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The Rediscovery of Man (Instrumentality of Mankind)

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  2,425 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
This is the 1999 British edition from Gollancz that includes 12 of the most famous short stories from Cordwainer Smith's "Instrumentality of Mankind" universe. His complete stories are collected in the 1993 NESFA edition called "The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith". The stories feature governing 'Lords of the Instrumentality' that ...more
Paperback, VGSF Classics #25 , 368 pages
Published May 13th 1999 by Gollancz (first published July 1975)
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Nov 06, 2015 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015

Legends and myths of a past that lays far into the future of humanity. The first things that struck me as I picked up this collection is the particular style of Corwainer Smith of telling most of his science-fiction stories as events shrouded in the mist of history, with all the epic scale and slight alterations of fact to suit the public image of a heroic figure. I understand that the author was inspired in this by Chinese classical tales, like The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, borrowing the p
The Rediscovery of Man: The strangest future mythology you’ll ever read
(Also posted at Fantasy Literature)
The universe that Cordwainer Smith created has captured the imagination of many SF fans and authors thanks to the short stories that have been collected in The Instrumentality of Mankind (1974), The Best of Cordwainer Smith (1975), and The Rediscovery of Man (1999). It is without doubt one of the strangest and most memorable creations in SF, even if it only affords short, tantalizing glimpse
May 19, 2014 Brad rated it really liked it
I'm gonna hit my bongo drum, Sun-man. Anyone up for a laminated mouse brain? I love it. So many great ideas packed into these short stories, I feel as giddy as if I sent my frozen cat people back two million years in the past to fight off the tragic planet of men, men, and nothing but men.

Really, people, this is some classic stuff. :)
Caro M.
May 27, 2014 Caro M. rated it it was amazing
My acquaintance with Cordwainer Smith happened ages ago on the pages of a certain SF magazine. I was reading “A Planet Named Shayol” and I was completely awed and even shocked. The crazy imagination, the context and a bit of a hangman’s humor – everything was there. Considering the whole thing was written in 1961 made it even more impressive. And Cordwainer – what kind of weird name was that? I was hooked.

Then I forgot about the whole thing for about ten years.

So now, when I got the whole The Re
Apr 19, 2013 Bokeshi rated it it was amazing
Cordwainer Smith is one of the most distinctive and idiosyncratic SF writers, along with Jack Vance, whose writing is totally unlike any other author. His far-future tales of The Instrumentality of Mankind are completely original, uniquely strange, richly imaginative, full of wonder, mythic in scope, layered with humor and emotion, and simply unforgettable. Do yourself a favor and read this underrated and overlooked masterwork.
Dec 26, 2011 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cordwainer Smith is a most unusual story writer whose execution and creativity in ideas usually outshone the way they were ended. One usually expects a good, decisive ending to a SF short story but such was the sheer strangeness of his ideas, his poetical prose style and varied range of narrative techniques that I didn't mind too much.

This collection contains about half the stories the author published pertaining to his vision of a future history of mankind. They are arranged in chronological or
Oct 07, 2010 Rhys rated it it was amazing
Usually after reading a book I give it away. A small number I keep for myself because I know I'll want to re-read them in the future. This volume belongs to the second category. I only discovered Cordwainer Smith last year. One of the stories in this book, 'The Dead Lady of Clown Town', is my favourite SF story ever; 'Under Old Earth' and 'Alpha Ralpha Boulevard' aren't far behind.

Smith started writing in the 1920s but he remained extremely obscure until publishing 'Scanners Live in Vain' in 195
Jun 11, 2008 Jay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
NO ONE ELSE writes like this dude. His titles are great: "Mother Hitton's Littol Kittuns," "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard," "The Burning of the Brain," "Under Old Earth," "Golden the Ship Was- Oh! Oh! Oh!," "The Game of Rat and Dragon." Science fiction that draws on Chinese myth and a sense of immense, immovable age. Stories that make me feel whirling and small.
THE DEAD LADY OF CLOWN TOWN, SCANNERS LIVE IN VAIN!, THE LADY WHO SAILED THE SOUL, THE CRIME AND GLORY OF COMMANDER SUZDAL, GOLDEN THE SHIP WAS OH! OH! OH!, THE GAME OF RAT & DRAGON, QUEEN OF THE AFTERNOON These are the hallucinatory and strange titles to some of the strange and hallucinatory tales penned by Cordwainer Smith. Stylistically weird (he apparently based much of his writing style on classical Chinese fiction like THE ROMANCE OF THE 3 KINGDOMS) and full of unique word coinages and ...more
Smith is a fabulist. His stories have a dream-like, disorienting quality. There's a grand scheme of future history lurking behind all his narratives. Part of the fun and the dreaminess is that he never fully reveals all the details. One of his fairy-tale elements is the "Underpeople," a race of partly human/partly non-human beings. For example, there are races cat-people and dog-people. These races are oppressed and shunned by ordinary humans and a group of god-like rulers known as the "Instrume ...more
May 22, 2007 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who want to have their minds blown
When I finished "The Rediscovery of Man," I felt like I had read an entire 20-novel future-history cycle; such is the totality and scope of this collection of interconnected short stories. The closest and most obvious comparison would be Asmiov's Foundation books, but I honestly believe that The Rediscovery of Man does the same thing better in the space of about 300 pages. The first story begins 4000 years in the future, and the stories proceed in chronological order from there. Mindblowing.
Simon Mcleish
Dec 18, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog here in August 2001.

