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Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
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Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  5,247 ratings  ·  319 reviews
Before becoming one of today's most intriguing and innovative mystery writers, Kate Wilhelm was a leading writer of science fiction, acclaimed for classics like The Infinity Box and The Clewiston Test.

Now one of her most famous novels returns to print, the spellbinding story of an isolated post-holocaust community determined to preserve itself, through a perilous experime
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 15th 1998 by Orb Books (first published 1974)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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mark monday
David Sumner has a problem: the world as he knows it is about to end. what's a brilliant young man and his equally brilliant family to do? why, bring back members of that extended family, store supplies, circle the wagons, and build a lab which will eventually help the Sumner family to repopulate the earth, of course. sounds like a good plan to me.

there's something about the 70s that I just really dig. many things, actually. besides the wonderfully hideous clothes and the wonderfully not-hideo
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Erich Franz Guzmann
"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
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Nandakishore Varma
(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
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Candiss
Aug 31, 2010 Candiss rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all lovers of intelligent speculative literature
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 ...more
Althea Ann
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sandi
I think that Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang really needed to be longer. The scope of the novel is much too large for for its short length. (The audio version is about 11 minutes shy of 8 hours.) The story covers several "generations" and many decades.

I found Wilhelm's prose to be beautiful. Her descriptions of the Shenandoah Valley are richly detailed. She brings each season to life in the imagination with words. The problems I had with the story were mainly with the SF details.
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Kerry
Jul 27, 2010 Kerry rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to have to think a little
Shelves: 2010, reread, sf, 9
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
francesca
Jul 22, 2008 francesca rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
After a mysterious blight literally wipes out global populations, one economically/socially/intellectually prominent family manages to survive and perpetuate life on their farm by cloning themselves.

The exploration of sexuality, individuality, and institutionalism is so deliciously concieved and executed in this book.

Better yet, it is beautifully written, which is rare in a sci-fi work of this depth and scope.

Wilhelm has given the world a truly relevant and insightful piece of work.
Linda
WHERE LATE THE SWEET BIRDS SANG was an apocalyptic sci-fi window into the 1970s when the story was first published. The main topic covered was cloning and what would happen, if the world as we knew it, was coming to an end?

I figured the title to the story had to come from somewhere; it did. It was a line from William Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 73': how a person was affected by seeing someone they love age. In the book, both men and women, and also animals, had become sterile. The few people that sur
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Simon
For me, this was one of those books you come to having heard starkly contrasting opinions about it, that leaves you with confused expectations and wondering what could be so divisive. But now, having finished it, I have to say I didn't find it divisive at all and am left wondering whether the book's harshest critics were even reading the same book.

This was great, well written, thought-provoking SF that explores one of the more interesting themes in SF; how important is individuality and how shou
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Andreas
A Post-Apocalyptic story about an isolated group of clones in their Appalachian hideout, their history and future.
The story itself wasn't that great - simple, predictable, diffuse. Only the ending was emotionally adequate.

Main strengths were the nature centric, poetical language which you don't find very often in SF. Sometimes, it read like a description from Colonial North America with native Americans fishing and talking to the trees. Rivers flooding on dam bursts, nature growing as humanity
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sologdin
Post-apocalyptic, told in three parts, each separated by an unstated amount of time and involving a change of narrator, with some amount of rebuilding in evidence after they blew it up, those maniacs, but with the rebuilders ultimately consumed anyway, with some small survival thereafter. That level of generality makes it sound like A Canticle for Leibowitz. It does not appear to be derivative of Miller, though; Wilhelm hints at nuclear war through the presence of lethal radioactivity, but the d ...more
Erik Graff
May 28, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
I'm so lucky to have grown up when the science fiction genre was being invaded by women like Kate Wilhem and Ursula K. LeGuin. While a few male writers like Theodore Sturgeon could construct believable characters, the women who made it in the field all seemed gifted with psychological insight and the ability to instantiate it. Furthermore, some of them extended the predicate of the genre to include sciences like ecology, psychology and anthropology in addition to the traditional engineering, che ...more
Stephen
3.5 stars. Well-written, well thought out post-apocalyptic science fiction story exploring the nature of individuality and what it means to be human. Worth reading.

Winner: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction novel
Winner: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction novel
Nominee: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction novel
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Well, I definitely expected to like this book more 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 more 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 antholo
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Sooz
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

