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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One to read...
Yes, it is in the future, there are robots of great perfection and fundamental flaws, humanity is dying out due to a robotic decision that was never corrected; but - the actual story is about self discovery, about a man robbed of his individuality and how he reclaims his place and role in his own life and in the world... with a little help from a woman and a robot that...
Published on 31 Jan 2009 by Jeep Tenk

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts great then tails off.
I had a strange experience with this book.

My first copy had approximately 70 pages missing. I was thoroughly enjoying the book until I reached page 84 and then it skipped to something like page 150. Damn! So I ordered a new copy, checked the print and started reading again from the beginning. However, coincidentally, the book really sags at roughly page 80 (as...
Published on 12 Sep 2011 by Lixma


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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent thought-provoking read, 19 Nov 2012
By 
John M "John M" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
This novel presents a dystopian view of the future of mankind, where humanity has degenerated into a dwindling motivationless race which is hooked on narcotics and TV, with the remnants of society administered and run by robots. It is a powerful exploration of what it is to be human and the values we should hold dear. In a world where no one is able to read anymore, one of the main protagonists named Bentley teaches himself from ancient primary school reading texts he discovers. This opens a whole new forgotten world of being able to appreciate the views and emotions of others, and self-expression through the written word. At the same time Spofforth, a high specification robot who runs much of New York city's crumbling infrastructure, laments his inability to die in a world which has little meaning for him. I do understand some of the critical comments from other reviewers, particularly about the plausibility of the scenario presented, and the fact the narrative sags a little in the second half, but despite this the strengths are enough to overcome these points.
As a dystopian world view it is simultaneously bleak and provides reasons for hope and celebration, is wide-ranging in scope, and reminiscent and every bit as powerful as Huxley's Brave New World. Well worth exploring.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 'Only the Mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.', 16 Oct 2012
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
I would agree with the blurb which states that this book might be justly considered the bridge between scifi and literature. It is not Nabokov, but it is very well constructed, beautifully judged and scarily speculative about the future of mankind. It has ideas very finely above it's station.

The story opens in New York and moves to the Bronx zoo where Mary Lou is about to shock Paul Bentley by throwing a brick through the glass of a python's cage. It's a novel way to introduce oneself, at least. They take a quick hike but there have been several self-immolations in the Burger Bar where they go for a spot of lunch. The people simply take their supors, and sit there smiling as they die. All very well but the smell throws Paul and Mary Lou somewhat together and a very strange thing happens, they fall in love.

This is very wrong. Neither of them have any notion of what love is. Paul is going through a very old collection of films for his work and is horrified by the notion of family which seemed to exist in the past. He records at one time: "I am shocked and saddened by it. And they talk so much to one another. Their lips are moving all the time..." The reason why Paul is so shocked at these old films is that the USA is now run according to strict Personal Privacy Laws. Children go to nurseries to be brought up by benevolent robots and hardly anyone lives outside the system of regulation with supors. They are taught that "quick sex is best", and "Don't Ask, Relax". Take your supors and watch the pretty colours on your TV screen. Supor capsules contain anti-fertility drugs that regulate the size of any State population. At least, that is how it is supposed to work. But things are seemingly beginning to break down.

The highest Make of Robot is the 9 and there is only one left in New York. But all he wants to do is die. The trouble is, his body won't allow him to die and his mind cannot override. That's how the Make 9's were made. Meanwhile there are no children being born, anywhere. Only the Make 9 can make the decision to allow female fertility once more.

The lovers are abruptly separated, and Paul is sent to prison. Can he (and his cat Biff) escape and reach New York? Mockingbird tackles the philosophy of obsolete technology, the likeness of the out-of- town Mall to a church, as well as other religious thought-mischiefs and the cunumdrum of vaunting power versus the future of the world.

I loved it. I immediately want to read it again, it is quite simply superb.
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4.0 out of 5 stars my thoughts on Mockingbird, 29 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
What can I say?.......well, I just could not put it down and for a little while, I was immersed in a machine dominated world and for Science Fiction, not too far away from now on many levels. I could not give this a 5 as I am still looking for the book that physically transports me to the centre of the action.........now THAT would get a 5......lol
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Absolute Cracker, 18 Sep 2012
By 
Mr. John Frank Herbert (Greenwich, London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
In this strange futuristic world of ours, where humans are drugged, living a comatose life devoid of art and literature, a world where conversation is virtually outlawed, a world served by mindless robots, where humans often commit suicide to escape their mindless existence, Walter Tevis has created a marvellous tale of the search for love and the sheer joy of books.

Overshadowing all this is Spofforth, the most perfect cyborg (half man, half robot) ever created, who will live forever, but cherishes his own death more than anything else.

