SF Masterwork of the Week: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

Winner of the Hugo Award for best novel

The Sumner family can read the signs: the droughts and floods, the blighted crops, the shortages, the rampant diseases and plagues, and, above all, the increasing sterility all point to one thing. Their isolated farm in the Appalachian Mountains gives them the ideal place to survive the coming breakdown, and their wealth and know-how gives them the means. Men and women must clone themselves for humanity to survive.

But what then?

‘If all SF was as finely crafted as Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, we’d have great cause to rejoice’ Vector


The first section of Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang first appeared in 1974 in Orbit 15, edited by noted author, editor and critic, Damon Knight.  The book was published in 1976 and won the Hugo Award for best novel in 1977.  It is, by any criteria one wishes to apply, a masterpiece. As the fine folk at Locus (itself an indispensable publication) said:

Don’t pass it up on any account. It’s simply the best novel about cloning . . .  a classic

There are reviews to be found all over the web, but as we applaud the ethos behind Ian Sales‘ excellent SF Mistressworks site, we refer you to the two reviews currently hosted there.


More of Kate Wilhelm’s works are available at her author page on the SF Gateway and you can read about her in her entry at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.