“Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang” by Kate Wilhelm Review

where late the sweet

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang

Author:  Kate Wilhelm

Published:  1976

Along with To Your Scattered Bodies Go I give Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang the award for title I’m least likely to remember/most likely to screw up when I’m telling somebody what I’m reading. Seriously, I’ve finished the book, am unaware of why the book is titled that and will not be able to recite it a week from now. I’m not sure what I would have titled it, Cloneworld is probably as descriptive and simple as it could go.

Wilhelm’s lengthy titled book is about the transition of mankind from the last group of normal humans ravaged by a disease that renders them infertile to the cloned individuals that are the only possibility for continuing mankind. It begins with David working at a hospital on the cloning solution and his observations of this new type of man/woman. The next protagonist is Molly, a cloned woman who’s trip without her sisters leads her to changing into a new personality that affects the entire community around her. Finally, it follows Mark who was raised by Molly to be different as the only individual with creativity in a world of duplicates.

I’m giving this book four stars, but I had a tough time settling on that score. I thought the plot to this book was one of the more interesting of the Hugo Award winners I’ve read. It features three separate story sections that focus on different protagonists, and I enjoyed each of them. I even got choked up at one point (when Molly gets captured and separated from her son) which has only happened in two books that I can remember in the last few years.

That being said, I’ve got a pretty regular reading routine of 25 pages a day minimum in each book I’m reading. Even with everything I was enjoying in this book, this wasn’t a book I was eager to pick up. I think Wilhelm’s writing style was a bit old fashioned in that she preferred some lengthier passages that were more overwritten than they needed to be. Even as late as the final two pages, which had a real possibility that a protagonist I enjoyed could be killed, I didn’t feel a sense of urgency to read what was happening first because the pacing didn’t facilitate it.


2 thoughts on ““Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang” by Kate Wilhelm Review

Add yours

  1. Title is from a Shakespearean sonnet (#73)—I think she was indicating this was it, humanity was sputtering out and done for. Branches are now bare where birds once sang and it’s the end of a cycle. Anyway, I read it well before I found out what the title meant, and had no clue about it for a couple decades, and then I realized most people probably don’t…or, the audience who would be likely to be familiar enough with the majority of Shakespeare’s sonnets to get it was no longer the audience reading the book…which kinda supports her point in an ironic and curmudgeonly way.

    Sent from my iPad



    1. Thanks for sharing that. When I added the book to my Goodreads page I saw there were three other books with the same title, so I knew it had to be something others were familiar with, but not being a Shakespeare fan I had a tough time remembering it or understanding why the book title was chosen.


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