''Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang'' is a novel by Kate Wilhelm. Set in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, it's divided chronologically into four sections. The first takes place TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture; the second an unspecified number of generations further on (which also places it AfterTheEnd); the third about ten years later; and an epilogue a few decades after that.
The CharacterFocus for section one is David, a scientist, who returns to the Shenandoah Valley, and his family, in the wake of a global crisis. Crops are failing, mysterious diseases are showing up everywhere, and animals and people are becoming infertile. Working together with his old teacher, [[TheMentor Walt]], and other scientifically-trained members of his large extended family, David works to develop blight-resistant crops and plays a critical role in formulating cloning technologies first for animals, then for people. Testing later generations of clones, David and Walt discover that, while clones past the fifth generation are nonviable, the fourth and fifth generations produce greater numbers of fertile members, who can sexually reproduce.
They and the other "elders" (non-clones) assume that the clones share their feeling that sexual reproduction, and the resulting genetic diversity, is a desirable goal. When the first clones (fourth- and fifth-generation girls) become pregnant, David learns this assumption is mistaken. The clones instead intend to form a clone-based society, with the fertile members as mere fallbacks. David attempts to prevent this by destroying the cloning technology, but he is prevented, and subsequently exiled.
Section Two's CharacterFocus is Molly, implied to be the clone-descendent of David's [[KissingCousins cousin]] Celia. Like everyone else in the Valley, she is a member of a clone-family, and has five clone-"sisters," all identical to her, [[ThemeInitials all of whose names all begin with "M."]] Like them, she is an artist, and her ability to accurately reproduce what she sees is the reason she is named to an expedition to the "outside world," specifically Washington, [=DC=]. She will produce maps and sketches that will help future expeditions to forage for the technological supplies the Valley urgently needs. Following the expedition, Molly finds that she has become an individual, unable to subordinate herself to the needs of her clone-family. She bonds with Ben, another member of the expedition who develops a similar problem. Their son, Mark, becomes the CharacterFocus of the third section and the epilogue.
As the only individual in the Valley, teenage Mark is a loner, but his ability to tolerate, and even thrive during, separation from others -- along with the survival skills he learned from his mother and from books -- make him essential to the community, which is planning more foraging expeditions to meet their desperate need for supplies. Though he is incapable of fitting in with, or even of fully understanding, clone society, Mark does what he can to help. But eventually he realizes that his destiny, and any future humankind may have, lies elsewhere.
Winner of the 1977 UsefulNotes/HugoAward for Best Novel.
!!!Contains examples of:
* ApocalypseHow: Class 3B. Most of the Earth suffers Natural Human Extinction, along with some Species Extinction. Narrowly averted in the Valley through use of cloning technology.
* CharacterFocus: Primarily David, Molly, and Mark, but also Ben, Ben's brother Barry, and Molly's sister Miriam.
* CloneDegeneration: A significant problem for the clone culture. Eventually clone degeneration causes the newest members of their society to lose valuable skills, and finally the abilities of abstract conceptualization and creative problem-solving.
* ClonesArePeopleToo: The generation which creates the clones never considers that the clones might develop goals which are different from those of their creators.
* CloningBlues: Averted. The clones are valued by their human creators, and even develop a view of themselves as the next step in evolution.
* CrazyJealousGuy: Mark, especially by the standards of the clone community. What makes it worse is that they (even Susan, his girlfriend) really have no concept of an exclusive relationship.
* TheDividual: Clone families are extreme versions of the Twindividual variant. Not only are they physically identical, they have the same skills, the same tastes, and the same functions in the community. With the exception of the eldest of each family (who is head of the family) and, briefly, the expedition members, people are almost never seen separately from their family units. It's implied that they can't even achieve sexual satisfaction if the entire family is not participating in the act.
* HeroicSacrifice: Barry. Doubles as a CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming, as it can't have been done for any reason other than love.
* IndividualityIsIllegal: One of the truisms of the clone community is "What is right for the community is right even unto death for the individual. There is no individual, there is only the community." And a clone asserting his/her individuality is likely to be sentenced to exile -- which is even worse than it sounds, as the Valley community is apparently all that is left of humanity.
* LiteraryAllusionTitle: From Shakespeare's Sonnet 73.
* MandatoryMotherhood: If you are capable of conceiving and bearing children, you will, and as often as possible.
* ParentalAbandonment: Mark never knew his father, and was only seven when his mother committed suicide.
* ParentalSubstitute: Barry, for Mark.