Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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 reader identify with the introverted outcasts and their iconoclast talents, even if such things are considered, among most, as a euthanizable offence. Sound familiar, modern YA dystopia readers?
Well this isn't a YA novel, either. It starts out as a pretty horrific descent into chaos as the world turns sterile and plagues decimate the population, but fortunately, for the deeply optimistic and appreciated optimism of SF of the day, science comes to the rescue... with Clones! Cool, right?
Just think, an Army of Clones! I mean, it's such a classic idea, right? I mean, first Star Wars did it, and then everyone just... ooh... wait... I think I'm mixing up cause and effect here... Still, this novel isn't a war novel. If anything, it's a bit humorous watching a nature boy lead a bunch of cloned children through the forest to go on raids. Sure, the world has gone to hell, but Science Wins. I can't fault the optimism, and all of these characters are very well drawn.
We've taken free love into whole new territories, decided that art therapy can have seriously bad repercussions, and that individuals really out to be allowed to be, you know, individual. :) But I did find it just as fascinating to see how their society dealt with Extreme Communalism. :) Scary, too. The breeding farms were major-ick.
I would have been killed as a kid as a nonfunctional unit. :) They'd have expressed sympathy and all, but it doesn't change the fact that I'd be pasteurized.
This may not be my favorite SF novel ever, mind you, but I really enjoyed it. It didn't decide to be very dark and wallow in all the things that modern dystopias pride themselves on... like complete and utter hopelessness. :)
Definitely a worthwhile read.
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