The coming together of all this is a book that will hold you throughout, and reinforces the corny, but true statement: "The Joy Of Life".
A wholly satisfying read, where even the ending will leave you at cross purposes in your mind, with the ultimate clash of joy and sadness, as you turn the last page.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mockingbird, 29 Aug 2012
By 
Steve D (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
This book begins with the robot Spofforth climbing to the top of the Empire State Building and trying to throw himself off. Mockingbird is set in the 25th century, during the last days of mankind. Spofforth is a 'Make 9', supposedly the most advanced robots ever built, with their brains cloned from a human being. Unfortunately, due to various problems and suicidal tendencies, all the other Make 9's have been destroyed. Spofforth is the last and has been programmed so that he cannot harm himself.

Robots were built by man to take over every day chores but have ended up running the place as the human population dwindled into drug- and training-induced isolation. Anything from eye contact to the briefest conversation is considered an invasion of privacy and a crime. Enter Bentley, who is learning to read from the dialogue cards in old silent movies - a pasttime that disappeared long ago. When Bentley meets Mary Lou, a woman who inhabits the reptile house at New York's zoo, she tells him she wants to learn to read too ...

It all sounds very depressing and much of the time it is - except for the spark of hope that begins to burn in Bentley. The narrative circles around these three characters as they try to make sense of a decaying world. It's a thought-provoking read, with several profound observations. You can almost hear Tevis bemoaning the fact that we miss the world going past us because we're too addicted to other things, like tv screens and computer monitors, and showing us how Bentley's world blossoms because of his desire not to be a sheep or a lemming, but instead to learn and to read.

It kept me reading because I wanted to find out why this had all happened, how mankind had got itself into this predicament. Even at 280 pages it is possibly a bit too long for what it is, and my interest did wane a little in the middle of it. But once the book started to reveal its secrets it dragged me back in, and I have to say that the ending is worth it. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that the final page alone is so memorable it's worthy of mention alongside some of my other favourite endings, like I Am Legend, Deadhouse Gates, The Island of Doctor Moreau, Tigana et al.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable sci-fi, 18 Aug 2012
By 
Andy Phillips (Leicestershire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
This story explores a dystopian society approximately 450 years in the future from the point of view of three unusual citizens of New York. Everyone else is in a permanent drug-induced haze and lives by a moral code that is instilled in them from birth whereby interaction with other people is discouraged. Families and friendships no longer exist and nobody follows any kind of useful career, devoting themselves to the pursuit of pleasure while the commonplace robots do all the work. However, all the robots and automated machinery is breaking down and nobody has the knowledge or drive to fix anything. More importantly, no children have been born for some time but almost nobody seems to have noticed.

The story centres around an essentially immortal latest generation robot who is bored with trying to keep things running, the only man able to read and a woman he meets during his adventures. These characters are very well developed and the first part of the book is a fascinating insight into how things could turn out if everything is continually 'dumbed down'. The second part of the book follows the man who can read as he makes a journey through the former US.

The best part of the book to me is how small details of past events and how things have reached this state are gradually revealed to the reader. Many of these details are only mentioned in passing, but add a lot to the atmosphere. The sense of dispair of the more enlighted and aware main characters is well portrayed, and the way that the man begins to see what's really going on is described amazingly. Also, to my relief, the story if wrapped up fairly nicely with most of the main points resolved.

A great sci-fi book that would probably appeal to many general readers too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An overlooked classic, 7 Aug 2012
By 
dalek78 (Sheffield, S.Yorks United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
With its eyecatching cover illustration, Mockingbird is one of the most engaging and thought-provoking dystopian books I have read to date. The quirky blurb on the back cover doesn't properly prepare you for the story you're about to follow. Mockingbird falls somewhere in between Farenheit 451, Brave New World and Tevis' own The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Written in 1980, Mockingbird tells the classic tale of how man created robots to help then, ultimately becoming reliant on the robots and technology, resulting in the downfall of society - and it's some time after this that the book begins. The story is set in New York, in an initially undetermined future, where humanoid robots make up a large part of society and the government. Buildings lie abandoned and overgrown, and the population is sterile. People cannot read and what remains of the human race spend their days doped up and high, dependent on freely-dispensed Sopor pills.

Mockingbird brings together a trio of protagonists, starting with Robert Spofforth, a Black, towering youthful Make Nine robot. The last Make Nine ever made, with a brain fuelled by real human memories from a long-dead creator. Spofforth is troubled by his fragmented dreams and memories and has only one thing on his mind - his own death. However one day Spofforth meets Bentley - a man who can read. The chapters which follow cleverly alternate between Spofforth and Bentley, and follow Bentley's discovery of reading, writing journal entries and watching archive films. Bentley feels that something isn't right. Something under the surface; something about his upbringing and conditioning. He starts to question things. Why are the children in the streets robots? Why are there no young people? Why can't people read? Why do people immolate themselves in public? Why are the animals in the Zoo robots? And it was whilst at the Zoo that he meets Mary Lou - a woman who somehow escaped the conditioning in her youth.

Mockingbird is a cinematic read. It depicts a troubled society in a near future, in a very assertable way. It is sad, haunting, unsettling and exciting. The storytelling perhaps follows a more commonplace style from the midpoint of the book, but never drifts too far away from the main story to become tiresome. Tevis' characters are solidly developed and believable. I found myself feeling for them - even Spofforth - and desperate to read on at the end of every chapter.

