Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Why Do Birds Paperback – July, 1994

3.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

See all 4 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
$34.01 $1.29
Unknown Binding
"Please retry"

Best Books of the Month
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ed Stone, kidnapped by aliens in the 1930s, returns to Earth in 2002 to announce that the planet will soon be destroyed. Humanity can be saved, says Ed, only if everyone is packed into a giant box which the aliens will remove to another habitable planet. To boost his credibility, Ed wears a ring that charms everyone he shakes hands with into trusting him. Before long, he's shaking hands with world leaders and the human race is scrambling to get into the box. Knight avoids the mistake of trying to sound plausible. Despite the detailed discussion of the physical, political and geographical ramifications of packing the human race into a box, the basic premise remains absurd, which is precisely what gives this provocative tale by the author of The Observers its kick, from the hilariously deadpan beginning to its apocalyptic conclusion. Some readers might interpret the story as a satire of the New Age or an indictment of today's media-controlled culture, but why bother? A book this much fun to read doesn't need interpretations to justify its existence.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Ed Stone claims that aliens kidnapped him, held him in stasis for 70 years, and returned him to Earth with a grand plan to save the world from destruction. With this unlikely premise, sf veteran Knight ( The Observers , Tor, 1989; CV , Tor, 1986) begins a cautionary tall tale that is by turns a devastating look at human gullibility, a light-hearted spoof of world leaders and bureaucrats, and a poignant tale of love won and lost. Entertaining as well as disturbing, this sf parable belongs in most libraries.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr (July 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312890095
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312890094
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,317,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Forrest L. Norvell on April 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
Damon Knight was a revered writer, critic, editor and teacher within science fiction and he knew the ins and outs of his genre as well as anyone ever has. This book is clearly a product of a lifetime of working within the field (along with his last book "Humpty: An Oval"), and is only more enjoyable the more of its tropes you recognize. It plays as one extended riff on a very old idea, and part of the pleasure in reading it comes from recognizing the frequent references to earlier versions of itself. It is always plainly evident how much fun it must have been to write, and that carries over to the reader. The story flows with effortless smoothness, never pausing for exposition or to try to make sense of the compounded absurdities of the plot, and Knight never tips his hand as to what it's all about. I'm a close reader and I've read this book several times, and I'm still impressed by how seamless the tale is in the telling; Knight makes an absolutely preposterous story seem plainly obvious, and that is a difficult feat.

Is Ed Stone a pawn or a monster? Is he a con artist or a fraud? Or is he simply what he claims to be, a man wrenched out of time and given an absurd mission by "aliens"? Anyone expecting a satisfying resolution or explanation of what's going on is bound to be disappointed, nor is this a conventional character study (even by sf's lax standards). Much of the story's appeal comes from its irresistible momentum once it gets going, and the subtle way Knight uses transparently cartoonish caricatures to make brief, slashing observations about the way the world works and is. The politicians, businessmen, hustlers, and miscellaneous authority figures with whom Stone interacts hardly seem realistic, but that seems to be much of Knight's point.
Read more ›
Comment 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
I'm in the love it camp. It's one of my favorite novels.

Why is a sly satire. Sly twice over: it is not obviously a satire, and is not a satire with an immediately obvious target. The prose is not thorny grad student reading list wankery and this transparency is its greatest strength. It looks simple, feels effortless, and ends with a thudding whimper. It's a grand jape and a damn good one. The book is funny in the details and the total.

It's also a love letter to the tropes of SF. Knight was there near the beginning, near single-handedly creating SF criticism and creating a couple of the cliches himself with his early short stories. The better you know the history of the written genre the better the book is. Not fannish in-jokes or name checks but knowing the touchstones of the core works.

The plot summation is simple enough: a guy is given the ability to control a person when he shakes their hand. He shakes some hands and the leaders of the world build and load folk into giant stasis cubes to survive the apocalypse which may or may not be coming so they may or may not get rescued by aliens. Humanity gets loaded into these structures and the novel ends.

Bit at a loss how to convert anyone to seeing just how funny and clever the book is. Tried and completely failed with my girlfriend. "What the [bleep] is this? It doesn't end? Do the aliens come?!?" She was seriously pissed I made her read it.

Knight was a great short story writer but really struggled with novels. They were all godawful until the CV series which were a training run for "Why Do Birds" but he miraculously hit gold here near the end of his life.

Try this. Retitle the book "Why Do Birds Flock?" and reread it.
Comment 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
Why Do Birds is Damon Knight's second-last novel, from 1992. It is described on the cover, fairly accurately, as "A Comic Novel of the Destruction of the Human Race". (Actually, it's not clear that the Human Race is actually destroyed.) The main character is Ed Stone, who shows up in 2002 claiming to be from 1931, despite being about 30 years old. He says aliens kidnapped him and kept him on their spaceship for 70 years, and now they have released him and given him a job. He is supposed to convince everyone on Earth to voluntarily enter a huge cube, and go into suspended animation. Then the aliens will take everyone somewhere, while the Earth will be destroyed.

Naturally people think he's crazy -- indeed, he thinks he might be crazy. But he has a ring that compels anyone he shakes hands with to believe him. Before long he is meeting the President and other political leaders, and the Cube Project is well under way. He also acquires a girlfriend and a number of additional allies. But there are a few people who oppose his plans, in some cases for sinister reasons.

The narrative is deadpan, simple on the surface, often quite funny. Ed is a curious character -- not quite likeable, a bit sinister himself, but in the end someone we sort of root for. His girlfriend Linda Lavalle is rather more likeable. The story plays out over a dozen years or so, as the Cube is built, while the forces arrayed against Ed raise doubts about his story, and Linda has her own loyalties tested. The ending is pretty much as we are compelled to expect, and mostly satisfying. That said, I couldn't love the book -- parts of it made me impatient, and I must confess I am not sure what Knight was really up to. Certainly the aliens and their plans are never explained.
Read more ›
Comment One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews