Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

Monday, March 3, 2014


Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
Kate Wilhelm, 1976

Hugo Winner - 1977

Premise: David’s family has lived in the valley for generations. Many members of the family go out, work in vastly different fields, but they remain connected to each other. When rumors begin of coming disaster, the valley becomes the last hope for them all.

This is a unique story that also manages to capture a sense of the common bonds of humanity. It is split into three sections, with three different view-point characters, separated by generations.

The writing is lovely; the characters are complicated and sympathetic. There were a couple of future-science things that made me think: “wait a minute, I don’t think that’s how that works”. Like the best books of its type, though, it’s the social and cultural ramifications of the developments that are interesting and important, not whether it’s scientifically plausible.

This book is the story of the survival of the human species, and what physical survival might mean to the human spirit. It’s about love and life and art and humanity’s relationship with nature.

It’s about individuality and both the danger and the value it holds for communities. It’s about creativity and the way it comes into conflict with safety.

For me, this book was served by knowing very little about the plot, but I don’t think it would hurt your reading to know more about the premise: it’s about a project to save the human race through cloning in the face of a worldwide drop in fertility due to radiation poisoning. At least it is at first.

Because really it’s about love and families, children and societies. It’s beautiful, and one of my favorite Hugo winners to date.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

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