from a sonnet by Shakespeare

Wilhelm's choice of title for her 'end of the world as we know it' novel conjures up a whistful rememberance of things past. in the brave new world she describes there is peace and unity and harmony, but there is no Shakespeare. no Van Gogh, a Keats, Mozart or Kid Rock. nor will there ev
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Sarah
I first read this book when I was fourteen. I read all of Kate Wilhelm's sf novels that same year, and some of her mysteries. Since then, both book and author have always been on my list of favorites, but in truth, I had completely forgotten the actual content.
On reread a lifetime later, it absolutely stands up. The language is beautiful. The premise is haunting. It follows a small community of survivors of a slow global cataclysm, and the decisions they make to maintain their community. I can s
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Nikki
I really wanted to like this book. Other people spoke so highly of it. But it felt so familiar: the themes, the characters (barely sketched out as they were), the whole setting... Parts of the writing are beautiful, but overall to me it felt too moralising, too typical. The idea that cloning will destroy individuality and thus creativity doesn't seem fresh -- though goodness knows, I haven't tried to work out the chronology of that idea: for all I know, Wilhelm was the first. It just didn't work ...more
Eric
Before I get into my opinion of this book, this coincidence was too odd for me not to mention, although I am not sure it will interest anyone else. The protagonist of this novel is named David, and about 25% of the way into the book he has a conversation with some of the clones that is almost verbatim to this dialogue between Dave and HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey:
Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?
HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Dave: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I'm sorry,
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Amy Sturgis
It's a testament to the strength of Kate Wilhelm's grasp of "hard" science and the subtlety of her grasp of human nature that this 1977 science fiction novel (winner of the Hugo Award) is as relevant today as when she wrote it. It easily could have been published yesterday.

The novel follows an extended family as they retreat from society to survive a global meltdown (economic, environmental, topped off by a nuclear holocaust). Led by far-sighted leaders and gifted scientists, they seek to preser
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Stefan Yates
Dealing with the sensitive subject of cloning and its effects on an isolated colony of clones, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, is a continuous storyline separated into sections with many years in between them. Each segment, so-to-speak, has it's own protagonists and antagonists and crises to deal with and overcome.

Even with the skipping of years in-between segments, the story-line stays pretty continuous and the reader is really able to develop a bond with the characters in a way that I wouldn
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Joanna
Fascinating.
Frightening.
Hopeful.

This apocalyptic novel took over my life today. Copyright 1974 and it reads like a current bestseller. I was completely swept up in the story, and long for the many characters to all become whole. I was constantly reminded of other works with similar themes, especially Darwin's Radio, Brave New World, Atlas Shrugged, and, unavoidably, The Handmaid's Tale. This was the most readable of them and also the most innovative attempt to recreate a livable world. Excellent
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Gremlin
Post apocalyptic future, cloning, questions of individuality vs the community. What's not to love? Wilhelm skips over alot of the details to get straight to the meat of her points. The novel feels like 3 short story/novellas that lead one to the other. Solid and fascinating.
G33z3r
Re-read after 40 years. Still holds up reasonably well.

The collapse of world civilization is rather abrupt and loosely defined: a perfect storm of pollution, crop failure, overpopulation, and disease, plus some nuclear war at the end: all Four Horsemen. If published today I assume there'd be something for Global Warming, too. As it is, I think Wilhelm went with Nuclear Winter instead. Anyway, that's just the premise as one (apparently very wealthy) family anticipates the problem and establishes
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Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pat
5 stars according to Goodreads means 'this was amazing'. 5 stars in another source, such as Bookmarks magazine, means 'it is a classic'. This is true of this book. I liked it so very much from beginning to end. The book was written in 1976 and is still meaningful.

The premise of the book is that a family - an extended family - lives in a valley and has done well financially for themselves. They believe apocalyptic events eventually will come and while no one can be certain of the outcomes, they
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Clark Hallman
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is a classic science-fiction novel, written by Kate Wilhelm in 1976. Wilhelm published her first short fiction (The Pint-Size Genie) in the October 1956 issue of Fantastic, which was an American digest-sized fantasy and science fiction magazine published from 1952 to 1980. She went on the publish her work in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Locus, Amazing Stories, Asimov's Science Fiction, and other publications. Wilhelm established herself as one of t ...more
Zach
Some sort of blight sweeps the world, combining with the industrial world's pillaging of the Earth to destroy crops and render animals (including humans) infertile. The wealthy Sumner family of Virginia, being smarter than the average citizen (or are they?) set up their own little hideout of a valley, complete with hospital, power mill, residences... and, fortuitously, a cloning center. The first section of the novel follows David Sumner, the young superstar cloning doctor, as he and his extende ...more
Jay
One of the lessons of this book -- that the difference between learning how to do things and learning how to learn is both vast and important -- is one of my favorite lessons of all time.

What did I think of this book? I really enjoyed the first and last of the three sections. For reasons I cannot quite explain, I found the middle section to be a little slower. The language was still beautiful and the characters were still interesting, but, nevertheless, I set the book aside easily after each cha
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Rebecca McNutt
Well-written and incredibly interesting, this book is filled with a wide array of characters and an eye-opening, thought-provoking plot. It's definitely worth reading and really different.
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Sci-fi and Heroic...: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang 26 25 Mar 06, 2015 08:49AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Edition problem 3 33 Dec 12, 2011 07:02AM  
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Kate Wilhelm has won the Hugo and several Nebula Awards. She is the widow of author and editor Damon Knight.
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