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Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang
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Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,367 Ratings  ·  412 Reviews
When the first warm breeze of Doomsday came wafting over the Shenandoah Valley, the Sumners were ready.
Using their enormous wealth, the family had forged an isolated post-holocaust citadel. Their descendants would have everything they needed to raise food and do the scientific research necessary for survival.
But the family was soon plagued by sterility, and the creation of
Paperback, 207 pages
Published January 1st 1977 by Pocket Books (first published 1976)
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(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
Nandakishore Varma
Jan 10, 2016 Nandakishore Varma rated it really liked it
(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
Erich Franz Linner-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
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
Oct 15, 2015 Candiss rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kirsten *Dogs Welcome - People Tolerated"
I rarely give out 5 stars, but when a book is this moving and enthralling it deserves it!

This book is disaster, science fiction, dystopian - and also an expose of what it means to be human.

What if man was not just a social animal, but part of society closer to what bees and ants have? What would happen? Would we still be human?

That's what this book sets forth. There is some disaster that one highly educated family sees coming and tries to hedge their bets with cloning. It explores this with 3 i
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
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.
Jul 27, 2010 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to have to think a little
Shelves: 9, sf, reread, 2010
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 03, 2016 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is, I suppose, a dystopia. And if one thinks about it loosely, one may be reminded of a handful of similar-seeming ones, like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Lois Lowry's The Giver, or any number of other novels in which the rigid and law-bound community controls and destroys the notion of the creative individual. But those similarities are largely cosmetic, I think. Dig a little deeper, and this becomes a novel about the stages humanity will go through, at the edge of the precipice, ...more
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
Erik Graff
May 28, 2012 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Nov 20, 2015 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 and 1/2 stars. To survive an environmental apocalypse, an extended family with money and resources moves onto their farm land and builds a research facility. They find that cloning is the only means for survival of the human race. The human clones develop deep psychological connections within their genetic groups, acting like a group consciousness. Those who want to develop their own individuality are seen as mentally ill and detrimental to the survival of their group.

In this setting, the aut
Jul 22, 2008 francesca rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Nov 14, 2011 Simon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-masterworks, sf
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
I’m beginning to think that reading books from the 1970s is just not my thing. Ive read 3 this year and none of them have met my expectations (though this one is my least favorite of the 3). There seems to be oddness and a cheesiness to the writing. To underscore my point, here is the cover of the paperback book I read. I will add that I purchased this book brand new at that price circa 1980s sometime…

Books written in the 70s seem in search of the cultural identity. In America, the 60s were rebe
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
Jul 26, 2010 Sooz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Sep 05, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 22, 2008 Joanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction

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
Apr 25, 2016 Sandy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, a book just has to be given a second chance. Case in point for this reader: Kate Wilhelm's "Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang." When I first started this book around 35 years ago, I could not get past page 20 or so, for some strange reason, and placed it back on my bookshelf unread, where it has remained all this time. Flash forward to last week, when I decided to give the book another chance (what with my supposed adult sophistication and matured patience), and guess what? The novel im ...more
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
Edwin Priest
Kate Wilhelm won a Hugo award in 1977 for Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, which is set in a near future post-apocalyptic Virginia. It is certainly thought provoking and well written, but……………

The details surrounding the actual apocalypse are rather nebulous, though it was apparently caused by man’s over-exploitation of the environment and other wanton activities. These excesses ultimately lead to the demise of society, and also it seems, to infertility. Pretty standard stuff so far.

To survive th
Oct 08, 2015 Contrarius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I read this many moons ago, but I didn't remember anything about it except for a very vague sense of having liked it, so I did a reread/relisten (I listened to the audio).

I'm not a huge fan of episodic stories -- it always seems that I'm just starting to get invested in a character when the story jumps in time and I have to get used to someone new. That's annoying. I understand why Wilhelm had to do it in this case, but that's one of the common techniques that I dislike in sf. And I was seriousl
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stefan Yates
Apr 27, 2012 Stefan Yates rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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
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
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Kate Wilhelm has won the Hugo and several Nebula Awards. She is the widow of author and editor Damon Knight.
More about Kate Wilhelm...

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“Molly watched the pale water, changing, always changing, and always the same, and she could feel him near, not touching, not speaking. Thin clouds chased across the face of the swelling moon. Soon it would be full, the harvest moon, the end of Indian summer. The moon was so cleanly outlined, so unambiguous, she thought. A misshapen bowl, like an artifact made by inexpert hands that would improve with practice.” 1 likes
“Why are you saying this?” she whispered, her face ashen. “So you won’t have any illusions about your little nest here! We can use you, do you understand? As long as you are useful to the community, you’ll be allowed to live here like a princess. Just as long as you’re useful.” “Useful, how? No one wants to look at my paintings. I’ve finished the maps and drawings of the trip.” “I’m going to dissect your every thought, your every wish, every dream. I’m going to find out what happened to you, what made you separate yourself from your sisters, what made you decide to become an individual, and when I find out we’ll know how never to allow it to happen again.” 0 likes
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