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The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 671 pages
  • Publisher: NESFA Press; 1st edition (June 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0915368560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0915368563
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #339,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Cordwainer Smith is one of the most amazing, lyrical writers of science fiction ever.
Lobsta Johnson
Such stories show an incredible depth of imagination, though Smith never loses touch with his characters, imbuing them real emotion and intelligence.
Winston J. Pennyworth III
The great thing here is that this book contains all of his short stories in one volume.
Steve G

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 65 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on October 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Serious fans and historians of science fiction must obtain this compendium of all the known short stories by Cordwainer Smith, who deserves far greater fame than he got when he did most of his writing back in the 50s and 60s. At the time, Smith simply sold a few stories to a few SF mags, but it turns out that they were interconnected vignettes from a vast future universe and mythology that Smith was creating in his mind for decades. This vast fictitious universe covers the development of man over tens of thousands of years and across the galaxy, in an expansive style that is reminiscent of Frank Herbert. Meanwhile, Smith's method of creating narratives as if they were told by an old storyteller, even farther in the future, could be compared to J.R.R. Tolkien, who also created his own universe and history of tremendous proportions.

Smith was a storyteller of remarkable literary ability, as he explored scientific advances without getting too technical, and introduced very heavy themes of humanity and morality without lapsing into preachy conclusions. Very few writers in any genre have this kind of ability for kicking off deep speculation and introspection in the reader. Just about all of the many stories here explore the re-emergence of real humanity after many millennia of human dispersal across the universe, with a few glimpses of mirth or action amidst general darkness and melancholy.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A. G. Plumb on November 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have been reading Cordwainer Smith stories over and over for many, many years. There aren't that many of them - but they are so wonderful they can be read and read and read again. And they never lose their freshness for me. I read 'The Game of Rat and Dragon' to my wife one night when she was having trouble getting to sleep. Perhaps it's not his greatest story, but it is so humane, so all-encompassing of the best of humankind and so wonderful to the animals that we share this world with - specifically cats in this case (and for anyone who has been fortunate enough to share at least part of their lives with cats it will probably raise so many memories).

So I took down my favourite anthology - the 1970 Panther Books edition published under the title 'Under Old Earth' and started to refresh the Cordwainer Smith experience. As I read the wonderful 'A Planet Named Shayol' (there is nothing like this anywhere!) the tears rose in my eyes again. This involuntary response told me so much!!! Here's a quote:

'It's unfair,' cried the half-man. 'They should be punished as we were!'
The Lady Johanna Gnade looked down at him. 'Punishment is ended. We will give you anything you wish, but not the pain of another.'

What a vision! The only comparable one I can think of is the words Gustav Mahler wrote about the day of judgement scene in his second symphony. After the trumpets sound and the dead are raised Mahler reasoned that there would be neither reward nor punishment - only God's heavenly love would remain.

I cannot compromise the five star average rating for these stories. I agree with one and all! If you haven't read these stories you have a wonderful experience in store. If you, like me, know them already - just enjoy again and again as I do.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Maximiliano F Yofre on June 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Cordwainer Smith is the pen name of Mr. Paul M. A. Linebarger, who lived a comparatively short (1913 - 1966) and difficult life. He was educated in China, Germany and USA. Loose one eye in an accident being a child. Had a PH degree in Political Sciences, was a university professor and worked undercover for CIA. At the same time he wrote fascinating sci-fi stories.

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.
It is a wonderful collection from an unjustly underrated author.
Reviewed by Max Yofre.
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