Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang—Kate Wilhelm

I’ve been working my way through past Hugo winners, and this one dates back to 1976. Which made the book interestingly distracting for me from a professional point of view–taking a look at how book design has changed over the last 30 years. The cover for the original first edition of this is a lovely Escher illustration, and the typeface was remarkably similar to Stymie–though I might be wrong on that front.

This book was most certainly a product of the cold war, with the world falling prey to man-made plagues, nuclear attacks and environmental degradation due to pollution. A small well off family in the Shennandoah valley determines that the only way for civilization to survive is through cloning, and use their resources to set about creating clones–who are weaker both mentally and physically with each following generation. It also becomes a discussion on individuality and the power of uniqueness to inspire creative thought and innovation.

The ending wasn’t surprising, but there was a lot of interesting material here for my brain to chew through–as ideas surrounding solitude and loneliness are things I often contemplate, being a loner by nature. While some of the approach to things ultimately dated the book, I think it still stands up well to other Hugo award winners. (I think it’s also important to note that Wilhelm was one of the founders of the Clarion workshop.)