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We the Underpeople Paperback – November 28, 2006

5 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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"read this. Cordwainer Smith is timeless." - Terry Pratchett "a sophisticated, often poetic writer... these stores rank among the finest of all time." - Publishers Weekly."

About the Author

Cordwainer Smith was the pseudonym under which Dr. Paul Linebarger wrote science fiction. His first story, “Scanners Live in Vain,” appeared in 1950 and rocked the science fiction world as few first stories have. He was born in Milwaukee, and grew up in Japan, China (where he became the godson of Sun Yat-Sen, then president of China), France and Germany. He was a Professor of Asiatic Studies at Johns Hopkins University, was on the U.S. Operations, Planning and Intelligence Board during World War II, and became a Colonel in Army Intelligence. After the war, he was advisor to the British forces in Malaya and to the U.S. Eighth Army in Korea, and wrote the book Psychological Warfare, regarded for decades after as the most authoritative text in the field. He died in 1966. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Baen; 1st edition (November 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416520953
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416520955
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,836,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
I have been rereading Cordwainer Smith since I first discovered his writing in the 60's. For those who do not know Cordwainer Smith was the pen name of Paul Linebarger who passed away at the age of only 53.

This version brings together both the novel 'Norstrilia', aka 'The Planet Buyer', and short stories featuring the quest for freedom of the Underpeople. We get to look into the struggle for freedom through the stories of D'joan and C'mell. We meet the people of Norstrilia and the boy who bought Earth, Rod McBan the 151st.

Most of the science fiction and fantasy that I read make for good stories with plenty of action and well developed characters. But the fiction of Smith makes you enjoy his writing and think. This is especially true now that we are at the beginnings of gene engineering and cloning. These two things are the basis of his writing, even though these subjects were nothing more than Science Fiction 40 years ago.

I can only hope that a companion volume with the stories about the establishment of the Lords of the Instrumentality will be forthcoming. This is highly recommended for those who have never read any works by Cordwainer Smith and for those who wish to reread his works.
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Format: Paperback
Smith wrote relatively few short stories and only one SF novel, mostly in the 1960's. Even so, he is one of the great SF writers with a style that is unique. His entire work is available in two hardback books, but this edition gives you his novel, Norstrilia, and the associated short stories (a large fraction of his total output). This is the most cost effective way get an introduction to his work, but you may end up wanting his complete short stories too and there is obviously overlap. I think this is better than the stand-alone Norstrilia because it includes the relevant short stories in one edition.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
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. He 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 many of the "fragments" constituting Cordwainer's universe, with consistent references to the underpeople, the Instrumentality and some of the interlaced icons of this particular Myth.

The entire present book stories are remarkable "Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons", depicting the secret weapon of Norstrilla to keep intruders away and "Under Old Earth" telling the last expedition of an old man to the center of the Mysteries.

Nevertheless special 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.

As final note I may point out that "The Dead Lady..." is a forceful recreation of Joan D'Arc martyrdom.

This book contains a wonderful collection from an unjustly underrated author.

Reviewed by Max Yofre.
5 Comments 14 of 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Smith's work is still relevant and beautiful today. His style is smooth and almost poetic, his ideas extraordinary and still contemporary. If you aspire to write, study Smith's use of langauge. If you enjoy tales like "Planet of the Apes", study Smith's ability to make animals more human than humans.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
As far as the quality of Smith's work goes I can only agree with all the other superlatives levelled at it here and elsewhere. One point that hasn't been touched on is the quality of the text. Previous paperback editions of Smith's work have had their fair share of typos and editorial errors, but this volume and its companion When the People Fell take their texts from the 1990s NESFA Press editions (omitting the Variant Texts appendix to Norstrilia) which were scrupulously proofread and compared with the original magazine printings. So buy with confidence, secure in the knowledge that these are the definitive texts.
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