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Mockingbird

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  5,003 ratings  ·  539 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.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 12th 1999 by Del Rey (first published 1980)
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GG Mockingbirds are best known for the habit of some species mimicking the sounds of other birds and animals. In dystopian novels the allegory is that ra…moreMockingbirds are best known for the habit of some species mimicking the sounds of other birds and animals. In dystopian novels the allegory is that rather than a life richly lived life, the life being lived is but an echo of what life could be, should be, or was. A mockery.(less)

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  5,003 ratings  ·  539 reviews


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Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
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
Ines
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book in the very early morning and it is there nailed in my head, I have transgressed to my strict rule, never read in the morning because then it prevents me sometimes to be clear in the reception of thought and clear mind with my patients.
I do not have much to say about this book , only that it is a hymn to the life, beauty, truth and mystery of man..... I never advise anyone to read certain books, but this absolutely is, don’t read it as a sci-fi book, but as an elegy to the w
...more
Apatt
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pre-80s-sf, sci-fi
“What is it exactly that you do with a book?”
“You read it.”
“Oh,” she said. And then, “What does ‘read’ mean?”
I nodded. Then I began turning the pages of the book I was holding and said, “Some of these markings here represent sounds. And the sounds make words. You look at the marks and sounds come into your mind and, after you practice long enough, they begin to sound like hearing a person talking. Talking—but silently.”


There are quite a few books or reading related quotes in this book, the abo
...more
Bradley
May 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, 2016-shelf
I chose not to read this based on an allegorical bent, and instead chose to enjoy the oh so clear voice of the Robot Who Would End Humanity. Of course, he'd do so only because it seems to be the only way to circumvent his programming to live to serve humanity, but them's the breaks, right, humans?

Lol, no, this isn't a biting satire of us like the inestimable Roderick, but it does have some wonderful punches built right in to the text.

First of all, don't let the whole christian reading (or non-r
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I started Mockingbird because it was on my TBR from 2010, and somehow thought it was a detective novel of sorts. Wrong! It starts with a robot in a robot-dominant landscape who is unable to end his life, and brings in a human who has taught himself to read, something humans no longer do. Then he meets a woman who isn't on the mind-altering drugs.... Very readable and engaging!
Selkie ✦ Queen
My favorite speculative fiction of all time is Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days which I read back in 2012, while the very first science fiction I read was Aldous Huxley's Brave New World . I read these books only a few months apart and I was forever changed because of them and this change has definitely got me interested to venture on acquiring and experiencing more of what the science fiction genre has to offer as much as I could. Eleven more sci-fi books later, I remained insatiable, ...more
Sean Gainford
Sep 26, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Emma
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
'Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.'
Wow! This blew me away! On a par with Brave New World, an alternative version of future dystopia. What bibliophile wouldn't love a quote like this:

'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.'

Don't ask. Relax. This is the message the population are programmed to think in this futuristic USA.
The technol
...more
Julie Davis
Reading for the third time - this time for an upcoming SFFaudio podcast. Still so good!

================

A Good Story is Hard to Find #110. Scott and Julie argue about the meaning of "Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods."

Neighbors tell them to take it to the edge of the woods because it's 2:00 a.m. and "some of us have work in the morning!" They quiet down long enough to discuss Mockingbird.

Reading this the second time was just as good as the first time, if not better.

My original r
...more
Jennifer
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
There are aspects of this book that terrify me. At least Skynet tried to kill us humans in one fell swoop. This was something different. Slow and insidious. Our doing really in the end. There were some bits about past technology that didn't quite hold up, but all in all it isn't to terribly off the mark. At least in my mind. I have to say at one point I became very anxious (I needed some Sophor to get me through those chapters) And I found myself loathing a character. A few chapters later I felt ...more
Beverly
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brave, brainy robot, Spofforth is tired of taking care of humans; he had done so for centuries. Bentley and Mary are just the humans to help, Bentley by teaching himself to read and then teaching Mary, start a journey of connection to each other and then to the rest of humanity. Marvelous look at why reading is so important and why we should never lose this great gift.
Althea Ann
Aug 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Lars Guthrie
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Stephen
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'd never heard of Walter Tevis until I read this novel. Mockingbird left me curious of Tevis' background given it reads as a very personal indictment of illiteracy, sloth, drugs and religion. Turns out Mockingbird was Tevis' only foray into science fiction. He is better known for his novels turned into popular films: The Hustler, The Color of Money and the Man Who Fell to Earth.