In the fifties and sixties, Cordwainer Smith was one of the most original writers in the science fiction genre. His stories include many undisputed classics - Scanners Live in Vain, The Game of Rat and Dragon, The Lady Who Sailed the Soul, The Dead Lady of Clown Town, for example - and introduced a level of psychological interest which was much greater than usual in a field generally considered fit only for the cheap pulp magazines. (Under his
May 25, 2010 Rebecca rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned-ship, scifi
Whoa, I file this under giving-sci-fi-a-bad-name. At first I just found it not my cup of tea. I don't go in for short stories or mythical far future stuff to begin with. And Smith is so obsessed with moralizing about traditional gender roles it borders on misogyny. But I tried to persevere and finish this for the SF Masterworks group.

Then. Then I got to the story "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal" which holds the dubious honor of being the most hateful piece of fiction I have ever re
Diego González
Feb 21, 2015 Diego González rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A friend loaned me this collection of short stories and I was blown away. Mr. Smith constructs a coherent world that spans tens of thousands of years. Each story offers us a glimpse into a particular point in this massive history.
The thrust of the history here is the slow awakening of humanity to its common destiny with all sentient beings - many of which have been created by humanity itself. There is a sense of threat to high hopes. Technology is often cruel but necessary, and generally has biz
Feb 27, 2011 Dips rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must admit, I didn't have the reaction most people seem to with Scanners live in Vain. 'The Game of Rat and Dragon' loosened me up, made me smile. The universe of Cordwainer Smith started to fill out. Space age, cold ingenuity of mankind, romance, eventual march of progress etc etc.

And then 'The Dead Lady of Clown Town' knocked me out. I didn't expect it to move me to tears, or make me empathise with real-world events.

Taken all together, its an entire vast universe. Some of the characters and
Jul 14, 2016 spikeINflorida rated it liked it
I preferred The Rediscovery of Man over the companion book The Instrumentality of Mankind. Both books are a collection of post-apocalypse short stories set in an interstellar empire ruled by the Lords of the Instrumentality. Though praised by SF legends including Iain M. Banks, Ursula K. Leguin, and Stephen Baxter, my overall experience was mediocre. Written with soft compassion and underlaid with brutal truth, standout stories were Scanners Live in Vain, The Game of Rat and Dragon, and The Ball ...more
Nov 27, 2013 Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cordwainer Smith, pen name of Dr. Paul Linebarger, was at least fifty years ahead of his time. He was writing great, lyrical, thoughtful, modern stories before it was the cool thing to do. He isn't too well known currently because he was never successful at novel-length, but I guarantee that this book contains some of the best novelettes the field ever produced.
Feb 23, 2016 Andrew rated it liked it
This is an anthology of science fiction short stories from the 1950s and 60s, published in this form in the 90s. The author set most of his stories in the same future history, a vast expanse of time which according to the timeline at the front of the book lasts at least 14000 years. The stories span most of that period. Humans have spread out to colonise the galaxy, in an empire called the Instrumentality of Mankind that seems to control most aspects of life, and has an underclass of humanoid pe ...more
William Korn
Mar 25, 2014 William Korn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Cordwainer Smith did for science fiction what J.R.R. Tolkien did for fantasy. He created an alternate universe filled with such detail that his small but intensely devoted fan base was compelled to create a concordance and a timeline to keep track of it. And he did it all in a few dozen short stories and one novel before he was cruelly struck down by a heart attack at the age of 53. (His wife, Genevieve Linebarger, completed some of his unfinished stories from the notes he left.)