The themes may not be anything radical or revolutionary; we've seen and read it all before in various forms, but they're done so well in Mockingbird. I don't doubt that a well-read copy of this book sits on many a film director's bookshelf, and deservedly so. Yet Mockingbird feels undervalued and seldom mentioned, which is a great shame.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Starts great then tails off., 12 Sep 2011
By 
Lixma (Earth...usually) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
I had a strange experience with this book.

My first copy had approximately 70 pages missing. I was thoroughly enjoying the book until I reached page 84 and then it skipped to something like page 150. Damn! So I ordered a new copy, checked the print and started reading again from the beginning. However, coincidentally, the book really sags at roughly page 80 (as another reader has noted) and never really recovers.

The first section is very well done but beyond that you find yourself simply following a step-by-step narrative that is just dull to read...."I did this, then I did this, then I remembered I had read such-and-such and so I did this. Later on I did this....".

Shame really, probably would have made a great short story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Profundity through simplicity, 7 April 2011
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This review is from: Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
If you are looking for a book to inspire you to think about life, the universe and everything, you can do much worse than this oft-overlooked gem. It's not always positive, yet not always bleak - an honest and objective glance through a rear-view-mirror from a dystopia in the future.

It's a very personal book which can itself inspire and entertain each reader in ways unique to their own experiences and thoughts. The writing seems to be purposely ambiguous at times for which to allow a wide range of emotions (as well as skip over purposely theistic opinions while still skimming the topic of human existence), however most of the critical reviews seem to either lack the proper understanding of most of the metaphors or overlook the importance with which they breath life and perspective into this work. Surely, anything that inspires such deep thought is worth reading.

Tevis manages to completely discover the meaning of passion and emotion and their importance in the driving force behind humanity, while still maintaining equanimity with his approach to spirituality and/or theistic beliefs with his delicate balance of characters. Spofforth's accumulated knowledge without passion, emotion, or creativity, and his consequent lack of regard for life highlight the author's thin line of moral questioning. There seem to be metaphors representing that being human is much more than moral decisions, and that caring about life itself (or a lack thereof) doesn't necessarily need to be a taboo topic. I loved the duality of the voices expressed and was moved by the way Tevis loosely ties his character arcs (albeit simple, they were principally instrumental in moving the reader to questions to which there are no answers).

"Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods" is a haunting piece of poetry! Of course, the metaphor allows each reader to assemble a unique expression/opinion, but surely it's not arbitrary? For risk of pigeon-holing the meaning, surely there is a point about risks being only taken by those who can hide behind something other than their exposure...
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.", 18 Feb 2010
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This review is from: Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Paperback)
Like so many SF novels, one can pick out the common themes and ideas from other 'greats' as pointed out by another commentator. Indeed, this can be said about most creative writing; Christopher Booker's Seven Basic Plots highlights the repetitive elements of most stories. However, this does not strike me as a book that has stolen everyone else's ideas and simply bundled them up together.
The story stands on its own as quite a complex range of issues woven together in a world (New York and the eastern seaboard of the USA) set in the future, where the global population is measured in tens of thousands and the human species is on the brink of extinction; humans have been made infertile due to a computer malfunction. The humans living in New York have also become stupified junkies, whose conditioning has led to a world where nobody can read or write and the machines provide the essential services; only the machines themselves are now in decay.
Against this backdrop the key protagonists Bentley and Mary Lou play out a fascinating drama as possibly the last two fertile humans on the planet, certainly in New York. Neither are doped to the eyeballs and each begins to realise what has been lost to humanity as explore glimpses of a past world through silent movies and a small selection of books.
In some respects, it is surprising that the book was written in 1980, as opposed to the late 1950s. There is that quality of innocence within the story, which excludes graphic violence and horrific events, which seem so much part of the modern cultural appetite. Nevertheless, the story holds many emotional rewards for the reader. As described by another commentator, I felt really drawn into this place of the future and felt an empathy and caring for the fate of Bentley and Mary Lou. There is enough detail in the spoken words and descriptions to get a real sense of what these characters were witnessing and feeling throughout the story.
Reflecting upon the story after reading, it is poignant, particularly today when we consider this world with 24/7 access to e-mails, video-links, phone calls, SMS and possibly millions of books becoming available in digital format. It is hard to imagine a world without such information overload, despite the fact that many of us might dream of such a place! However, this story shows what a barren, depressing and hopeless world such a place would be, unless you were doped to the eyeballs and oblivious to the world around you.
I recommend this book to all who like to dive into worlds whose basic structures are familiar, but where all the conventions and norms have been stripped away to create something quite different: yet somewhere quite credible if we allow technological 'progress' to take away all our responsibilities.
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Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Mockingbird (S.F. MASTERWORKS) by Walter Tevis (Paperback - 14 Jun 2007)
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