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Mockingbird

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  1,896 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Mockingbird is a powerful novel of a future world where humans are dying. Those that survive spend their days in a narcotic bliss or choose a quick suicide rather than slow extinction. Humanity's salvation rests with an android who has no desire to live, and a man and a woman who must discover love, hope, and dreams of a world reborn.
Mass Market Paperback, 276 pages
Published April 1981 by Bantam Books (first published January 1980)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
I could tell with in the first few paragraphs of this book I was really going to like it. The story starts with Robert Spofforth, a very special robot, in fact a Make Nine robot, whistling as he walks down the street. Now to me whistling is a very distinctive human trait. I know some birds can be taught to whistle and I'm sure someone has spent numerous hours of their life teaching their dog to whistle, but generally I think humans are the only entity on the planet bad ass enough to actually whi ...more
Sean Gainford
Unfortunately Ends Up Just Being Average

This is the first time that for the first 80 pages of a book I couldn't put it down and then for the rest of the book it ends up being below average. At first it was so interesting, so bizarre. I was fascinated and entranced by this dystopia world and thought I had found another great author. But then it seems the author just ran out of steam. I actually thought to myself that Tevis is sabotaging his work on purpose. The characters started to become boring
...more
Lars Guthrie
My work involves learning to read, so I watch children as they learn to read, and myself read about learning to read. In a dense but delightful, and short but important book on child psychology called 'Children's Minds,' Margaret Donaldson writes, 'So what makes us stop and think about our thinking—and thus makes us able to choose to direct our thinking in one way rather than another? We cannot expect to find any simple answer to such a momentous question—but…learning to read may have a highly s ...more
Zachary Jernigan
Saying that Mockingbird pays of HUGELY in the last 30-40 pages does this superbly handled novel a great disservice, because it makes it seem as though the rest of the book pales in comparison -- and while this is somewhat true due to the overwhelming awesomeness of the ending, it's also true that the entire narrative is compelling. It's a literary dystopian vision equal, easily, to Orwell's or Huxley's, and it deserves the same immense readership. If I were the head of a literature department at ...more
Simon
A dystopian future awaits us although in this case, not one that was thrust upon us, but rather one in which we have carelessly walked into. Our relentless drive towards automating everything, our pursuit of pleasure and rugged individualism has led to a society in which we are run by robots and humans have become hopelessly uneducated, permanently drugged out of their minds and are losing the will to live.

Now things are falling apart. No one knows how to read anymore or how anything works, most
...more
David
Questions for book club discussion (mostly unasked):

- Was Walter Tevis a giant Republican?

- Quick sex, is it really best?

- Your choice: monkey bacon, pork bacon, or something from the sandwich machine at the zoo?

- Is "Biff" an appropriate name for a female cat, even in a terrifying dystopia where nobody can read?
Bibliophile
Some dystopias seem worse than others. Popping happy-pills and letting robots do the dishes for you doesn't sound terribly upsetting to me, but no books? Nobody knows how to read anymore? The horror! Tevis had me hooked from the start thanks to the importance he attaches to the written word. The people of the future have put their lives in the hands of robots in order to pursue worldly pleasures, to the point where nobody remembers how to perform the simplest tasks. They spend their days drugged ...more
Althea Ann
I didn't think I'd ever heard of Tevis, but as it turns out, he wrote 'The Man Who Fell to Earth,' (and, less relevantly, 'The Color of Money.')
I'm also surprised that I never came across this book before, because in many ways, it's right up my alley - and I feel like I would have been even more enthused about it shortly after it was published, than now.
In theme, and some particulars, the book is very reminiscent of 'Brave New World.' Set in a future New York City, a reduced, obedient populace
...more
Ademption
Apr 07, 2009 Ademption rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young Adults, people who read and liked "The Man Who Fell to Earth"
Mockingbird is an excellent YA novel full of morbid black comedy. A sad robot, a film professor, and a zoo-living, half-feral lady are the only reflective people left on Earth. The other, few million individuals are drugged out or mutely religious. Everyone is sterile. The current fad is to self-immolate in trios down at Burger Chef after a pointless life of quick sex and sleeping pills. Through the last couple, the prof and the wild woman, who meet at the NYC Zoo's Reptile House, mankind comes ...more
Cheryl
Effective at conveying many themes of what it means to be human, to be free, to love, to have faith... but not didactic, wordy, or clunky. Graceful, interesting, leavened with humor and hope and joy despite being somewhat dystopian. Probably not more famous because readers thought it would be too similar to 1984 or Brave New World or This Perfect Day - but I believe it actually better than any of those.
Yarb
Perhaps I'm losing my taste for dystopias, at least the futuristic kind. Reading the gushing reviews all over the internet makes me feel almost as isolated from society as the inhabitants of Tevis's moribund 25th century USA.

