Read Mockingbird by Walter Tevis Online


Mockingbird is a powerful novel of a future world where humans are dying. Those that survive spend their days in a narcotic bliss or choose a quick suicide rather than slow extinction. Humanity's salvation rests with an android who has no desire to live, and a man and a woman who must discover love, hope, and dreams of a world reborn....

Title : Mockingbird
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780345431622
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Mockingbird Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-06-07 01:00

    I could tell with in the first few paragraphs of this book I was really going to like it. The story starts with Robert Spofforth, a very special robot, in fact a Make Nine robot, whistling as he walks down the street. Now to me whistling is a very distinctive human trait. I know some birds can be taught to whistle and I'm sure someone has spent numerous hours of their life teaching their dog to whistle, but generally I think humans are the only entity on the planet bad ass enough to actually whistle as we walk through the woods or across the plains announcing our presence to everything "here I am". Alright so Tevis got my attention right away. I put the book on my stack of reading now books and promptly got caught up in a monster of a book 900+ that I checked out from the library and had a deadline to finish, a self imposed deadline as I still like to torture myself in ways that make no sense to any one else. It was a long time before I had a chance to get back to Mockingbird, but the whole time I'm flagellating myself with the large tomb from the library I'm thinking about Mockingbird. When I do get back to it I'm nearly salivating, I sit down like a guy who has been lost in the desert and is about to drink his first glass of water that wasn't freshly squeezed out of a cactus. I fall in. My daughter asks me a question and I look at her with a blank look before promptly returning my eyes to the pages. Okay so I'm not going to win Dad of the year and I was so close this year.The idea of having robots do our work for us sounds like a great idea. We should be able to edify ourselves, spend our time reading great works (Christians could finally read the bible.), writing poetry, learning to paint, and having philosophical discussions about whether the chair and table do really exist. Unfortunately I fear that most people would just spend more time in front of the television inhaling their drug of choice. I may be too cynical here, but in Mockingbird that is exactly what happened. People take handfuls of sopors and killed time until the television programs started. Over several generations after building more and more robots to the point that the human race can no longer fix or design or have an original thought the robots, due to a lack of interest by the human race, take over. There was no coup, no uprising with humans fighting to take back there place at the top of the heap. We simply handed over our lives to our creations. In the movie Surrogates starring no other than, Bruce Willis, (the salvation of the human race time and time again), we have an avatar idealized version of ourselves that we move about the world to go to work, to have sex, basically a realized version of a video game that allows the human race to not only stay home, but stay in one room wired into their surrogate all day. We of course turn to mush. I would have really been worried about our chances if Bruce Willis hadn't been in the movie. Well in Mockingbird, Paul, is our Bruce Willis. He is a university professor who really doesn't teach anything anymore because over several generations people have quit learning to read. Not even the robots know how to read. Paul starts researching old silent movies and has an epiphany that the subtitles at the bottom, the squiggles, actually represent what is being said in the film. Over the course of watching many, many films he teaches himself the rudimentary words of the English language. Lets just say the genie is now out of the bottle.Paul has to fight against the pithy statements that have been drilled into his head: "Quick sex is best.", "Don't ask; relax." He starts to replace these short bits of controlling propaganda with pieces of literature that just keep nagging at him. "My life is light, waiting for the death wind, Like a feather on the back of my hand." and "Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods." These thoughts are a little more complex. They stretch Paul's mind and he starts to see the world for what it really is a shallow, unsatisfactory, anti-utopian. There is a lot more to this book than what I've decided to touch on here, for only 247 pages the book really packs a wallop. I'm a big fan of Dystopia society books and this will certainly be one I add to my recommendation list.

  • Apatt
    2019-06-18 23:36

    “What is it exactly that you do with a book?”“You read it.” “Oh,” she said. And then, “What does ‘read’ mean?” I nodded. Then I began turning the pages of the book I was holding and said, “Some of these markings here represent sounds. And the sounds make words. You look at the marks and sounds come into your mind and, after you practice long enough, they begin to sound like hearing a person talking. Talking—but silently.”There are quite a few books or reading related quotes in this book, the above is not the most eloquent one but I love the way something we take for granted is explained as if it is a weird esoteric concept. Mockingbird has been described—somewhat inaccurately—as an unofficial sequel toFahrenheit 451. An understandable comparison, but in some ways, it is the opposite of “451”. While both books feature the theme of how important books are to civilization and mental development, in “451” the authorities burn books to prevent people from reading them, in Mockingbird the authorities do not need to do that, nobody wants to read the bloody things! Most people do not even know what reading is or what a book looks like. However, the books have not been destroyed, they can be found in storage and shut up libraries, but only two people in the world know how to read them.I knew nothing about Mockingbird prior to reading it, only that it is part of the excellent “SF Masterworks” series and the length (about 250 pages) is just right for me, after finishing the 1000+ pages ofWords of Radiance I wanted to read a short sci-fi novel. So I picked this one out almost at random, though the 4.13 average GR rating is the clincher.Mockingbird is set in a grim and decaying America, mostly New York City, in the 25th Century. Though the time of the setting is not clearly indicated in the book, as the year numbers are no longer used in this era (I only found the time period from the book’s “About the Author” section). It is yet another sci-fi dystopia but this time there is no cruel or fascist authorities governing the populace. The human race is on its last legs, winding down and fading away. No children are being born and the populace is constantly doped up and living dull lives without anything to look forward to. Suicide by immolation is commonplace, and it is a painless process due to drugs. Humanity is taken care of and governed by robots, social mores have been developed by some long-dead social engineers to value privacy and inwardness above all else; family, friendship, and love are unknown concepts, and “quick sex is best” is a commonly used slogan.The narrative begins from the point of view of Spofforth, a robot who has been living for centuries and yearns to die but is programmed against committing suicide. Spofforth holds several positions of power and as a Dean of a university, he discovers Paul Bentley who has accidentally discovered a reading tutorial from an old film archive and taught himself to read from there. Later Paul meets Mary Lou, an unusual woman who does not take drugs and is therefore, very clear headed and rebellious. The narrative soon switches to Paul’s first person accounts of his life in the diary form. After living with Mary Lou for a while and teaching her how to read, Paul is arrested by Spofforth and sent to prison. Through his life in prison and subsequent his escape, he learns much about the world he lives in and about himself.Suicidal SpofforthDon’t worry I have not spoiled the book, Mockingbird is not about a prison break, it is a journey of self-discovery. The book defied my expectations several times. At the beginning, I thought it was going to be about Spofforth the paranoid android (the words robot and android are used interchangeably in this book), his disillusion with his life, and his struggle to find the origin of his consciousness which is based off a human. Soon the point of view is shifted to Paul who starts off as dazed and doped up like everybody else, but the discovery of books and reading begin to transform him. Mary Lou also undergoes transformations through reading, though she ahs the advantage of being clearheaded, to begin with. Mockingbird is at its best when the narrative focuses on Paul’s explorations and self-discovery process. He learns the value of human interactions (normally taboo) and the meaning of friendship in prison, after escaping he begin his journey towards New York in search of Mary Lou. On the way he falls in with a Christian community for a while, in an exalted position of The Reader, to read Bible passages to the illiterate members. While he finds much of the Bible interesting, the organized religion of the community is not to his taste.“The God they worship is an abstract and ferociously moral thing, like a computer. And the compelling, mystical rabbi, Jesus, they have turned into some kind of moral Detector.”He then resumes his journey and self-development.Mockingbird was first published in 1980, it is much much more interesting and thought-provoking than the popular (mostly YA) dystopia of today. Walter Tevis vividly portrays a world where humans are living comfortably but without purpose. The robots their ancestors have left in charge are mostly of subhuman intelligence and have no idea or interest in facilitating some kind of meaningful lives for their human charges. One of my favorite scenes is a chapter about a closed system toaster factory where sub-moron robots work. Due to a slight flaw in the process all the toasters are defective and rejected, and the rejects are destroyed then fed back into the production process. An infinitely loop and a “parody of productivity”.Mockingbird is a happy discovery for me, the best dystopian I have read for a long time; thought-provoking, moving, compassionate and even inspiring. A classic of this SF subgenre. __________________Notes:• “Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.” is a key phrase in this book. I don't know what it means but I read from online discussions that it is likely to represent some kind of mimicry, though it is unclear who is mimicking whom. Is Spofforth mimicking humans or are Paul and Mary Lou mimicking the people they have seen on the old films? Is the “edge of the woods” the edge of enlightenment but still in the forest of ignorance? Walter Tevis leaves the nomenclature of the novel ambiguous; like a bit of homework for the readers, I suppose. • An almost anachronistic reference to data storage on magnetic tapes is mentioned. Don’t worry about it. Sci-fi is not about predicting technology.• Paul’s relationship with Mary Lou reminds me of Winston Smith and Julia in1984 a bit, but Big Brother is not watching here, nobody is watching, or giving a damn.Quotes:“All of those books—even the dull and nearly incomprehensible ones—have made me understand more clearly what it means to be a human being. And I have learned from the sense of awe I at times develop when I feel in touch with the mind of another, long-dead person and know that I am not alone on this earth. There have been others who have felt as I feel and who have, at times, been able to say the unsayable.”“There at the other end of the restaurant were three people, seated in a booth, in flames / there was no sign of pain. They might have been playing gin rummy, except there they were, burning to death.”“You know what work is these days. They have to deactivate robots to find things to pay us for doing.”“It was, as the genetic engineers were fond of saying, an improvement upon the work of God. Since none of the engineers believed there was a God, however, their self-praise was unsound.”A great depiction of Spofforth in this French edition

