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Mockingbird by Walter Tevis
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Mockingbird (original 1980; edition 1984)

by Walter Tevis

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5692417,472 (4)11
Member:Blue_Astral
Title:Mockingbird
Authors:Walter Tevis
Info:Corgi Adult (1984), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:science fiction, robots, dystopian

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Mockingbird by Walter Tevis (1980)

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» See also 11 mentions

English (21)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
A simply amazing story. How have I never heard of this book before? It is a stunningly rendered character study set in the years 2466 and 2467. The last generation of humans is living out their final days in a drug-induced stupor while the robot-controlled world crumbles around them. Tevis imbues all three of his first-person narrators with wonderful depth. He even manages to flip things around at times to show Robert Spofforth, the last robot of his kind - and the individual basically running the world - as having more human qualities than the remaining humans around him.

The character we spend the most time with, and that therefore exhibits the most growth, is Paul Bentley. Bentley is a male human who has somehow, against all odds, taught himself to read. And that is the linchpin upon which the fate of humanity rests. It's a cool riff on the power of reading or, "the touching of other men's minds", as it is put in the book.

The third narrator is Mary Lou Boren, a human female who is a highly intelligent rebel living on the fringes of a dying society. When Paul and she meet, it is her smarts and insights that propel Paul's growing awareness in directions he had never considered. I do wish that Mary Lou had not then been relegated to a more subordinate role but, considering the other strengths of the book and that we spend the least amount of time in her head, that is a relatively small complaint.

This is the last book I will be able to fit into my 2015 reading and it turns out to be one of the best of the year.

Highly recommended. ( )
  ScoLgo | Dec 31, 2015 |
Discussed on the A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, Episode 110.

http://agoodstoryishardtofind.blogspot.com/2015/06/good-story-110-mockingbird-by... ( )
  ScottDDanielson | Oct 15, 2015 |
Curious mix of known tropes from science and literary fiction. It goes into deeper reflections than a conventional post-apocalyptic story and transmits strongly the loneliness and sadness of the setting. The idea is good and the words are well chosen, but the plot evolves in irregular steps, with big jumps between long flat stretches. ( )
  ivan.frade | Sep 4, 2015 |
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Epigraph
The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm and does not concern itself alone with stimulating arrangements of color, form, and design. Edward Hopper
Dedication
For Eleanora Walker
First words
Walking up Fifth Avenue at midnight, Spofforth begins to whistle.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345431626, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:36 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The future is a grim place in which the declining human population wanders, drugged and lulled by electronic bliss. Even Spofforth - the most perfect machine ever created - cannot bear the oppressive existence. But hope lies in the form of a man and a woman who find passion and joy in love and in books.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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