The big idea is that after the standard technological misadventures - WWIII, fallout, mass-death, global government - humankind has come to eschew all interaction and individual expression, with people retreating into their inner worlds while being fed, clothed and stupefied
...more
Nick Wellings
Pygmalion meets 1984 meets Shawshank Redemption meets Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. A nice read, commentary on Man's dependence on entertainment and divertimenti (we recall Pascal's famous pronouncement on men and empty rooms), our readiness to pop pills, the nature of being alive, and more - the rediscovery of Love. The book has characters learning to read for the first time as adults, which is touching and really happens anyway in our world, though not on a scale seen in Mockingbird, as ...more
Susan
I started Mockingbird and couldn’t put it down. I enjoyed the story, the characters and the flow of the story. I could see the end coming and found it a bit predictable but it was the journey that I liked. Dystopian stories that build a world I can see and characters I can relate to are a favorite of mine. This is a story of the fall of civilization with the end of humanity in view not due to a war, disease or invasion but because people gave over their everyday lives to machines so they could p ...more
Sander
Tevis' timeless classic on the final years of mankind is not just for the fans of the post-apocalyptic genre. Give it a chance and experience the melancholy end of a world which just stopped caring. Highly recommended.
Evan Rigby
I've never read anything by this author before (though I have seen the film adaptation of his novel 'The Man Who Fell To Earth'), and I am definitely going to keep an eye out for more of his stuff. This novel was a brilliant mix of Philip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley and romantic melodrama in a dystopian future. I absolutely ripped through this one.
PinkieBrown
The value of reading, the purpose of our connection to each other, or how the tyranny of technology can wash away humanity. None of these are easy to separate from the rest of life and examine to any significant effect. So the power of an allegory that can place each and any of these ineffable life-substances in isolation, for long enough, to be, not only studied, but broken into a meaningful understanding, is incredible. Take these lines towards the end;

"But most of all, it seems to me now, has
...more
Metello
La vicenda in breve:
un'umanità decadente, dove conta solo la privacy e l'individualità
un super robot (serie 9) solo e conscio della sua umanità incompleta (un mockingbird?)
un uomo che impara a leggere, l'unico e il primo dopo tanti anni
una donna più intelligente e scappata dalla società inebetente.

Un libro che mi ha coinvolto fin da subito, con questi due protagonisti (più la donna, secondaria rispetto agli altri), ognuno con il suo obbiettivo di umanità, uno di completezza, l'altro di riscopert
...more
Ülle
"Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods" is one of the phrases that continuously appears in the book. To me, this symbolizes an individual who dares to differ and dares to yearn for a better, more meaningful life. This is what characterizes the main character Paul Bentley. He lives in the 25th century, an age where the human population and civilization have slowly but surely and almost unnoticeable reached the brink of extinction, a world with no real human contact or emotion and pe ...more
Ryandake
what a marvelous little book.

at its core is a question--how many of us would give up the life of the mind, if we had the choice? tevis' answer is, a lot. and however much one is uncomfortable with the thought, one cannot but have a sneaking suspicion that his answer is in fact the correct one.

in tevis' future, robots have taken over all the drudgery of life--making food, toasters, clothes, running sewer systems and city buses and fast food outlets. theoretically this leaves the rest of us to mor
...more
Joanna
This is a beautiful book, John, and I think I can understand why it was one of your favourites. The combination of the tragic and the humorous, of the pathetic and the absurd, the hopeful and the hopeless is truly compelling.

The way in which the author represented the power of the written word, of poetry, of reading as the way out of soporific loneliness and a direct route to achieving true intellectual and emotional independence as well as a sense of history, community of minds, of being ancho
...more
Ren
I enjoyed the story though it ends predictably. The pace is great and you are compelled to read on. It creates a wonderful dystopia which reminds me of that in Brave New World plus porn. The story is also well sequenced so the plot is laid out smoothly.

