08 November 2012

Review: Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

Mockingbird by Walter Tevis

Published: 1980

Pages: 288 (paperback)

Genre/s: Sci-Fi, Dystopia

Source: Own library

Check It OutGoodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis (Goodreads)

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.

My Thoughts

Several years ago I added Mockingbird to my ever-growing wishlist, and when I was looking to splurge on Amazon earlier this year, I decided to purchase a copy. When I realised it was tagged as 'literary sci-fi', my heart sank a little - would I really enjoy this book? 

Mockingbird is set in the late 25th century, and boy things have changed - humanity is now kicking back, smoking dope, taking pills and committing suicide by getting high and setting fire to themselves in public places. Reading is a thing of the past, and in fact is even illegal, as is teaching others to read. Robots of varying levels of intelligence keep things ticking and a robot named Spofford is in control. The human race itself is in danger of extinction as there have been no children born for more than 30 years, but in their drug-induced state, no one seems to have noticed, nor cares.

Traits and behaviors, such as the notion of Privacy have been taken to extremes - it is considered a faux pas to even ask after someone's health, and humans have been taught not to question anything, just to accept the inevitable. When Spofford discovers a young man named Paul Bentley who has taught himself to read, he brings him to NYC, and by chance, Paul meets Mary Lou, who cannot take the drugs that are handed out like candy, and begins to teach her to read.

Mockingbird explores some pretty intense parts of the human psyche - the insinuation being that human beings are naturally lazy and unmotivated, which started a pretty intense debate between myself and my partner - he was unconvinced, whereas I could see it as a possibility, particularly over several generations.

The majority of Mockingbird focuses on Paul, but there are also sections told from the POV of both Mary Lou and Spofford. It's hard to form an attachment to the characters, but they are more the catalyst than the focus of the story itself.

Despite my reluctance towards 'literary sci-fi', Mockingbird far surpassed my expectations, and even with its intensity, I couldn't put it down. The writing style is uncomplicated and it's not overly 'sci-fi-ey', it's far more an exploration of humanity, and what it is that defines us.


  1. "committing suicide by getting high and setting fire to themselves in public places" whoa. That's intense. This sounds so good, I love that it sparked up debate in your household, those are the best kinds of books. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Kat!

  2. Tevis is huge. He is best known for his novels The Hustler and The Man Who Fell to Earth. But I also (not knowing the connection) read The Steps of the Sun and remember liking it. He died young, so his output is somewhat limited for such a talanted author.

    1. He was certainly very talented. I'll be looking up more of his work, definitely.

  3. I like books that delve deep into both the human psyche and the nature of humanity as a whole, in fact, that's the exact reason I loved Lord of the Flies as much as I did. I think it really says something that a book can spark such debate not only with others but also within yourself in regards to these topics. Truly fascinating! I'll be adding Mockingbird to my list, for sure. I can't wait to spark debate in my own household now!

  4. Five star dystopia? I hadn't heard much of this one, though I did have it on NG. Now I have my eyes on it!



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