  • Bradley
    2019-06-14 21:55

    I chose not to read this based on an allegorical bent, and instead chose to enjoy the oh so clear voice of the Robot Who Would End Humanity. Of course, he'd do so only because it seems to be the only way to circumvent his programming to live to serve humanity, but them's the breaks, right, humans?Lol, no, this isn't a biting satire of us like the inestimable Roderick, but it does have some wonderful punches built right in to the text. First of all, don't let the whole christian reading (or non-reading) experience get us down. The later portions of the novel are full of pretty heavy-handed character surrogates of bible-thumpers minus the bibles, but that's just a thin veil to the real issue. No one reads. At all. Humanity has lost the knack and is pushed along the pasture by the robots that tend them.It first looks like a utopia, but of course it isn't, despite all the sex and drugs you might want, all your wants, satisfied. Hey... wasn't this all set up so all you proper christians can study the scripture? Ah well, human nature is what it is. Too bad that our poor MC, an android designed to serve and make all the executive decisions happens to have no greater wish than to die. His long game is very impressive, but things don't always turn out the way it is planned. He falls in love with one of the last women.In 1980, when this was published, marks a rush of a brand new torrent of SF focused not only on hard-hitting ideas, but great combinations of plot, characterizations, and interesting worlds. The quality is on the rise. And this one is pretty awesome when it comes to the quality. Very readable, very strong voice for the narrator.My problem with it is pretty simple, unfortunately. I don't agree with the premises. *shrug* I don't think that we'll ever stop reading. :) Oh, and I don't think that any religion can maintain itself without it, and that's including all the help from the substandard robots. Not every robot is built quite like the MC, after all. :)Otherwise, I loved it. :) This is my second Walter Tevis and it was kinda surprising to learn that, since I had read The Man Who Fell to Earth years and years ago and loved it, primarily because I saw the movie with Bowie and loved it, too. :) It's odd how these things turn out. :)

