NORSTRILIA Mass Market Paperback – Jun 12 1985
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From Publishers Weekly
Cordwainer Smith, pseudonym of the late Paul Linebarger, a professor and part-time spy, wrote only one SF novel, but it is in keeping with the picture of a future world he built in his other fiction. This novel, originally conceived and published in two parts in 1964 and '68, and later issued in paperback by Ballantine in 1975, begins like a more traditional SF tale. Protagonist Rod McBan's Norstrilian peers consider him inferior because he lacks their telepathic abilities. Nearly "culled" as part of the strictly regulated society's population control, McBan uses a computer to arbitrage the galactic financial markets, enabling him, literally, to buy Earth. While the first half would merely have made an interesting novel, the second, more lyrical part displays Smith's superior writing abilities as he describes both the Underpeople (genetically designed combinations of humans and other species-and the Instrumentality (an organization for keeping humanity from becoming stagnant). The result: a novel that transcends its time. Though not a scholarly edition (the variorum is incomplete and the introduction leaves much to be desired), this composite text, ably edited by James A. Mann, is a fine companion to the author's complete short fiction, The Rediscovery of Man.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From the Publisher
This is a volume in the NESFA's Choice series. The objective of this series is to publish the "classic" works of neglected sf authors, and to keep these works in print. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
There are some good points, the ideas and the society created are very interesting. Unfortunately though it seems that in order to get more out of the book you will need to read his complete short fiction The Rediscovery of Man. Though this book should stand alone, it really doesn't and characters pop in and out without the reader ever learning who they are, why they do things and where they came from.
Apart from the interesting glimpses of the universe and the society imagined in the work the book did not work for me. The plot is muddled and disjointed. I'm not really sure there is a plot actually. I understand it is actually 2 shorts put together in novel form. The prose which is praised by so many others I found to be pedestrian.
For light on plot, new-wave science fiction that shows glimpses of a well envisioned society I'll stick with John Brunner.
Hopefully reading his short fiction will make this story more complete.
I'm a great fan of SF, but I really didn't enjoy the book that much, mainly because of the problems mentioned in other reviews (disjoint plot, undeveloped ideas and characters, etc). Sure, it has some unique ideas, but not that unique. If you want to read some great books from the same time period or earlier, check out Philip K. Dick, or Clifford D. Simak, or Alfred Bester. I find their work to be more brilliant, much more developed, wittier, and at times even more strange.
I may have enjoyed Norstrilia if I were ten years younger (ah, to be young again), but at my age it just doesn't stand up to it's peers from the same time. However, I certainly didn't hate it, it just wasn't that appealing. Also, given the high praise Mr. Smith has received here and elsewhere (indeed, it has been recommended to me by many), it may be worth your time. Even I may read it again to see if I missed something special.
What can I say? Try it, and I think you'll be hooked.
It's worth mentioning that Paul Linebarger (who wrote under the pen name of Cordwainer Smith) was the son of an American diplomat and a godson of pre-Communist Chinese leader Sun Yat Sen. He wrote a definite textbook on psychological warfare, among other things. He wrote mysteries as well, all unfortunately long out of print.
However, all of his science fiction has been made available PERMANENTLY by NESFA, the New England Science Fiction Association; "The Rediscovery of Man", a large hardcover collection of all of his short science fiction, and "Norstrilia" (which, by the way, is the name of the planet that the hero comes from, which was colonized by Australians and was originally called "Old North Australia"), his one novel. This is a definitive edition, including all the text from the two paperbacks that were originally released by hacking the original maniscript into two halves. This edition includes all linking text that was written just for the two separate editions, as well as the original version and all variants.
NESFA has announced that they have arranged to print new copies of these books on demand. They're quite high quality, too, well bound and printed on acid-free paper.
Incidentally, Smith's daughter has set up a web site about him and publishes a newsletter. P>Although nobody else is like Cordwainer Smith, for those who like him I'd highly recommend "Lord of Light" by Roger Zelazny and "Bridge of Birds" by Barry Hughart.
Most recent customer reviews
The book is full of great ideas and interesting characters. This is doubly impressive given its age; a lot of old science fiction just doesn't seem original, interesting, or... Read morePublished on Oct. 2 2001 by Justus Pendleton
Cordwainer Smith belongs to a rare group of truly original voices in the world of speculative fiction. Read morePublished on June 7 2001 by Matthew Clark
As another reviewer noted, it is too bad that the complete works of this great man are not fully available. Read morePublished on April 14 2001 by R. Swanson
Cordwainer Smith deserves the widest possible recognition. Perhaps the most highly literary of all science fiction writers before the New Wave of the sixties (and still, for my... Read morePublished on July 17 2000 by Robert James
Harlan Ellison (one of my other favorite authors) brought Cordwainer Smith to my attention sometime in the 70s. Read morePublished on Oct. 22 1999 by Lance Reid Totten (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As well as agreeing with the other reviews, I would like to comment on the 'feel' of the universe created by the author. Read morePublished on May 6 1999
I encountered Cordwainer Smith when I was very young, in Galaxy magazine (the Game of Rat and Dragon). Read morePublished on Feb. 25 1999 by Moderan
All the world created by C.S. is full of human feeling, something not much found un the world of SF. Every story is the expresion of your mental state, independly of the time. Read morePublished on Oct. 16 1998