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Mockingbird Hardcover – 1 Jun 1980
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|Hardcover, 1 Jun 1980||
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Walter Tevis is the acclaimed author of The Hustler and The Man Who Fell to Earth, both memorably filmed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Walter Tevis (1928-84) was born in San Francisco but his family moved to Kentucky when he was ten. However, he was suffering from rheumatic fever and was left behind, alone in hospital. He rejoined his family in Kentucky after a year and attended school there. After service as a carpenter's mate in the Second World War, he went to the University of Kentucky where he earned a bachelor's and a master's degree in English. He then taught at various high schools in Kentucky before becoming a professor at the University of Ohio. He began publishing science fiction in 1957. He published The Hustler in 1959 and The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1963 but he was struggling with a serious drink problem and a long gap in his writing career followed. However, in the four years before his death from cancer, he published Mockingbird, which is now widely recognized as a science-fiction classic, The Steps of the Sun and The Queen's Gambit. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Mockingbird is set in the late 25th century, and boy things have changed - humanity is now kicking back, smoking dope, taking pills and committing suicide by getting high and setting fire to themselves in public places. Reading is a thing of the past, and in fact is even illegal, as is teaching others to read. Robots of varying levels of intelligence keep things ticking and a robot named Spofford is in control. The human race itself is in danger of extinction as there have been no children born for more than 30 years, but in their drug-induced state, no one seems to have noticed, nor cares.
Traits and behaviors, such as the notion of Privacy have been taken to extremes - it is considered a faux pas to even ask after someone's health, and humans have been taught not to question anything, just to accept the inevitable. When Spofford discovers a young man named Paul Bentley who has taught himself to read, he brings him to NYC, and by chance, Paul meets Mary Lou, who cannot take the drugs that are handed out like candy, and begins to teach her to read.
Mockingbird explores some pretty intense parts of the human psyche - the insinuation being that human beings are naturally lazy and unmotivated, which started a pretty intense debate between myself and my partner - he was unconvinced, whereas I could see it as a possibility, particularly over several generations.
The majority of Mockingbird focuses on Paul, but there are also sections told from the POV of both Mary Lou and Spofford. It's hard to form an attachment to the characters, but they are more the catalyst than the focus of the story itself.
Despite my reluctance towards 'literary sci-fi', Mockingbird far surpassed my expectations, and even with its intensity, I couldn't put it down. The writing style is uncomplicated and it's not overly 'sci-fi-ey', it's far more an exploration of humanity, and what it is that defines us.
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.
I can't say I quite believed in some of the mechanics, but as with The Man Who Fell to Earth, the central theme of ultimate loneliness was beautifully handled and moving. I was thoroughly caught up, and greatly enjoyed the book. Without question, a classic.