, that was part of the whole point, that individuality is lost, but while reading, it was a little hard to get into. Still, I raced through the book and found it really wonderful once I got past the unusual technique.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Palfie on 27 April 2006
Format: Paperback
This novel is a masterpiece and clearly a deserving winner of the Hugo award (the most renowned of all genre awards). It works on two levels - on one hand it is a cautionary tale about the dangers of human cloning, on the other a philosophical meditation on what it is to be human. The writing is very well paced and accessible. Characterisation is well developed beautifully realised. I found myself caring deeply about the characters of Molly and Mark in particular. Wilhelm also skillfully evokes sympathy for the seemingly inhuman clones(the character Barry especially). This is a great novel regardless of its genre.
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Format: Paperback
It's a long time since I sat up into the small hours to finish a book in one sitting. I certainly didn't expect this to be the one, but that proved to be be the case. Wilhelm's gripping story about the fate of a small community of human clones in a post-catastrophic USA is an exemplary illustration of the qualities the "New Wave" brought to SF. Though it eschews some of the more obvious New Wave tropes (the prose style, though lucid and accomplished, doesn't go in for experimental fireworks, and though there are some very disturbing moments, it avoids shock tactics), its focus on character and intellectual speculation place it at the forefront of New Wave enterprise. In keeping with 1970s SF, it also has feminist and environmentalist subtexts, which are understated to the extent that even fans of macho space opera probably wouldn't find their blood boiling should they turn to this for a change of scenery.

Other reviewers have noted that the book is about the individual versus conformity. That's true as far as it goes, and it certainly boils the plot down to its bare essence, but it doesn't go far enough. The book is also about nature versus nurture, the pressures of family life, the generation gap, the abuse of power by elites, and how we relate to the environment. Intriguingly, the "individualist" theme isn't pursued from a right-wing perspective, as it so (too) often is in SF. It's a true novel of ideas, and it absolutely fizzes with them. It's also a novel of character (and character development): the protagonist, the non-clone Mark, is complex and cleverly portrayed, while the clone characters are portrayed with various degrees of individuation, which is exactly appropriate to the book's theme.
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Format: Paperback
This is a tricky book to rate for me. It's a well written story based on an interesting idea, which probably is worth five stars. However, it terms of my enjoyment I would say it's only worth three stars. Hence, I have given it four stars overall.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part describes the breakdown of society and the attempts of an extended family to survive a more-or-less unspecified collection of disasters in their ranch in an isolated valley. They set up a hospital there in order to carry out their own research into the problems facing the world, and it is found that cloning is the only way that the human race can avoid extinction. A small proportion of the population remains fertile, but not enough to survive. However, the clones are sterile and after three of four generations of a particular line none of them survive. The fertile women are therefore used to produce as many children as possible in order to introduce new individuals into the gene pool. The second and third parts of the book follow later generations of the group as larger and larger groups of each particular clone are produced. There is an increased necessity to forage for supplies in the long dead cities, but the clones struggle when separated from the collective 'hive mind' and hence such expeditions are very dangerous.

An interesting examination of the effects of removing individuality from a society, but not exactly action packed. It wasn't my favourite of the SF Masterworks series, but it's a good book and definitely worth a look if you like thought provoking sci-fi with a basis in reality.
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