- Hardcover: 671 pages
- Publisher: Nesfa Pr (Sept. 1 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0915368560
- ISBN-13: 978-0915368563
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 5.1 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
- Average Customer Review: 29 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #115,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith Hardcover – Sep 1 1993
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The third story in this volume takes place 16,000 years in the future. When you realize that the 33 stories are ordered chronologically, you begin to grasp the scale of Cordwainer Smith's creation. Regimes, technologies, planets, moralities, religions, histories all rise and fall through his millennia.
These are futuristic tales told as myth, as legend, as a history of a distant and decayed past. Written in an unadorned voice reminiscent of James Tiptree Jr., Smith's visions are dark and pessimistic, clearly a contrast from the mood of SF in his time; in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s it was still thought that science would cure the ills of humanity. In Smith's tales, space travel takes a horrendous toll on those who pilot the ships through the void. After reaching perfection, the lack of strife stifles humanity to a point of decay and stagnation; the Instrumentality of Mankind arises in order to stir things up. Many stories describe moral dilemmas involving the humanity of the Underpeople, beings evolved from animals into humanlike forms.
Stories not to be missed in this collection include "Scanners Live in Vain," "The Dead Lady of Clown Town," "Under Old Earth," "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal," "Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons," and the truly disturbing "A Planet Called Shayol." Serious SF fans should not pass up the chance to experience Cordwainer Smith's complex, distinctive vision of the far future. --Bonnie Bouman
From Publishers Weekly
Smith (real name: Paul M. A. Linebarger) is one of many underappreciated science fiction writers of the 1950s and '60s, and this hefty volume should help reinvigorate his reputation. Editor Mann has gathered all of Smith's published science fiction stories, as well as a rewritten version of "Ward 81-Q" and another piece, "Himself in Anachron" (completed by Genevieve Linebarger, the author's widow), which have never appeared in print before. The vast majority of the tales take place within the framework of a general future history later dubbed the Instrumentality of Mankind saga, whose linked but independent components include Smith's most famous pieces: "Scanners Live in Vain," "The Ballad of Lost C'mell," "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" and "The Game of Rat and Dragon." This collection reveals Smith as a sophisticated, often poetic writer whose work stood out at a time when science fiction was still searching for its literary voice. The volume need not--indeed, should not--be read at one sitting: sampled like the vintage they are, these stories rank among the finest of their time, but guzzled all at once, they wear thin, and the prose grows less endearing. Nevertheless, it's thrilling to have them all preserved in a durable edition, so that future readers will be able to enjoy Smith's unique talent.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Unfortunately Smith was ill-served by his early publishers: his one longish novel (Norstrilia) was hacked into two parts (The Planet Buyer and The Underpeople), and the short stories (which originally appeared in magazines like Fantasy & Science Fiction ) were splattered around different compilations at random.
Now Norstrilia has been restored and published intact, and the shorts have all been collected into one properly-edited volume: this one.
There are 33 stories altogether. If you've been reading SF for any length of time, you may well have one or more of the early anthologies already, and will want to know if this complete opus will give you enough extra stories to justify the expense. I therefore provide the complete list below.
There is an intelligent and scholarly introduction, and also an editor's introduction. The 27 stories of the Instrumentality universe are then presented in order of internal chronology, followed by the odds and ends.
01) No, No, Not Rogov!
02) War Nº 81-Q (Rewritten version)
03) Mark Elf
04) The Queen of the Afternoon
05) Scanners Live in Vain
06) The Lady Who Sailed The Soul
07) When the People Fell
08) Think Blue, Count Two
09) The Colonel Came Back from Nothing-at-All
10) The Game of Rat and Dragon
11) The Burning of the Brain
12) From Gustible’s Planet
13) Himself in Anachron
14) The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal
15) Golden the Ship Was — Oh! Oh! Oh!
16) The Dead Lady of Clown Town
17) Under Old Earth
19) Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittens
20) Alpha Ralpha Boulevard
21) The Ballad of Lost C’mell
22) A Planet Named Shayol
23) On the Gem Planet
24) On the Storm Planet
25) On the Sand Planet
26) Three to a Given Star
27) Down to a Sunless Sea
28) War Nº 81-Q (Original version)
29) Western Science is So Wonderful
31) The Fife of Bodidharma
33) The Good Friends
N.B. The Gollancz paperback with the identical title is NOT the same as this edition, since it contains only twelve (12) stories. Suggestio falsi?
My first contact with the author's stories was "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard". It was obvious for me that this was a fragment of a greater story, full of mysterious and provoking ideas as the Rediscovery of Man, the Eketeli and so on. I was captivated by the imagery and searched for more works from Cordwainer Smith. Little by little they were appearing in different sci-fi magazines and short stories collections.
With this book you have the opportunity to read almost all the "fragments" constituting Cordwainer's universe, with consistent references to the underpeople, the Instrumentality, the Scanners and the rest of the interlaced icons of this particular Myth.
Remarkable stories are: "Mark Elf", "The Game of Rat & Dragon", "Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons" and "Under Old Earth".
A speciall mention must be done for "Ballad of Lost C'Mell" and "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" both dealing with the relationship of humans and underpeople. Mr. Smith had a very particular relation with cats and dogs. He loved them and his underpeople characters show this love.
A final note "The Dead Lady..." is a forceful recreation of Joan D'Arc martyrdom.
A wonderful collection from an unjustly underrated author.
As you probably know, Smith was actually Dr. Paul M.A. Linebarger, a Johns Hopkins professor and specialist in Asian affairs. He was a master of psychological warfare.
His stories fit no easy category. They are not fantasy, they are not hard science fiction, they are not alternative history. They incorporate bits and pieces of Asian culture and myth. They are often troubling, haunting. "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" ends with most of its characters dead or with their minds wiped, yet it is a happy ending for all that, with Joan's views obviously spreading through the underpeople. "Under Old Earth" is a fascinating tale, filled with allusions that must be beyond the scope of this note. Even "War No. 81-Q", the original version of which was written by Smith as a teenager, is an excellent story. "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" is simply one of the great SF short stories of all time. I could go on, but . . .
The volume also includes the Casher O'Neill trilogy, that I had read of, but not seen before.
If you haven't read Smith before, this is how to buy his stories, so that you have them all. If you have--well, again, you'll have them all.
It's worth it. Buy it.
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