  • Keely
    2019-06-24 19:01

    My favorite speculative fiction of all time is Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days which I read back in 2012, while the very first science fiction I read was Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. I read these books only a few months apart and I was forever changed because of them and this change has definitely got me interested to venture on acquiring and experiencing more of what the science fiction genre has to offer as much as I could. Eleven more sci-fi books later, I remained insatiable, more so after finishing this one. The very first thing that struck me while in the middle of consuming this novel by Walter Tevis is that it was unmistakably a majestic blend of both the dystopic landscapes featured in Huxley's book, and written in the same nostalgic manner of aching, melancholic sensibility and spiritual contemplation very much alive in Cunningham's work. With that, I couldn't help but find myself deeply embedded in the pores of this haunting tale of Mockingbird.Like most sci-fi books, it started with an off-beat promising premise that slowly developed into something personal and tragic for both the characters and a reader like myself. I think books like this one work very well for me because they lavish on the often inarticulately beautiful quality of human life and the art and terrible burden of living itself; how precious and fleeting our lives truly are, and what happens when a certain moral decay or a disintegration of long-held valuable things occur. Truth be told, Mockingbird is a tapestry of themes I mostly associate with some of my favorite sci-fi stories like Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon and Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, to name a few. There's the usual existential crisis where characters live in an age of detachment from self and/or others but suddenly and quite poignantly awaken from their stupor to contemplate and pursue the meaning of why they exist to begin with and why the world has been reduced to shambles, whether physically or metaphorically.Mockingbird follows the same formula with its own invigorating narrative. The central theme of this book focuses on the grim possibility of humanity losing literacy, particularly their ability to read, and how that seemingly simple negligence would follow a series of other significant losses due to population control via fertility-inhibiting drugs (and other forms of recreational drug use to numb everything away), the disappearance of any creative endeavor like art and literature, and utter extinction of family, community and religious inclinations. All of these set-ups sound awfully familiar already, and rightly so because Tevis does share his dystopic characterizations of his world in the same vein as Huxley's inarguably superior novel Brave New World. However, what does elevate Mockingbird in another new level entirely is the quality it also shares with another novel I love to pieces, Specimen Days, when it comes to its character arcs and relationships."My upbringing, like that of all the other members of my Thinker Class, had made me into an unimaginative, self-centered and drug-addicted fool. Until learning how to read I had lived in a whole underpopulated world of self-centered, drug-addicted fools, all of us living by our Rules of Privacy in some crazy dream of Self-Fulfillment." ~ Paul BentleyThe summary found at the back of the book was slightly misleading. I originally thought that the android character Spofforth would be the main focus of the entire novel but it turns out that this responsibility belongs to two other characters; a man and a woman named Paul Bentley and Mary Lou respectively who are instantly recognizable as the representational equivalent of their world's very own Adam and Eve, as both stumble their way into consciousness and awareness together. Paul was introduced as the only human being who has the ability to read which he picked up on by accident when he unearthed an instructional videotape on the subject. Spofforth hired him to record the written dialogues in the archives of silent films which was an activity Paul has learned to enjoy and appreciate. By learning to read and watching film from a forgotten era, certain feelings were brought forth from Paul; thoughts and emotions he never recognized which only deepened when he begins a relationship with Mary Lou who dared him to question and outright ignore the rules programmed into them as children. True to being a biblical Eve, Mary Lou dares Paul to challenge the status quo.Paul's journey to "memorize his life" as suggested by Mary Lou was done by the very simple act of scribbling his daily grind into pages upon pages of diary entries. But the more he records his own memories and encounters, the more miserable he becomes when he realizes how dull the world has become with its people caught in a standstill, burying all their self-awareness through drugs and quick sex. His nuanced journey from imprisonment to liberation on two levels--the physical and the emotional--is, for me, the most humane aspect of this book. I eagerly discovered things alongside him as he devoured what scarce books he can find in the places he travels. One notable place is an abandoned mall outlet where small groups of Christian families reside. His collective experience with these people is one of the most ironically comical yet heartwarming moments found in the novel."Why don't we talk to one another? Why don't we huddle together against the cold wind that blows down the empty streets in the city? People used to read, hearing the voices of the living and the dead speaking to them in eloquence silence, in touch with a babble of human talk that must have filled the mind in a manner that said I am human. I talk and I listen and I read. Why did we stop reading? What happened?" ~ Mary LouMary Lou is an engaging, clever and intelligent young woman who was inquisitive enough to figure out by herself that there is something amiss in the world she lives in. All her life she has been on the run, disobeying rules and making a mockery of the robot-police state, all for the sake of not forgetting what makes her human and unique in spite of the initial programming all children are required to undergo which diminishes personality and identity. Paul was understandably drawn to her and as he teaches her to read, she in turn opens him up to a realm of turbulent feelings and creative musings, instilling in him dismissed qualities such as imagination and intellectual curiosity. Her journey in this book is about satisfying that same curiosity as well as understanding why children have become extinct and accepting that there is a faint glimmer of hope that she may have found a way to turn things around if she's brave and resolute enough to do it."I would like to know, before I die, what it was like to be the human being I have tried to be all my life." ~ Robert SpofforthSpofforth is the first character we get introduced to in this book but the role he plays is much less personal but nonetheless just as moving and sad. A robot created by implanting another living person'a brain, he suffers dreams and thoughts from that late person's life and so develops an acute sense of 'humanness'. This is troubling because what Spofforth really wants to do is to cease to exist but his programming does not allow him to die as long as humans still have a need for his kind, a robot of the Make Nine series, and probably the last one there is. For an android, Spofforth is surprisingly humane and often relatable, especially during such times he is subjected to gloom and suicidal thoughts. Mockingbird is an enduring work of the heart and the imagination, an enchanting tale about human resilience and creativity while also being a painful yet also humorous commentary on the qualities that we as humans value and celebrate and the awful aftermath that follows once we take these same things for granted in the long run. Much like Brave New World, this book's take on a dystopic society of drug-addled and individual-based society is unforgettable, and its prose is sparse yet can powerfully illuminate dark recesses of the soul in the same manner Specimen Days has achieved as well. The world Paul and Mary Lou live in may be underpopulated but their story will certainly proliferate strong emotions from readers who will consume it and hopefully appreciate such simple yet essential things in life we can so easily forget and destroy. A MUST-HAVE AND READ!RECOMMENDED: 9/10DO READ MY REVIEWS AT

  • Emma
    2019-06-11 20:01

    'Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.'Wow! This blew me away! On a par with Brave New World, an alternative version of future dystopia. What bibliophile wouldn't love a quote like this:'I feel free and strong. If I were not a reader of books I could not feel this way. Whatever may happen to me, thank God that I can read, that I have truly touched the minds of other men.'Don't ask. Relax. This is the message the population are programmed to think in this futuristic USA.The technological themes of this book seem particularly prevalent to me in our current age. What is the meaning of life? What does it mean to be happy? What is the role of family in society? What does it mean to be an individual?Tevis explores these philosophical themes and also takes a look at religion while doing so..ambitious for a relatively short book! And he pulls it off..a very thought provoking read.

  • Sean Gainford
    2019-05-28 18:58

    Unfortunately Ends Up Just Being AverageThis is the first time that for the first 80 pages of a book I couldn't put it down and then for the rest of the book it ends up being below average. At first it was so interesting, so bizarre. I was fascinated and entranced by this dystopia world and thought I had found another great author. But then it seems the author just ran out of steam. I actually thought to myself that Tevis is sabotaging his work on purpose. The characters started to become boring, there were pointless scenes, grammatical errors, and he even named one of his main characters incorrectly! The message of the book is also a bit too academic and lacks subtlety: Inwardness, privacy, self-fulfilment, drugs, pleasure, technology = bad. Reading, knowledge, friends, family = good. I couldn't understand what Spofforth was about though. If the message of the book is that reading and knowledge and intellectual curiosity is a good thing, this definitely wasn't the case for Spofforth, who is more knowledgeable then anybody left on the planet, seems to appreciate beauty, but whose mind is always tired and who wants to die. So the message I was getting was what is the point of it all? Why not just snuff it? I'm also not sure about the phrase that Paul keeps repeating throughout the book: `Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods'. Maybe arbitrarily saying such strange things is some kind of side effect of popping one too many sopor pills. I have no idea what it means and it is probably some line out of a bad poem. It is obvious that Paul doesn't know what it means either. But that is probably the point of it - you don't need to know what it means you just have to feel something when the phrase is said. It personally made me feel bored every time I heard it. There were definitely some scenes in the book that were quite boring and should have really just been cut altogether. The whole encounter with the religious sexist commune was too mundane and contemporary actually. It seemed like something that you would still find in some small redneck southern town in America. Then Paul discussing parts out of the bible and analysing Jesus was just pointless and dull. I think this book possibly could have been much better if the relationship between Mary Lou and Paul was developed more strongly, rather than just having Mary Lou become nonchalant about their relationship and Paul ending up being just a sad, whining character in love with a woman who doesn't care much about him. Unfortunately I think the conversation Mary Lou has with Spofforth sums the book up: `If no one gets born,' I said, `there won't be any more people on the earth.' He was silent for a minute. Then he looked at me. `Do you care?' he said. `Do you really care?' I looked back at him. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know if I did care. And by the end of the book, the reader isn't really inspired to care either. Supposedly this book was written by Walter Tevis towards the end of his life and after he battled depression and alcoholism for many years. To me this book didn't convince me that Walter Tevis was leaving this world a man completely convinced that this world was worth saving. Maybe the character that best portrays Tevis is Spofforth. A man with great amount of knowledge and skill, who can appreciate beauty, but still can never overcome his sadness he has. Who knows. I'll still give this book three stars, because there was some really good ideas in it and because this book is definitely going to bring some type of response from the reader. I doubt that anybody can read this book and just be nonchalant about it. It is just disappointing though because it could have been great, and could really have been a SF Masterwork.

