Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

by Kate Wilhelm
Reviewed date: 2006 Aug 22
Rating: 3
207 pages
Awards: 1977 Hugo for best novel
cover art

Plot: Pollutants cause not only global environmental disaster, but the sterilization of the entire human race. Within a generation, mankind will be extinct. A small group of scientists had the foresight to prepare for the coming catastrophe, and devised a solution: cloning. Their research shows that fertility will return within the sixth generation, so if humanity can survive via cloning for that long, man stands a chance to repopulate the earth.

The beginning of the book chronicles the task of setting up the cloning laboratory and the establishment of the survival colony. As the clone children begin to mature and become leaders of the colony, a new type of society emerges. The clones, having grown up with numerous identical twin siblings, develop telepathic connections to their siblings. They decide not to return to sexual reproduction, opting instead for perpetual cloning.

Cloning has its problems, though. After several generations, the clones lack imagination and ingenuity. They can be taught to perform simple tasks well, but are unable to solve problems or think creatively. The future of mankind seems in jeopardy, and it falls to one boy--Mark--to save it. Mark is unique: he is a non-clone, born as a mistake and raised as an individual, not as part of a clone-group. Only he has the creativity, the intelligence, the drive, and the insight to see the fatal problems in the clone culture, and to do something about it.

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