But halfway through, you could already see what was up ahead. The characters developed through the novel methodically (boring!) and obviously they embrace their new found intellectuality. There were too many inconsistencies in terms of the knowle
...more
Doug
I read this book when I was in my teens and again in my early twenties. So I haven't read it in a long time, and it might have aged poorly, but at the time I found it incredibly moving and powerful (which maybe means it's a bit sentimental). People in this future world self-immolate in the booths of fast-food restaurants. I remember that. I had been a fan of "The Man Who Fell to Earth," which was also written by Walter Tevis (who also wrote "The Hustler"). I'll put this on my favorite shelf beca ...more
Daniel Gonçalves
Aug 26, 2013 Daniel Gonçalves rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SF fans, dystopia fans
Shelves: science-fiction
A very interesting adventure. A story between a robot and a woman who share a feeling only one of them should be able to feel: love.

Walter Tevis is udoubtedly one of the prodigies of SF. Although under rated, his stories continue to amaze me, as well as his elegant poetic prose.

The story tackled, through his dystopian characteristics, many different subjects: the overtaking of robots, the end of intelectualism, and the manipulation of the people.

Although slow and out of context at times, the boo
...more
Farhan
A moving and cautionary tale set in the dystopian future of the twenty-fifth century. Most public and civic duties are carried out by robots; and use of strong sedatives is universal and has ensured that it is the last generation of humans since all drugs contain anti-fertility qualities. These drugs, along with the careful manipulative use of the electronic media, have turned mankind into slack-jawed, unfeeling zombies cowed into unquestioning subservience to robots. The robots are programmed t ...more
True Reader
I found this book lurking on the discounted rack at Powell’s in Portland years ago. On its cover is a small badge that reads SF Masterworks. The blurb on the front of the book by Al Sarrantonio proclaims, “Science fiction’s great neglected master, one of the definitive bridges between SF and literature.”

After finally picking the book up years later and actually reading it, I believe I know why Sarrantonio believes this, though I still haven’t looked up Al Sarrantonio so still don’t know who he i
...more
Scifireader
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 technolog
...more
Kastel
I agree: A world without omelette is a world not worth living.
Craig
TLDR: Great SF about how a robot can never truly comprehend the value of human life; sort of a counterpoint to Roy Batty or The Terminator.
Tevis is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. I read The Hustler several years ago and it had a profound impact on me; at heart, both that book and this are about maturation and self discovery, particularly the way in which a physical restoration can have a recuperating effect on one's mental wellbeing. I had never previously felt so emotionally engaged
...more
Henry
A dystopian novel, picked up on a whim, from the SF Masterworks series.

Lovely literal, clear style, one flies through it.

I have read many of the classics of this genre, 1984, Darkness at Noon, Brave New World etc, but I ENJOYED this one the most, and found it the most relevant today.

The threat of today, if you share my pessimistic outlook, is no longer goosestepping european totalitarians that bothered Orwell and the like, but the headlong drive into nihilistic, nonintellectual self gratificati
...more
Roy Elmer
Mockingbird is an odd novel. It's one of those books that's lauded as a cross-over work between science fiction genre writing and literature, though in this case I think the only similarity with those books that purport to be literary is that this too exhibits the same sort of characteristic vagary of plot. Mockingbird is a decent yarn, though it could have been so much more.

We'll start with a discussion on politics. This novel was published in 1980 and is an exploration of Marxist ideals of cap
...more
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Walter Stone Tevis was an American novelist and short story writer. Three of his six novels were adapted into major films: The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth. His books have been translated into at least 18 languages.
More about Walter Tevis...
The Man Who Fell to Earth The Queen's Gambit The Hustler The Color of Money Steps of the Sun

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“I feel free and strong. If I were not a reader of books I could not feel this way. Whatever may happen to me, thank God that I can read, that I have truly touched the minds of other men.” 18 likes
“Reading is the subtle and thorough sharing of the ideas and feelings by underhanded means. It is a gross invasion of Privacy and a direct violation of the Constitutions of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Age. The Teaching of Reading is equally a crime against Privacy and Personhood. One to five years on each count.” 8 likes
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