  • Jennifer
    2019-06-24 21:51

    There are aspects of this book that terrify me. At least Skynet tried to kill us humans in one fell swoop. This was something different. Slow and insidious. Our doing really in the end. There were some bits about past technology that didn't quite hold up, but all in all it isn't to terribly off the mark. At least in my mind. I have to say at one point I became very anxious (I needed some Sophor to get me through those chapters) And I found myself loathing a character. A few chapters later I felt bad for that same character. For me this was a glimpse into a future I do not want to live in. Reading is a super power. Keep it, maintain it, encourage it. Lets not lose it.

  • Carmine
    2019-06-09 00:38

    La meccanica dell'Io interiore L'uomo si è sempre contraddistinto nel cercare di trasmettere qualcosa di sé nelle sue creazioni, forse nello stupido e disperato tentativo di giocare a fare Dio.Ogni decorso morale, spirituale e, infine, autodistruttivo viene accelerato dall'esasperazione tecnologica, imperscrutabile custode di un mondo con la data di scadenza, forse ancora vivo solo per un bulimico accanimento terapeutico da farmaci calmanti e scalette preconfezionate di azioni abitudinarie da rispettare.Se dovessimo riscoprire i tentativi di veicolare emozioni e storie attraverso film e libri, quale potrebbe mai essere il pericolo?Forse il ritorno di ogni tipo di emozione, comprese quelle che hanno portato sull'orlo del baratro il pianeta?E se è vero che aldilà della porta c'è tutto, conviene accettare questo mondo di compromesso e negarsi le intere potenzialità che la vita stessa può offrire?La nascita di un bambino e la morte di un anziano; ragazzini che giocano nel cortile alla guerra, mentre in un paese lontano la guerra è più che un gioco; un'azione caritatevole al prezzo del dolore inflitto a uno sconosciuto.Nessun Dio a sorvegliarci, solo l'autodeterminazione attraverso il libero arbitrio.Tutto oltre quella porta...

  • Eℓℓis ♥
    2019-06-11 21:48

    18\01\2018: Sono ancora sopraffatta dalle mille emozioni che questa lettura mi ha suscitato, al momento ho un unico aggettivo per descriverlo: straordinario.20\01\2018:Ecco la recensione ^_^

  • Julie Davis
    2019-06-01 19:44

    A Good Story is Hard to Find #110. Scott and Julie argue about the meaning of "Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods."Neighbors tell them to take it to the edge of the woods because it's 2:00 a.m. and "some of us have work in the morning!" They quiet down long enough to discuss Mockingbird.Reading this the second time was just as good as the first time, if not better.My original review is below.================Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.Why have I never heard of this magnificent book before?Thank goodness my mother, 80 years old and never afraid of a Kindle Daily Deal, read it and commanded me to do likewise.In the 25th century all the work is done by robots, the ones that haven't broken down. Mankind stumbles along in a drugged stupor, trained from birth to avoid thinking and that "privacy is supreme." They haven't the basic knowledge to repair anything, much less a complex machine.One of the last of the great thinking robots, Spofforth is the dean of the university in New York City. Paul from Ohio has taught himself the lost art of reading and wants to teach it at the university. Mary Lou has dropped out of the system only to be tempted into putting herself in harm's way by the lure of "What did you call it? Reading?" These three give us a fascinating and nuanced look at what it means to be human.I've been jaded by the plethora of recent apocalyptic novels but this one is different. Written in 1980 by the author of such varied works as The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hustler, this book is eerily prescient.Perhaps the highest tribute I can give this novel is that when I finished I didn't want to read another book. To do so would sully what I'd just read before I'd finished thinking about it, as well as be unfair to anything that followed because it wouldn't be able to compare.I can only say, as my mother did, "Why haven't we heard of Mockingbird before? Why isn't it a well-known classic?"Let's change that. Read it for yourself.

  • Althea Ann
    2019-06-05 23:50

    I didn't think I'd ever heard of Tevis, but as it turns out, he wrote 'The Man Who Fell to Earth,' (and, less relevantly, 'The Color of Money.')I'm also surprised that I never came across this book before, because in many ways, it's right up my alley - and I feel like I would have been even more enthused about it shortly after it was published, than now. In theme, and some particulars, the book is very reminiscent of 'Brave New World.' Set in a future New York City, a reduced, obedient populace self-medicates and approaches life with apathy. Robots serve people's needs - but everything is decaying, breaking down, and there are no children. In this bleak world, we meet three people - Spofforth, a handsome black robot whose programming prevents him from carrying out his suicidal urges; and two humans whose relationship is complicated by Spofforth: Mary Lou, a rebel who's ceased taking the soma-like drugs provided to all people, and Bentley, a teacher - such as a teacher can be in a society which has largely forgotten what reading is. Bentley's discovery of reading, coinciding with his meeting Mary Lou, leads him to start questioning what's going on around him, and what's happening to humanity.Overall, I liked the book - some nice commentary on the nature of humanity, and, of course, anything pro-reading is something I can get behind! (Even if the concept of learning to read from decaying, subtitled 1920's celluloid films in the 25th century is a little bit ridiculous… sorry, the originals are not going to be playable by then, even with ideal storage conditions.) However, it does feel a little dated - several aspects of the book made me feel more like it could have been written in 1960 rather than 1980; especially the social fears referenced by Spofforth's physical description (African American) and how he interacts in the plot.

  • Bibliophile
    2019-05-25 01:41

    Some dystopias seem worse than others. Popping happy-pills and letting robots do the dishes for you doesn't sound terribly upsetting to me, but no books? Nobody knows how to read anymore? The horror! Tevis had me hooked from the start thanks to the importance he attaches to the written word. The people of the future have put their lives in the hands of robots in order to pursue worldly pleasures, to the point where nobody remembers how to perform the simplest tasks. They spend their days drugged out of their minds, while babies fail to be born, robots fail to repair other robots, and society crumbles. Meet Spofforth, sexless, suicidal super robot, who takes care of NYC while longing for death (he has been programmed not to kill himself). Based on a human being, he experiences echoes of human feelings, but only enough to torture himself. Two humans, Paul and Mary Lou, become the Adam and Eve of this declining civilization when they learn to read and form new, revolutionary ideas. Unfortunately Spofforth has other plans for them, none of them including a new era for mankind.The story was compelling, and some of the imagery very effective. Halfway through, I started to lose interest. Paul's sejour among the reactionary Christians was dull, because, well, the Christians were sexist and horrible, and nobody discussed anything interesting (although it's comforting to know that 200 years from now, women will still be slutshamed and men will still reference a higher power when it suits them). The symbolism was way too heavy-handed and many of the novel's central ideas lacked subtlety. I also felt like the vision of the future could have been bolder. The book was written in the 80's but might as well have been from the fifties. Also: enough with the mockingbird already! Still, I read it in one sitting and I'm glad I did.

