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

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3.87  ·  Rating details ·  7,111 Ratings  ·  481 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 experimen
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Paperback, 254 pages
Published July 15th 1998 by Orb Books (first published 1976)
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(showing 1-30)
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mark monday
Sep 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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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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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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
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Brad
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
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Candiss
Nov 23, 2009 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.
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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Raul
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library
Este livro fala-nos de um mundo pós-apocalíptico. Depois de destruida a espécie humana, subsistem apenas os clones humanos.
A visão da autora é muito interessante. Mostra-nos uma civilização formatada, com relações de dependência  em relação aos outros clones, mas uma dependência meramente física, uma dependência tão básica como o respirar. Os laços de afeto são inexistentes e a promiscuidade sexual é parte do seu quotidiano.
Estes clones não dispõem de sentido de orientação que lhes permita andar
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Ignacio
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
En su promoción se habla de La estación del crepúsculo como la mejor novela sobre clones y este tema por sí solo me da un poco lo mismo. Sí me deja sin palabras cómo Wilhelm entremezcla este contenido con la literatura apocalíptica y la distópica para tejer una historia que bebe de todas y cada una de esas temáticas, saca partido a cada vertiente sin terminar de decantarse por ninguna y logra una obra con una personalidad singular.

La descripción de la sociedad de clones que nace con el colapso d
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Kirsten **Be A Dragon**
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
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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 26, 2010 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.
Hugo
Aug 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Neste mundo que Kate Wilhelm criou nos anos 70, as consequências da poluição são irreversíveis e dramáticas. O aumento das radiações nocivas é notório e os efeitos ao nível da fertilidade dos seres humanos é preocupante. A família de David, com vários membros ligados às mais diversas áreas da ciência, é rica e resolve construir um hospital genético e bunkers, já a antecipar a catástrofe que se avizinha. Uma vez que as pessoas que se protegem nos bunkers estão, na sua maioria, inférteis, a soluçã ...more
Bettie☯
For Valerie, Kriss and Leslie,
with love
Description: The spellbinding story of an isolated post-holocaust community determined to preserve itself, through a perilous experiment in cloning. Sweeping, dramatic, rich with humanity, and rigorous in its science, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is widely regarded as a high point of both humanistic & hard SF, winning SF's Hugo Award and Locus Award on its first publication.

Opening: What David always hated most about the Sumner family dinners was the
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Jason
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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
Sep 06, 2011 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
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Erik Graff
Jun 17, 2008 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
Cheryl
Nov 17, 2015 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
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francesca
Jun 29, 2007 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.
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
Sooz
Mar 04, 2010 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
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Megan Baxter
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up at long last as part of my read of all the Hugo nominees. Kate Wilhelm's book won the year I was born, so I tend to figure it was a very good year. And on the whole, this is a very good book. It's chock full of ideas, and raises interesting questions about what subtle things might be lost if we fundamentally changed our ways of interacting with each other.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read wh
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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
Gray
"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.” (p.122)


The story begins as civilization is on the verge of collapse. The causes, pollution, disease and climate change, are briefly touched on by the author but she keeps them in the background. Instead, her focus fa
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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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Sarah
Nov 26, 2007 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
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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
Joanna
Nov 18, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
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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Kate Wilhelm’s first short story, “The Pint-Sized Genie” was published in Fantastic Stories in 1956. Her first novel, MORE BITTER THAN DEATH, a mystery, was published in 1963. Over the span of her career, her writing has crossed over the genres of science fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy and magical realism, psychological suspense, mimetic, comic, and family sagas, a multimedia stage producti ...more
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.” 2 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.” 1 likes
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