Saturday 4 June 2011

Science Twaddle

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm.
I read a review of this and was obviously interested enough to pop over to the library website and search and request it. Not sure why I bothered. And never has a book had such a meaningless title that has nothing to do with the story.

Anyway, this large extended family decide to survive the coming end of the world on their isolated farm, where they somehow magically get money to build a hospital and then a state of the art research thingy buried in the caves behind, where they develop cloning of first livestock and then people (since all the people are inexplicably becoming infertile). Lots of sciencey waffle ensues that is trying to con you into thinking the author knows something about cloning technology. The family are kind of nice and I tried to give it a go but then the clones take over and it was tedious. They were, as you might anticipate, rather monotonous, but strangely had some kind of telepathy between groups of 'sisters' and 'brothers' and developed this really nasty controlling society. The 'scientists' literally start producing 'drones' for particular tasks and anyone found to be fertile gets shipped off to the breeding hospital and made to produce children till they are too old and are then euthanised (as are other undesirables and useless people). It was tedious because the clones were devoid of personality and the terrible 'passage of time' inconsistencies irritated me. The clone people all thought being clones was great and that it was far better than the normal way of reproducing but they were all stupid and incapable of real learning or adapting and could only function within their known secure environment. One young woman who goes on a research expedition ends up being ostracised by the community because she can no longer bond with her sisters. She has a child in secret, is discovered and forced into the breeders colony, escapes and runs away, leaving her son to be a disruptive influence on the community. I skim read the last third while watching Britain's Got Talent just to ensure that it reached the tediously predictable conclusion that he would go off and be the eventual saviour of the human race and the clones would all die out. Trite, repetitive, badly written, what could have been potentially interesting threads or ideas were left dangling, she was trying to make some clever point about the importance of individuality and creativity but utterly failed.

Never mind. I am plodding my way through 'The Lacuna' by Barbara Kingsolver (Orange Prize winner 2010), not because it's boring but because it is very long. We watched a film about Frida Kahlo and her relationship with Diego Rivera some time ago which was fascinating, and this is partly about her so I am persevering.


  1. Now I want to see if my library has this book! LOL!! That bad huh?? I have to admit, the title alone for me is off putting. What does the phrase mean exactly - it's like a very bad take on For Whom the Bell Tolls. Thanks for your honest and very lively review! Take care

  2. I love the Poisonwood Bible but haven't read any other Kingsolver books. On my list!


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