  • Lars Guthrie
    2019-06-06 01:47

    My work involves learning to read, so I watch children as they learn to read, and myself read about learning to read. In a dense but delightful, and short but important book on child psychology called 'Children's Minds,' Margaret Donaldson writes, 'So what makes us stop and think about our thinking—and thus makes us able to choose to direct our thinking in one way rather than another? We cannot expect to find any simple answer to such a momentous question—but…learning to read may have a highly significant contribution to make.' The dystopian premise of Walter Tevis's 'Mockingbird' is that a world without reading is a world without thought and feeling. His imagined future seems more plausible than 'Nineteen Eighty-Four's'--after all, Communism didn't work--and 'Brave New World's'--all those gadgets and geegaws are too much like the Monsanto House of the Future that never really happened. 'Mockingbird's' America is shoddy and decrepit. Robots do the thinking (and produce the goods), and the human population avoids feeling (and work) by smoking lots of dope and taking 'sopors.' Forget 'IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH;' the maxims here are 'Don't ask; relax' and 'When in doubt, forget it.' Intimacy is frowned upon: "Quick sex is best.' But no one's happy (or sad) and as nearly everyone turns inward, there are no more children. Suicide becomes 'the ultimate inwardness.' Pretty scary. We want to think, even though it causes pain and requires effort. We need to read.

  • Ajeje Brazov
    2019-05-30 23:57

    Una lettura davvero splendida, una storia che mi ha dato e fatto vivere emozioni e sensazioni che raramente ho provato con altri libri.Ovviamente un paragone con i mostri sacri, con i capisaldi del genere distopico è d'obbligo.Partendo da "Noi" di Zamjatìn, ho trovato affine la poetica in alcuni passaggi. Con "Il mondo nuovo" di Huxley invece ho trovato la stessa oppressiva e catastrofica ossessione per la tecnologia. Con "1984" di Orwell c'è la formula a diario della narrazione e conseguenti e crescenti stati d'animo del protagonista. Infine con "Fahrenheit 451" di Bradbury c'è la passione per i libri e la conoscenza. Ma nel complesso ciò che accomuna questi 5 capolavori della letteratura sono l'amore e la libertà.Tornando a "Solo il mimo canta al limitare del bosco", qui l'autore ci ha messo tutto se stesso, tutte le sue emozioni, si sentono proprio ad ogni pagina, sprizza di libertà, di felicità e poi si sente la tristezza per ciò che l'umanità si sta infliggendo da sola e non riesce a capacitarsene.E quindi, per me, Tevis ha scritto questo libro-inno alla vita, per urlare al mondo intero: "Pensiamo e riflettiamo su ciò che stiamo facendo!""L'oceano deve essere immenso; per me rappresenta la libertà e la possibilità. Schiude qualcosa di misterioso nella mia mente, come lo fanno a volte le parole che leggo nei libri; mi fa sentire più vivo di quanto avrei mai creduto di potermi sentire, e più umano."

  • Nelson Zagalo
    2019-06-11 01:33

    Uma das melhores fábulas de ficção-científica que já li. Quando deixamos de ler, o que acontece ao mundo que nos rodeia? Quando deixamos de escrever, o que nos acontece enquanto pessoas? Uma distopia que coloca em cena respostas a estas perguntas, a partir de uma sociedade tecnologicamente evoluída na qual os humanos deixaram as responsabilidades às costas dos robôs. Uma fábula que tem tanto de instigante como de pungente. Quando se questiona o valor da escrita e da leitura, acaba-se por questionar o valor de se estar vivo.

  • Yarb
    2019-06-03 02:52

    Perhaps I'm losing my taste for dystopias, at least the futuristic kind. Reading the gushing reviews all over the internet makes me feel almost as isolated from society as the inhabitants of Tevis's moribund 25th century USA.[return][return]The big idea is that after the standard technological misadventures - WWIII, fallout, mass-death, global government - humankind has come to eschew all interaction and individual expression, with people retreating into their inner worlds while being fed, clothed and stupefied with fertility-inhibiting drugs by a decrepit robotocracy prone to malfunction and scarcely able to perpetuate itself. The chief symptom of this great turning-inward is that no-one can read anymore (nor does anyone want to), and so enter our hero, a middle-aged everyman Adam who manages to rediscover this long-suppressed art by viewing an old educational film hidden in a stash of pornos. This, and his happening upon a latter-day Eve who is the only undrugged, fertilewoman left in the world, sparks a competently-plotted journey of discovery with a conclusion highly satisfying to all involved.[return][return]A couple of bits I liked: the background phenomenon of people publicly immolating themselves in threes as the ennui gets too much for them. And the best thing in the book, an uplifting conversation with a bus which seems to have driven right out of a Douglas Adams story.[return][return]So I suppose I'd have to recommend this strongly to anyone who likes this kind of thing. It's not a bad book. But there are three reasons I didn't enjoy it, and at least two of them must warrant depriving it of a star:[return][return]Firstly and perhaps most unfairly, I found it a chore to read, because most of the book is written from the perspective of people with only a basic level of (emotional and actual) literacy. So the more successful Tevis is in demonstrating the constraints of his characters, the less room there is for any dynamism in the pros e. I appreciate that most people prefer a plain style, but this isn't Hemingway... it's an immersion in the painful struggle of the characters to express things that we take for granted. I got the point fairly early on and by the end felt as weary as you'd expect after several hours in the company of people with very little emotional experience and limited capacity to express it.[return][return]Second, I was pretty unconvinced by Tevis's choice of dystopia. Sure, we can always point at our modern connected media-infused over-medicated existences and say this book is prophetic, but you can find something prophetic about any SF novel. That's kind of the point, isn't it? I think where Tevis lost me was with his universal child brainwashing complexes and non-existent economy (free basics for all and no work). In general I find more plausible those scenarios born of entropy than those born of some sinister over-arching system.[return][return]Finally I suspect part of the reason I 'm not so moved as Everyone Else on the Internet is because this is very much a "triumph of the human spirit" novel. I can't stand triumphs of the human spirit. I also dislike the fetishisation of reading, and though I don't think "Mockingbird" goes that far, many of its cheerleaders do.