The Rediscovery
Sep 18, 2014 Vilijus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Čia reiktų tarti porą žodžių. Nuo pat pirmo pasakojimo buvo aišku, kad čia neeilinė mokslinės fantastikos knyga. Teko skaityt vėlesnių autorių, tokių kaip Iain M. Banks ar Dan Simmons, kurie nenusileidžia fantazijos platumu, bet turint omeny tai, kad pirmas šios knygos pasakojimas ("Scanners Live in Vain") parašytas 1950 m., tenka tiesiog atsistoti ir nukelti kepurę. Tiek gylio ir stiprumo mokslinėj fantastikoj tikrai reiktų gerai paieškoti. Paskutinis pasakojimas ("A Planet Named Shayol") puiki ...more
Simon Hedge
Oct 24, 2013 Simon Hedge rated it really liked it
If you are looking for something to get your mind well and truly bent, try some Cordwainer Smith. All the stories in this collection are part of the 'Instrumentality' universe - Smith's science fantasy tableau that sprawls across space and time. The prose is very stylish. At times it puts me in mind of Franz Kafka, other times Phil Dick. Still other times Michael Moorcock…. Not to say that Smith is in any way derivative. His is a unique voice, so much so I fancy I could pick out a story by him i ...more
May 26, 2014 Miriam rated it really liked it
Have been thinking about this a lot since I finished it. Have been having trouble putting together my thoughts well enough for a review. Notes for now:

Time scale: astonishing. So good.
Biology: also super neat. appropriately baffling. intelligently archaic and grungy depictions of future ways. I love the soviet take on the space age. this is something I discuss with my cohabitant, a student of all things cold war. mechanical takes on the electronic age can tell us so much about the future. author
Oct 07, 2016 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the 1975 collection published by Doubleday/Del Rey and republished by the Science Fiction Book Club. It is a marvelous collection as were all done in that series. It has the following stories:
Scanners Live in Vain,
The Lady Who Sailed The Soul,
The Game of Rat and Dragon,
The Burning of the Brain,
The Crime and the Glory Of Commander Suzdal,
Golden the Ship Was Oh! Oh! Oh!,
The Dead Lady of Clown Town,
Under Old Earth,
Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons,
Alpha Ralpha Boulevard,
The Ballad Of Los
Jan 04, 2011 Otessa rated it liked it
I can see why so many of the preeminent SF writers list Smith's work as a seminal influence to their own. The ingenuity and scope of Smith's work is awe-inspiring. That said, the execution itself is often wooden. This is a novel of ideas and thematic virtuosity, rather than one of "unparalleled narrative finesse".
This is still a book very worthy of looking into; especially Cordwainer's description of the "pain of space". When put into historical context, his stories are particularly meaningful
Buck Ward
This collection of stories. written over two decades from 1950 to 1971, has connections with, or at least tendrils in Norstrilia, Smith's only novel. The stories are alternately bizarre or surreal, they fit the descriptor 'dickian'. Smith has a distinctive style. It put me in mind of James Tiptree, Jr.

At a little over 80 pages, novella length, The Dead Lady of Clown Town is one of the best stories. It does get a little bizarre at the end. Elaine, the protagonist, becomes a mere observer. One of
Carrie Robinson
Jul 15, 2014 Carrie Robinson rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
Wow, what a mind. Kind of like the literary verson of Salvador Dali. Get past the first few stories and you're on a wild fantasy ride for 600+ pages. Some people will find his writing too weird but I loved it. Original, creative and like nothing else. I was totally drawn in. I love that kind of escape where you leave earth completely because anything remotely tying you to the world you know is completely gone and replaced with a completely new world.

The stories are written as if Mr. Smith has an
May 06, 2007 Ferret rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf, abandoned-midway
There is an awe-inspiring totality to this set of stories, composed over a span of years. Stories reference each other in dense, significant ways which suggest a shared universe and a shared mythology as coherent as anything in SF.

The stories individually are often gorgeous, well-shaped, and deeply meaningful. But even on the rare occasion when they're one-note, they still add something to the totality of the Instrumentality of Mankind.

One last note: Smith's "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell" earned
May 16, 2016 Chip rated it it was ok
Shelves: top-200-scifi
Very dated short stories that had a bad habit of leaving out pertinent information that the reader needed to understand what was going on. Reinvented rules of physics that seemed to change from story to story. Many stories were about underpeople (animals uplifted to human form and intelligence) that were always fighting but never really getting their freedoms. Even though robots and to a lesser extent computers were present, he never uses them in any meaningful way.
Marc Alan
May 22, 2007 Marc Alan rated it liked it
Shelves: middleshelf
Absolutely my favorite science fiction author of all time. HOWEVER this edition, though it shares a name with the American release that included all of his short stories, is in fact just a limited sample. In turn, a gyp. Couldn't they have named it anything else?

Oct 31, 2015 Peter rated it it was amazing
Deserves a place on the uppermost shelf of speculative science fiction, along with early Ursula le Guin, Philip K Dick, early Greg Egan and Iain M. Banks.

A must-read for any science fiction lover.
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Instrumentality of Mankind (8 books)
  • The Instrumentality of Mankind (Instrumentality of Mankind)
  • Norstrilia
  • The Planet Buyer
  • The Underpeople
  • We the Underpeople
  • Il ciclo della strumentalità: Tomo primo
  • Il ciclo della strumentalità: Tomo secondo

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