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Norstrilia (Instrumentality of Mankind)

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  1,162 ratings  ·  41 reviews
The Ballantine (Del Rey) 4th printing.

This is the only novel Cordwainer Smith ever wrote during his distinguished career. It tells the story of a boy from the planet Old North Australia (where rich, simple farmers grow the immortality drug Stroon), how he bought Old Earth, and how his visit to Earth changed both him and Earth itself.

Mass Market Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 1985 by Del Rey (first published February 1975)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,913)
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Wanda
"Tells the story of a boy from the planet Old North Australia (where rich, simple farmers grow the immortality drug Stroon), how he bought Old Earth, and how his visit to Earth changed both him and Earth itself."

A very eccentric novel, a bit frustrating at times, but quite entertaining. It was frustrating in that there were so many potentially interesting issues that could have been pursued--and they were left unexplored. For instance, telepathy is just a given in Norstrilian society and if you
...more
Dan
Aug 08, 2007 Dan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: future residents of Meeya Meefla
Shelves: baroque, speculations
What I learned from this book:

1. Inflation has its uses.
2. Sometimes the best computer for the job is the laminated brain of a mouse . . .
3. The economic significance of mutant sheep.
4. Go big or go home.

A sideways and roundabout look at a strange and twisted future involving everything from telepathic mink to bird-men with hypnotic mandalas to a man who literally bought the planet earth. I don't know why it works, but it most certainly does - this is a must read for anyone who appreciates a un
...more
Stephen
4.5 Stars. The only novel ever written by Cordwainer Smith which is a real tragedy for fans of excellent, imaginative science fiction. This is a great big story full of great ideas and cool concepts.

Nominee Hugo Award Best Novel (1964) (The Planet Buyer)
Roddy Williams
To our detriment, this is Smith’s only novel, his output otherwise being a large number of quirky short stories mostly set in this universe of The Instrumentality of Mankind. Having said that, ‘Norstrilia’ has a complex origin since it was originally published in two shorter separate parts in 1964 as ‘The Planet Buyer’ (which itself was expanded from a shorter piece ‘The Boy Who Bought Old Earth’) and ‘The Store of Heart’s Desire’
Roderick Frederick Ronald Arnold William MacArthur McBan to the Hu
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Dev Null
It is one of the enduring tragedies of science fiction that the man who wrote as Cordwainer Smith died so young. His life was weird and fascinating - from living in China during the revolution to writing what is still considered to be one of the fundamental texts on psychological warfare - and his experiences with such a variety of people and cultures comes through in his stories. He takes perfectly believable aspects of people and twists them so far out of proportion that they are barely recogn ...more
William Korn
This is essentially a coming-of-age story with a difference. And what a difference! Roderick Frederick Ronald Arnold William MacArthur McBan to the Hundred and Fifty-First is a typical teenager in a most atypical place and time. By turns arrogant, naive, very intelligent, warm, clever, depressed, and ultimately very likeable, Rod McBan solves a personal problem by conniving with the McBan Family Computer to buy the entire planet Earth - lock, stock, and underpeople. The main narrative traces his ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bricksed
It's a tragedy that Cordwainer Smith left so little behind; this book, along with the collection of short stories from the same universe whose title escapes me now, is an example of absolutely masterful science fiction.
Paul
Jan 01, 2012 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of Cordwainer Smith's short fiction
Cordwainer Smith comes up with some really original ideas. I like his writing, although he writes oddly, and doesn't always follow the patterns a person is used to in stories. For example, in this novel, the protagonist, Rod, never takes a lot of initiative. The plot is not driven by his actions. I would have preferred a more active protagonist, but it can't be that way: this story is part of a larger bunch of stories, and the story has to be driven by the needs of humanity, the underpeople, the ...more
D.M. Dutcher
Rod McBan, master and owner of a farm on the planet Norstrilla where giant sick sheep exude a drug which refined gives people immortality, is at risk to his life due to an old quarrel in his 3rd childhood. What does he do? He turns his old computer on the world and lets it buy up Old Earth itself. Even that isn't enough, as he has to escape to it. Once there, he gets involved in the wild plots of the Instrumentality of mankind and might just find himself.

The book is a riot of color and language.
...more
Zachary Rawlins
Ever read Dune? Like it? In particular, did you like the world, the spice concept, the idea of spaceflight powered by precognitives, a universal economy based on a life-extending substance, etc? Well, good. Because then you already like most of Norstrilia.

I can only imagine Frank Herbert liked this book a whole lot, because he borrowed a shocking amount of it wholesale. Norstrilia is basically Dune without the pretension, long monologues, weird social-political diatribes, and giant worms. Instea
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Bob(by)
Got about 3/4 of the way through this and picked up another book. Oh and it had to go back to the library. The writing is pretty high quality, but the plot failed to capture my interest for whatever reason. Sometimes I just can't explain these things.
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in September 2001.

Like much of Smith's work, his only singly conceived science fiction novel (The Quest for Three Worlds being a linked collection of stories) was rescued from obscurity to become a classic of the genre. It has a publication history only too familiar for the non-mainstream in America in the sixties; following magazine appearances of extracts in 1960, it was butchered into two novels and only made its first appearance as originally intended in
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John Edvin
Wacky weirdness is abundant in Norstrilia, but it comes at a dear price. The story itself does not carry enough suspense after a good beginning which culminates in the protagonist's purchase of Earth.

However the story declines once the character leaves Norstrilia to wander around in what I understood to be some sort of underground city where the oppressed underpeople live. The problem here is that little effort was made by the author to create sympathy for the underpeople. They just came across
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Charles
This book was fun!

The characters were believable. Pretty different-should be since some were only parrt human. They could have been MORE developed, though.