  • Anna
    2019-06-07 18:38

    This past week I’ve had two guests staying while also working full time, which really cut into my reading time. Nonetheless, I made it through ‘Mockingbird’, an interesting science fiction curiosity from 1980. 451 years in the future, the few humans that remain are served by robots, high on drugs, and wholly estranged from one another. The world-building has a nice sense of the bleakly absurd, studded as it is with malfunctioning closed-loop toaster factories, contraceptive valium, and ‘thought buses’. Very nearly everyone is illiterate, a point of great significance to the plot. The main narrator, Bentley, teaches himself to read and finds that this wholly transforms his life. He encounters Mary Lou (somewhat of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl) and Spofforth (the most advanced robot to exist and thus essentially in charge of the world). Bentley stumbles from situation to situation, gradually becoming proactive, while the reader wonders what exactly is going on with Mary Lou and Spofforth. The structure of the book is peculiar, frankly. It isn’t plot-led, nor really character-led, rather the narrative seems to play with ideas. There is a whole series of chapters in which Bentley encounters 25th century Christianity, for example. I wasn’t really sure what to make of that section. The treatment of anomie and atomisation was probably the most powerful element. What remains of American society appears unaware and indifferent to its downfall, as from early childhood everyone has been trained to look inward and to avoid connections with others. Tevis’ vision recalls Brave New World in some respects, except the machines that labour has been delegated to have their own agendas, or simply do not work as they should. In fact, one interpretation is of a world in which machines have taken their revenge on humanity for being created as slaves, without humanity really noticing. I wasn’t overjoyed by the emphasis on heterosexual romantic love as fundamental to regaining humanity, however I did appreciate Mary Lou’s general ambivalence about most things. I cannot help feeling that the last couple of chapters would have been improved by her point of view. Nonetheless, the rather predictable ending is beautifully written and packs quite a punch. I’m still unsure whether to give ‘Mockingbird’ three stars or four. On balance I think it must be three, as doesn’t examine its themes with nuance so much as muddily blur them together. The dangers of excessive individualism are well-explored, however religion, popular media, community, and mechanisation get much more erratic treatment. Perhaps the whole thing would have seemed more cohesive if I’ve read it in a fewer sittings? It might also be that it rewards re-reading. On balance, though, it struck me as an intriguing dystopia that spent too much time with its least interesting character and strung together some thought-provoking ideas in a rather loose fashion. Perhaps its relative incoherence is representative of when it was first published - on the cusp of the 1980s, when America was on the verge of a huge socioeconomic shift towards neoliberalism.

  • Simon
    2019-06-12 21:01

    A dystopian future awaits us although in this case, not one that was thrust upon us, but rather one in which we have carelessly walked into. Our relentless drive towards automating everything, our pursuit of pleasure and rugged individualism has led to a society in which we are run by robots and humans have become hopelessly uneducated, permanently drugged out of their minds and are losing the will to live.Now things are falling apart. No one knows how to read anymore or how anything works, most of the robots created to look after us killed themselves because they couldn't bare living, the population is dwindling rapidly and everyone is too stoned to know or care anyway. The future looks bleak and humanity doesn't look worth saving anyway.This story centers around three characters. Spoforth, the last super intelligent robot left alive and only still around because he was programmed not to be able to kill himself. Bentley, someone who inadvertently teaches themselves to read and Mary Lou who regains her mental faculties as she can't stomach the drugs. The two human characters eventually find each other and begin an awakening together.This is a lament at the way the author saw society as heading and there probably is some validity to his fears. The future he envisaged doesn't seem too far-fetched. It certainly gives you pause for thought. A bleak vision but not without some hope, for both those people in the story who've found themselves in that mess, and ourselves who still have a chance to avoid it.

  • David
    2019-06-04 00:44

    Questions for book club discussion (mostly unasked):- Was Walter Tevis a giant Republican?- Quick sex, is it really best?- Your choice: monkey bacon, pork bacon, or something from the sandwich machine at the zoo?- Is "Biff" an appropriate name for a female cat, even in a terrifying dystopia where nobody can read?

  • Jacob
    2019-05-29 22:33

    This was originally published in 1980, but I think it holds up amazingly well. One of the key reasons is the author built the story on a premise of people interacting less and less with each other and more with machines, with drugs, and with simply amusing themselves. The tendency to privacy, lack of relationship development, and shirking responsibility is taken to an extreme here but it addresses trends that have still been happening for the last 35 years since Mockingbird was published.The setting is America a few hundred years into the future where people built robots to do all their work and then retreated into a life of selfish and purely personal amusement, and over time lost the ability to do what the robots do for them, repair the robots, or even read. The human race is dying out due to sheer apathy. Small groups of humans are rediscovering aspects of humanity they've lost, but it's not clear they'll put enough back together to make it stick.There are some neat ideas in here, from the robots being made of human organic material to "thought buses" which telepathically understand where people want to go and take them there, and which can actually function as Rogerian-style therapists. I don't think this kind of future is anywhere near likely; the human urge to understand how things work and to connect with each other is far too strong to be quelled as completely as in this setting, but it's interesting to see people wake up to a reality that is not what most people think reality is (kind of like The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy).

  • Rose
    2019-06-07 18:36

    I was torn between three and four stars but I think I would have liked this more if it didn’t remind me of so many other books I’ve already read but this was written almost 40 years ago so I can’t fault Mockingbird for me not reading it before the others.Mockingbird is a dystopian future where we have created robots to do most of our tasks so that we could relax and be more introspective. Like pretty much everything else, we take this to the extreme. Drugs are given out to everyone to relax. You can smoke joints or take pills called Sopors (Valium). The other thing the government has done is put the robots in charge of our lives including population control. This means there are anti-fertility drugs in the Sopors that everyone is popping like candy. We also believe privacy is paramount and therefore keep to ourselves blissfully ignorant in our drug-induced state.Sounds somewhat reasonable at first but now that we have created the utopia humans have always wanted, there seems to be nothing left to live for. Suicide is a regular occurrence. People don’t even realize why they are becoming unhappy, so they take more drugs to make themselves feel better.I wouldn’t have guessed this was written back in 1980. It didn’t feel very dated but I’m biased – I loved the 80’s. If you are a fan of This Perfect Day and Brave New World, you'll more than likely really like this also.

  • Beverly
    2019-06-20 02:47

    Brave, brainy robot, Spofforth is tired of taking care of humans; he had done so for centuries. Bentley and Mary are just the humans to help, Bentley by teaching himself to read and then teaching Mary, start a journey of connection to each other and then to the rest of humanity. Marvelous look at why reading is so important and why we should never lose this great gift.

