Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang
Copyright 1976 by
I first read this in 1980 and most recently on the 9th September 2002
The collapse is of civilisation is coming. When millions are killed by virulent
plagues, when the world economy collapses, the end is close indeed.
One small community has foreseen at least some of the horrors to come, and has
prepared its redoubt. They're are confident that they can weather the worst of
the turmoil to ensue.
Then the worst happens: across the world, human reproduction fails, no more babies
are born alive. In desperation, the community turns to cloning in a last-ditch
attempt keep humankind alive, until they can find a cure for the sterility that
But there are some problems with cloning, and not all of these problems are
This is a pretty stunning book. The issues with which it deals are more relevant
today than twenty-five years ago, and the narrative, except for some throwaway
computer comments, has aged well. It's a terribly, terribly sad read as the
optimistic survivors struggle to maintain their small civilisation but watch it
degrade with each new generation. Still there is a message of hope in there.
Wilhelm is a superb writer, her characters and her evocative descriptions of
wild nature are particularly moving. And what characters: Molly and Mark, forced
into painful individuality, and Ben and Barry, struggling to comprehend what that individuality
means and why there's a benefit that outweighs the cost.
Cloning sadly doesn't do so well out of this novel. It's not the sort of book to
pass around your friends if you're trying to convince them of the benefits of,
say, therapeutic cloning.
Loaded on the 24th September 2002.