The plot took a while to get started, and most much of the time, he was passive. Just doing what others told him. It was strange enough, though. The main character's planet's economy was based on sick sheep that produced an immortality drug. The idea that the main character's computer was intelligent enough to manuever his money enough to buy
...more
Stevie
Dec 05, 2009 Stevie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: SF, animal fantasy
Recommended to Stevie by: To Infinity and Beyond, Michael C. Drout
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lloyd
The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars is because some of my absolute favorite C.S. stories out of The Rediscovery of Man are even better. On one hand I wish that each idea Linebarger had could have been turned into a full novel; but on the other I grudgingly admit that he had a day job, shaping the actual history of Old Old Earth.

That floors me, as well: writing stories this imaginative was just his hobby. You know, when he wasn't speaking 6 languages and influencing people who created our
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Raj
This is Smith's only SF novel, although he wrote some short stories set in the same universe (mostly collected in The Rediscovery of Man which I read some time ago and may now have to re-read in light of this book). The planet of Old North Australia (Norstralia) is the only place in the universe that stroon can be found -- the immortality drug. This is the story of how one Nostrilian boy (just reaching manhood) buys the earth. And gets away with it.

This is a fun story, with lots of little bits t
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Marc Alan
While Smith's "The Rediscovery of Man" is my favorite science fiction collection, this book which falls into the same story line doesn't hold up quite as well. It seems like he felt the need to overexplain himself (or at least his editor felt it needed to) in order to maintain as a novel. What's so beautiful about the short stories is that they leave so much to your own point of reference, and so much is inferred.

However, I can see what an impact it had on other science fiction I love (no way F
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Brad
Honestly, I like the short stories better, but this novel had a lot of charm. Very sixties sentimentality, mixed with the man who sold the world kind of ideas, and yet, it fit perfectly with the extended future histories that made his writings really special.
Duane
I encountered Cordwainer Smith when I was very young, in Galaxy magazine (the Game of Rat and Dragon). I was later to learn that that particular story was a comeback story (that page was missing from the copy I read) and that there was a body of work behind the story. And what a body of work!!!!!The mythos of which this is the centerpiece was as richly detailed and inventive as of those of the great worldbuilders (Niven, Tolkien,et al), and the Eastern-influenced storylines by Dr. Linebarger san ...more
Rebecca
It took me a lil while to read this because I would only read it for about 10 mins while waiting for the train in the morning or afternoon (because i actually sleep on the train to and from work...itrs a long commute).
It was really easy to read which is always a plus - if i had read it in one go i would have ben done in a few hours.

The main character Rod was such a funny lil guy and the universe its set in is so interesting.
I read that most of the authors other stories are all set in the same
...more
Ivo Crnkovic-Rubsamen
Norstrilia was a whimsical but thought provoking novel. I enjoyed the combination of humor with the hard-edged, dystopian sci-fi. My only serious problem with the novel was how the main character was in the proverbial backseat for the entire novel. The plot seems like a whirlwind of crazy events cascading one after another, while the main character makes virtually no decisions. Well-crafted none the less.
Angie
The most interesting fiction I've read in a long time. Smith does an amazing job creating his world. For some reason, I began to like it slightly less when I got about 3/4 of the way through. His adverbs began to be distracting, for one thing. (Characters kept saying things "inexorably" and "levelly.") I thought it was a somewhat unsatisfying ending. Still, overall a great read.
DavidO
I was disintersted in the characters. I thought the book started well, but once the story really got going, I found I didn't care. I'm not sure why so many people find this brilliant. Maybe it is because there are so many ideas in it. Maybe it's because it is a bit strange. But I just found it dull and lifeless.
Adam
This is Smith's only full length novel and is not as good as his shorter works but still an entertaining story, intelligently written. Many of the familiar characters from the stories of the Instrumentality are present. Drags in a few spots but still essential to Smith's remarkable vision of the future.
Valerie
Cordwainer Smith's work is always very odd. How one reads this particular book is dependent on what one knows about Australia. Or so I found it. I thought the book got a little incoherent at times, but the description of the immortality drug, and the tax structure of Norstrilia was interesting.
Kevin Bell
This is a mesmerizing tale about a young man who outdoes the whole universe to include himself. Part thinly veiled social allegory, part playground for the author's considerable artistic talent, this is a great novel.
J. Allen Nelson
Fractious yet fascinating fix-up novel about the purchase of planet Earth by a young un-telepathic man from telepathic planet Old North Australia-- Norstrilia of the title.
Enjoyably strange.
Simone Scardapane
Un romanzo fiabesco, un lungo viaggio di formazione per un protagonista talmente inutile che diventa quasi esasperante. Peccato, perché l'Universo creato da Smith è decisamente degno di nota.
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11390
Pseudonym of:
Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger

Linebarger also employed the literary pseudonyms "Carmichael Smith" (for his political thriller Atomsk), "Anthony Bearden" (for his poetry) and "Felix C. Forrest" (for the novels Ria and Carola).

Linebarger was also a noted East Asia scholar and expert in psychological warfare.
More about Cordwainer Smith...
The Rediscovery of Man The Instrumentality of Mankind (Instrumentality of Mankind) Scanners Live in Vain The Game of Rat and Dragon Quest of the Three Worlds

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“It was not the site of the earth which surprised him – it was the smell. .... This earth and air smelled alive. There was the odor of plants, of water, of things which he could not even guess. The air was coded with a million years of memory. In this air people had swum to manhood, before they conquered the stars. .... It was the wild free moisture which came laden with the indications of things living, dying, sprawling, squirming, loving with an abundance which no Norstrilian could understand. No wonder the descriptions of the earth had always seemed fierce and exaggerated!” 1 likes
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