  • Monica
    2019-06-11 02:33

    Borrowed from the Amazon Lending Library. What I had hoped to find was an unsung classic SF novel. What I got was a heavy handed dystopian fairy tale with overwrought proclamations of what it means to be human.This book had a 70s vibe to it. There's an old saying "70s Scifi is all about hexagons." A bit of a riff off of the old Battlestar Galactica series where all the books had the corners cut off's the future! This novel reads like that. It's an allegory of the future where the corners are cut off but the trajectory is the same. It's just gone to the extreme. Robots manage everything from the overall management and maintenance of roads, schools, facilities etc to the growing of food and purification of water and air. This is so that man can pursue loftier goals of intellect and self actualization. They are to discover the joys of "Inwardness". Mankind has lost it's purpose. The population is sterile and docile through a drug induced euphoria. Families no longer exist. Children are raised in Dormitories according to their prescribed functions in life. People do not know how to read, nor do they care because robots take care of everything. But the robots are breaking down and the human knowledge to repair them has died off. There are manuals, but no one reads anymore. One of the lead characters Paul Bentley teaches himself to read and the self actualization begins. He meets a woman who does not take her pills and together they start discovering that there is more to life than bad TV and sex and popping pills. There are obstacles along the way including a severely depressed, supersmart/capable robot that wants to die but has programming which prohibits him from offing himself while there are still humans alive to serve. But he really wants to die so he finds a pretty creative way (view spoiler)[He tricks a census machine into thinking that mankind is overpopulating the earth. The census machine that provides the drugs induces sterilization in the dormitories and fullproof contraceptives in their anti-anxiety pills (which are like vitamins to mankind). No babies have been born for 30 years. Once everyone has dies, the robot can die too (hide spoiler)].Kind of a cliched story with an interesting twist. The first half of the book was significantly more successful than the second half. This is where Tevis sets up this interesting world. Bentley teaches himself to read and meets and courts Mary Lou. The character of Spofforth was introduced and not revealed too quickly adding a mystery and intrigue to the character. Unfortunately (with the exception of the twist), the second half feels very rushed and frankly poorly written. Bentley suddenly becomes quite learned and philosophical though the passage of time is less than two years. The author tries to inject time confusion by not using years as a measurement but colors "It's been 2 yellows since I've seen her". "I haven't seen the cat for 3 blues" and then the author would switch back to days. There were a lot of inconsistencies like this. The author took a stab at Christianity with decidedly (IMO) bad results. Tevis did not bash religion but his attempt to create a circumstance where it was an important part of Bentley's self-awareness was clumsy at best and poorly done in my mind. Also, and I acknowledge that these nitpicks are more of a sign of the times when the novel was written and not intended to offend, the novel's treatment of women was dated (view spoiler)[One character kills herself rather than to engage in any kind of intimacy with a man who is not her husband. It's a great sin. No male characters have any such issues with intimacy. Intimacy in this case includes confidences and a touch of the arm etc (hide spoiler)]. The chapter names are the characters last names (Bentley, Spofforth) except for the woman. She is referred to as Mary Lou. Lastly, the treatment of race in the future is weird. Oddly, Spofforth is black. Tevis may have done that for a reason, but it isn't evident. It had nothing to do with the story (view spoiler)[though he did note that no other black person was a robot (hide spoiler)]. It smacked of sensationalism. Trying to be superficially different to sell a book. "Hey people, I'm brave enough to make one of the lead characters black" Though seriously this lead character only had about 15 pages of the book, so not really much of a lead. Since in this future there is no difference between black and white at least in terms of characterization; why is the difference noticed all? And it is mentioned like a bludgeon. In almost every description of Spofforth is his huge stature and handsome dark complexion, like it's some sort of handicap the he has overcome (in contrast the reader has no idea what Bentley looks like and he's truly the main character). "He's the most powerful agent in the world and he's black..." This one kind of clunked. Started off well, but fell off after 45%. Tevis wrote "The Hustler", "The Color of Money" and "The Man who Fell to Earth". I really wanted this to be better.3.5 starsEdited to Add: Reading other reviews has convinced me to up my rating. Others point out that this is a novel about depression. Reviewed in that context rather than as a scifi novel, it takes on a more interesting turn. I think this would make a great book club read in analyzing those subcomponents. Lots of oddness in the obstacles Bentley encounters and the loss of time, how he deals with the emotional obstacles etc. The way the characters don't really know how to care for each other. All the characters in their own way are just coping with life. Playing the hand they are dealt. The emotion in the novel really is absent. It never occurred to me that might be intentional. I still don't think it's a great book, but psychologically it's more compelling than my initial review would imply.

  • Ben Babcock
    2019-06-22 02:57

    Many of the most seminal dystopian novels are chilling for the extent to which they depict a “new normal” of human existence. By this I mean that these novels don’t just portray people oppressed or living under the thumb of a ruling class or technologically-imposed social structure—no, the best dystopian novels create a world in which people are happy, or at least satisfied, with the new status quo. Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 all do this to some extent.Fahrenheit 451 is particularly relevant in this case. It shares with Mockingbird the consideration that literacy is a cornerstone of our current human civilization. Now, in the former book, literacy was allowed—it was reading books that was banned; in Mockingbird, Walter Tevis takes things one step further and has humanity forget how to read or write at all. Whereas Bradbury preserves family structures, Tevis creates a collectivist, dysfunctional future in which people grow up as alone as possible while still together. They spend their days lulled into contentment by drugs and mood-altering videos until the emptiness and pointlessness of this existence compels some to unremarked, unmourned suicide. Meanwhile, the smartest robot left on Earth keeps things in New York humming along—but he too wants to die.It’s all kind of a downer, really.As far as dystopias go, Mockingbird’s is relatively plausible. Much of the technology that Tevis posits centuries from now when writing in 1980 is around, in some form, already. It’s believable that humans would find the prospect of a less troubling, more internalized life more attractive than the conflict of having to interact with one another. The idea that our civilization could be reduced to drug addicts managed by ill-maintained robots is troubling, but not all that far-fetched.I'm a little confused about where all the people from the developing world are in this book. Spofforth talks a lot about “world” population and population controls. Technology creates dystopias through the unequal distribution of technology (and, therefore, power). Yet this scenario contains within it a paradox that would prevent that dystopia from becoming absolute: there are many places that do not have the technological infrastructure to succumb to the dystopian visions these stories depict. These stories tend to gloss over what happens to the billions of people not affected by this dystopia. Did they all get killed off? Or are there free humans happily living outside the United States, blissfully unaware of what’s going on there—or totally aware and very glad they aren’t addicts like Americans?Like its setting, Mockingbird’s plot is also pretty decent. There are some standard “rediscovering civilization” tropes, with Bentley stumbling across a proper library for the first time, or reading the Bible, or making ironic remarks about how weird the way things used to be seem to him. Tevis plays it as slightly humorous for the reader but deadly serious for Bentley and Mary Lou—there is a very real, palpable sense of loss and anguish over how much humanity has forgotten. Thank goodness for books! As someone who is a voracious reader, and always has been, I couldn’t imagine being illiterate. But Mockingbird really underscores just how we take literacy for granted. Even if you personally don’t read a lot of fiction, you’re around enough people who do that you absorb a lot—we call this herd literacy (and by “we” I mean “I just made that up”). And there’s much more going on here than just Bentley’s quest for literacy, of course. There is plenty of commentary on everything from the nature of family, of privacy, of love, to the ethics around building artificial intelligences.At times the plot let me down in the sense that I was kind of expecting a little more from it. Spofforth is a quixotic character. I half-expected him to be a bit more of a Xanatos mastermind, in the God-Emperor of Dune sense, if you catch my drift. But he seemed pretty haphazard with it all. And in the end, although I sympathized with him, I thought that Tevis could have exploited all his potential to better effect.That’s something that generalizes to a great deal of the book, actually. Mockingbird has a great setting and a decent plot, but its narration and pacing utterly killed my interest. The narration jumps between Bentley, Spofforth, and Mary Lou. The chapters are uneven and often quite lengthy, though, and the narrative style is as dry as a package of irradiated lima beans. I much prefer it when books that take this route leave off on cliffhangers to keep you wanting to return to each character’s perspective as soon as possible.So I guess I can see why Mockingbird is not better known or celebrated as some other dystopian novels from this era. It’s a shame, in a way, because it makes such great points. This could be a perfectly adequate movie to catch on AMC one day along the same lines as The Postman. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to recommend it (it really does feel like a slog most of the time), but it’s got interesting ideas.

