Monday, April 13, 2015

A Magnificent Book: Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

MockingbirdMockingbird by Walter Tevis
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.

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