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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. Well, that was.interesting Uneven pacing, klunky writing, and boring story without even a pseudo scientific explanation or rationale for cloning leads to hive mind And what felt like a rather hamfisted indictment of collectivism versus individualism I felt like Wilhelm was saying that collectivism led to zombie people who had no capacity for kindness, imagination or creativity, while individualism was better because its followers were self reliant, creative, and forward thinking I wonder if Wilhelm was thinking of the evils of communism imagine Guy Smiley ish cartoonish figure intoning that when writing this, as the Cold War was still going on I can t really understand why this story was held so highly. 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 Story The 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 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 she has rediscovered humanity Her art becomes steadily less utilitarian and 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 nutshellHe 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 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 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 strong, To love that well, which thou must leave ere longWilliam Shakespeare 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 Most of the science in this novel is bad, but one important thing that the writer got right and presented properly is that cloning is the absolute last desperate move you can make to save a species Just as one might expect, the story turns into a conflict between an individual and the community, with plenty of counter culture sprinkled all over am I the only one who noticed some stylistic similarities with The Silent Spring Even though bits of the story are predictable, I was taken in by the method and style the author used to tell it probably because I am used to think of clones in a cyberpunk setting And this made it not the best read, but an enjoyable one. 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 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 alien and 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 worldselfish, selfless, self sacrificing, self centered they re all here, and 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 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. 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. En su promoci n se habla de La estaci n del crep sculo como la mejor novela sobre clones y este tema por s solo me da un poco lo mismo S me deja sin palabras c mo Wilhelm entremezcla este contenido con la literatura apocal ptica y la dist pica para tejer una historia que bebe de todas y cada una de esas tem ticas, saca partido a cada vertiente sin terminar de decantarse por ninguna y logra una personalidad singular.La descripci n de la sociedad de clones que nace con el colapso de la civilizaci n es tan brillante como su evoluci n 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 organizaci n cada vez m s alejada de sus comienzos Hay detalles detr s de la parte conceptual que me han costado m s asumir, caso de la maniquea confrontaci n entre humanos y clones sustentada en la imposibilidad de estos ltimos de apreciar ciertas cualidades, digamos, m s interiores y subjetivas Obcecados en la eficiencia y en factores objetivos, entre insensibles e incapaces de sentir la m s m nima empat a por sus antecesores Parecen primos hermanos de aquellos cucos aterrizados en Midwich 20 a os antes Pero una vez aceptado esto, el resto entra solo.Wilhelm se entrega a una narraci n 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 cl max intachable Si no es el premio Hugo m s injustamente olvidado en Espa a, poco le falta Y eso que su ltima reedici n tiene menos de una d cada. Well, I definitely expected to like this book 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 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 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 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.