  • El
    2019-05-24 20:53

    This is my nightmare: a world where the human population is declining (though the android population is thriving), no one can (or even desires to) read, and everyone pops Valium (also designed to help curb fertility) just to get through the day. There's very little human interaction, and what little there manages to be is highly monitored.That's this story, and it freaked me out, the solitary cat that I am. It unsettled me, which is certainly the point, mission: accomplished. Published in 1980 I wonder what Tevis would say about the state of things today, where most people carry phones called Androids, and so much communication is done via technology. I don't know the actual figures of where things stand when it comes to literacy today, though as far as I'm concerned people don't read nearly enough. Most interaction is through our phones and our computers; maybe it's just me but it seems when people actually get together there's this level of weirdness, like they don't know how to talk to each other anymore. Nine times out of ten someone in a group is texting someone else in a different group. It seems to be hard for people to communicate face-to-face.Oh, who am I kidding? I'm getting old and curmudgeonly. This is nothing new.This book made an impact on me - not in the same way other dystopic novels like Dhalgren did, but any good dystopia makes one think about the state of society in which it was read, and not so much just when it was written. Mockingbird doesn't seem so impossible today, which is frightening, especially considering the story is to take place far into the future where none of us will actually live. Still, it's not unfathomable and it makes me want to read up on how to dig for clams in case I ever need to be on my own, finding my way to New York along the Eastern Seaboard.Above all, though, it makes me want to read. And read some more. And not stop reading.

  • Ademption
    2019-06-19 19:59

    Mockingbird is an excellent YA novel full of morbid black comedy. A sad robot, a film professor, and a zoo-living, half-feral lady are the only reflective people left on Earth. The other, few million individuals are drugged out or mutely religious. Everyone is sterile. The current fad is to self-immolate in trios down at Burger Chef after a pointless life of quick sex and sleeping pills. Through the last couple, the prof and the wild woman, who meet at the NYC Zoo's Reptile House, mankind comes to terms with its looming extinction.As bleak as the set up sounds, this novel is a paean to the skill and joy of reading. As the film professor learns to read deeper --an eccentric skill he picked up as a kid from an ancient set of flashcards and learning cassettes-- he discovers a sense of purpose and wakes up from the nightmare of a world grown retarded with convenience and privacy. For decades, robots helped humans lose touch with themselves. These fascinating tools, created to aid humans, tirelessly continue to help humanity towards self-destruction.Mockingbird is Walter Tevis' other novel of wintry sadness, possible apocalypse, and humans beyond redemption. Tevis distills the brutal melancholy of the self-reliant loner, packages it, and sells it as novels. This one is a little overlong, because Tevis was a tad didactic in reiterating the same themes and conclusions multiple times, but the book is otherwise brilliant.

  • Metello
    2019-06-17 20:40

    La vicenda in breve:un'umanità decadente, dove conta solo la privacy e l'individualitàun super robot (serie 9) solo e conscio della sua umanità incompleta (un mockingbird?)un uomo che impara a leggere, l'unico e il primo dopo tanti anniuna donna più intelligente e scappata dalla società inebetente.Un libro che mi ha coinvolto fin da subito, con questi due protagonisti (più la donna, secondaria rispetto agli altri), ognuno con il suo obbiettivo di umanità, uno di completezza, l'altro di riscoperta; uno di vita troppo lunga e mai decisa, forse mai voluta, l'altro di conoscenza di sé tramite il confronto con gli altri, la lettura e la scrittura come mezzi di auto-conoscenza.Sullo sfondo una società dove dei robot, esseri senza vita, sono i depositari dell'ordine, delle decisioni e della produzione di un mondo in cui gli uomini, ovviamente, stanno morendo.PS Titolo originale: mockingbird (mimo)Prima edizione: Solo il mimo canta al limitare del bosco (citazione del libro, che comunque contiene mimo)Seconda edizione: Futuro in trance. Ma perché???????

  • Joanna
    2019-05-28 02:02

    This is a beautiful book, John, and I think I can understand why it was one of your favourites. The combination of the tragic and the humorous, of the pathetic and the absurd, the hopeful and the hopeless is truly compelling. The way in which the author represented the power of the written word, of poetry, of reading as the way out of soporific loneliness and a direct route to achieving true intellectual and emotional independence as well as a sense of history, community of minds, of being anchored in a context larger than one’s self, was always going to be so convincing to you and me, and all of us bookworms. I am sorry I didn't get around to reading it when I could have still talked to you about it. 'My life is light, waiting for the death wind,Like a feather on the back of my hand.Dust in sunlight and memory in cornersWait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.' T.S.EliotR.I.P.Thank you for sharing this with me.

  • Bethnoir
    2019-05-25 20:01

    Accessible and interesting, this book imagines a world where humans had lost all purpose and culture and the only intelligence remaining is a suicidal robot. The journey of the humans back to humanity is difficult, but touching. I enjoyed this book.

  • Kaethe
    2019-06-19 22:42

    Mockingbird (Del Rey Impact) - Walter Tevis   The sexism, it burns.Not a great book. There's the intellectual smugness, a feeling that the vast majority of humanity is Just Not Worth It. Although the author is able to imagine technologic breakthroughs, he can't conceive of a single piece of art worth the name arising in two hundred years, and everything else is just crap. Mostly plastic crap. There are good drugs, and pot is ubiquitous as the smoke of choice, but there isn't a single new good thing for hundreds of years except the thought buses. Hell, he can't even go so far as to imagine women wearing pants. The smartest human surviving is a woman, but she doesn't get an active role, she's just the passive love interest.Nonetheless, he did have some very nice things to say about reading, so not entirely worthless.Library copy