Mockingbird presents a dystopian future New York where humans have been taught by robots they created to become privat
...more
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
Yarb
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: your-library
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.[return][return]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, cloth ...more
Anna
Jan 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, fiction, dystopia
This past week I’ve had two guests staying while also working full time, which really cut into my reading time. Nonetheless, I made it through ‘Mockingbird’, an interesting science fiction curiosity from 1980. 451 years in the future, the few humans that remain are served by robots, high on drugs, and wholly estranged from one another. The world-building has a nice sense of the bleakly absurd, studded as it is with malfunctioning closed-loop toaster factories, contraceptive valium, and ‘thought ...more
Simon
Sep 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, sf-masterworks
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
Apr 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
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?
Monica
Borrowed from the Amazon Lending Library. What I had hoped to find was an unsung classic SF novel. What I got was a heavy handed dystopian fairy tale with overwrought proclamations of what it means to be human.

This book had a 70s vibe to it. There's an old saying "70s Scifi is all about hexagons." A bit of a riff off of the old Battlestar Galactica series where all the books had the corners cut off because...it's the future!

This novel reads like that. It's an allegory of the future where the co
...more
Kara Babcock
Many of the most seminal dystopian novels are chilling for the extent to which they depict a “new normal” of human existence. By this I mean that these novels don’t just portray people oppressed or living under the thumb of a ruling class or technologically-imposed social structure—no, the best dystopian novels create a world in which people are happy, or at least satisfied, with the new status quo. Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World , and Fahrenheit 451 all do this to some extent.

Fahr
...more
Denis
Sep 09, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hardcover, library
I recently reread “Mockingbird” (1980), which was the first Water Tevis novel I had read. I had seen some of the movies made from his work: “The Hustler”, “The Color of Money” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth” starring David Bowie. I read (somewhere) that Mr. Tevis’ inspiration for this work was based on his experience as a school teacher (he never did quit his day-job it seems) noticing that the students of his later days in the field, seemed less capable of reading and writing that they had been ...more
Bethnoir
Apr 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Accessible and interesting, this book imagines a world where humans had lost all purpose and culture and the only intelligence remaining is a suicidal robot. The journey of the humans back to humanity is difficult, but touching. I enjoyed this book.
El
This is my nightmare: a world where the human population is declining (though the android population is thriving), no one can (or even desires to) read, and everyone pops Valium (also designed to help curb fertility) just to get through the day. There's very little human interaction, and what little there manages to be is highly monitored.

That's this story, and it freaked me out, the solitary cat that I am. It unsettled me, which is certainly the point, mission: accomplished. Published in 1980 I
...more
Jacob
Sep 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was originally published in 1980, but I think it holds up amazingly well. One of the key reasons is the author built the story on a premise of people interacting less and less with each other and more with machines, with drugs, and with simply amusing themselves. The tendency to privacy, lack of relationship development, and shirking responsibility is taken to an extreme here but it addresses trends that have still been happening for the last 35 years since Mockingbird was published.

The set
...more
Rose
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was torn between three and four stars but I think I would have liked this more if it didn’t remind me of so many other books I’ve already read but this was written almost 40 years ago so I can’t fault Mockingbird for me not reading it before the others.

Mockingbird is a dystopian future where we have created robots to do most of our tasks so that we could relax and be more introspective. Like pretty much everything else, we take this to the extreme. Drugs are given out to everyone to relax. You
...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
Jamie
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting post-apocalyptic story, although I found the prose and narrative structure overly plain, lacking much style or depth. The story deals with both the dumbing down of society through drugs and television, reminiscent of C.M. Kornbluth's classic The Marching Morons, as well as widespread sterility and a dwindling population. People have been conditioned to become emotionally and socially isolated and detached, making them easier to control and manage, and are no longer even literate. Thu ...more
Wendelle
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: great
it's a great book about the importance of not automating out or drugging out the imperfect, inefficient, plausibly time-wasting, but essentially human parts of our lives-- reading, writing, learning, community talks, childrearing, talking, convening, cooking, baking, making.
this book shows the unbearable condition of life lived alone. the robot wants to die because he's the last robot, who can never be human or share human experiences. people want to die because they have become inured to comma
...more
Charles
Dec 26, 2019 rated it liked it
40-year old adult dystopic story where robots convey a stupefied future human population into extinction.

My dead tree edition was a modest 250 pages. It has a US first copyright of 1980.

Walter Tevis was an American science fiction and fiction author. He was the author of six (6) novels and many short stories. He passed in 1984. This is the first novel of his I’ve read, although I’ve seen all of his novels adapted to film.

This book has been on my Read the SF Classics List for awhile. It finally m
...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.

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