The Rediscovery of Man
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The Rediscovery of Man (Instrumentality of Mankind)

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  1,758 ratings  ·  106 reviews
Welcome to the strangest, most distinctive future ever imagined by a science fiction writer. An insterstellar empire ruled by the mysterious Lords of the Instrumentality, whose access to the drug stroon from the planet Norstrilia confers on them virtual immortality. A world in which wealthy and leisured humanity is served by the underpeople, genetically engineered animals...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published May 13th 1999 by Gollancz (first published July 1975)
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(Written September 2010): I am at an impasse. I have an enormous pile of fiction on the To-Read pile but I can't figure out which one to go with - Mieville? Sabatini? Himes? Warner? Winterson? Kleist?, und so weiter.

In the interim, while this existential struggle goes on, I have been rereading this collection of short stories from Cordwainer Smith (aka Paul Linebarger). It's hard to characterize Smith. Like Gene Wolfe, he's an author who I either really like or I really don't. The Shadow of the...more
5.5 stars. I have not read all of the stories in this collection, so my rating is based on the stories reviewed below (I will update periodically as I read additional stories):

Scanners Live In Vain - Classic short story set in the universe of the Instrumentality of Mankind and arguably smith's beat story. Set around 6000 A.D., interstellar travel has been discovered to cause great pain and suicidal tendencies in people. This problem was resolved by having passengers travel stored in cold sleep,...more
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...more
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...more
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.
MB Taylor
Finished reading The Rediscovery of Man (1975) by Cordwainer Smith today on the bus home. The majority of Cordwainer Smith’s work was published from the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties. This collection contains 12 of his stories published between 1950 and 1966. It includes his first published SF Story “Scanners Live in Vain” (1950) [or at least the first published under the name Cordwainer Smith] and the last he wrote “Under Old Earth” (1966). All the stories are from his Instrumentality future h...more
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...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
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
This really is a fantastic collection of short stories. A little background - Cordwainer Smith is a psuedonymn for Paul Linebarger. He was a preeminent military psychologist - he wrote a classic text on psychological warfare. His life story is really interesting; advisor to Chiang Kai-shek, the President of Nationalist China in the 20s, he spoke six languages, was a foreign policy advisor for JFK..

His scifi is much more focused on large sociological structures and individuals in repressive socie...more
Jason Farley
If I had to pick just three authors works for the rest of my life. I would pick Cordwainer Smith. This particular volume has every short story that he wrote. He became a Christian partway through his career, and some of his great stories are concerned directly with the faith and with what conversion means in the modern world. Some of my favorites: "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" "The Lady who sailed the Soul" "Scanners live in vain"
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.
Marc Alan
From these short stories alone I'm willing to say that I thing Cordwainer Smith is the greatest science fiction author of all time. The writing, as in almost all great science fiction, can seem a bit stilted at time, however the stories and ideas paint the only future I could even begin to believe if mankind were to exist another 20000 years.

Kevin Bell
Cordwainer Smith is a writer like none other. His prose leaves an entirely different effect on the reader than any of the other masters of science fiction. His imagination is terrifying, and stories like "The Crime and Glory of Commander Suzdal" will leave your eyes wide open and your palms sweating. Excellent, excellent writer.
One of the weirdest and most literate of all SF writers. In real life, he was an American specialist in psychological warfare who operated in East Asia. The stories here are almost impossible to categorize.
Paul van der Bijl
excellent so far. nearly done. i'll update when i'm finished. maybe some of the best scifi i've ever read
I love space, space2, and space3. I love the love stories and the hyperbole and the whole world. I have not met a vaguely Christian sci-fi writer's vision of the future that I would like to inhabit more. I can even get into the mystical personality-overlapping revolution of the underpeople. But I CANNOT HANDLE any more dude writers with their 7-12 year old sexual/not sexual redemptive innocent girls with budding breasts and big limpid sweet eyes saving everything with their sexual/not sexual tra...more
Cordwainer Smith is a name unknown to many, since he died a premature death in the mid 1960's.

These stories were written in the late 50s, early 60s, and are so intelligent and forward thinking, I'm still stunned. I don't know if there's a real connection, but it would seem he had a tremendous influence in the genre, with ripples in Philip K. Dick's work (which itself is legendary) all the way to the present day.

This isn't science-fiction in the sense that there's a lot of science involved. The m...more
Jan 27, 2014 Tamahome marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Read 'Scanners Live in Vain', his first sf story. Creative but bizarre. People talk in an almost operatic fashion. Well, it was written in 1950. Scanners can't feel their bodies, but there are control boxes.

I remembered 'The Game of Rat and Dragon' had cats and people in space.
Zachary Rawlins
Smith should fall in the top five writers easily for those readers who enjoy class sci-fi/space opera. So many concepts that would later be central to the work of Herbert, Asimov and Banks are laid out here, in Smith's epic series of short stories, all set along the same impossibly long timeline. Issues explored defy description, but include gender identity, drug use, genetic engineering, East vs West, the final fate of economic systems... I could go on. But, really, you owe it to yourself to re...more
May 22, 2007 Andrew rated it 5 of 5 stars 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.
William Korn
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...more
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.
E. K. Strider
I can't believe it took me so long to read this collection.

I'll write a proper review later on, but suffice to say I was utterly blown away by the layer upon layer of complexity woven into this far-reaching future view of existence. I very rarely mark things with five stars; this is definitely one that warrants it.
Marc Alan
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?

Lord Humungus
Took me a long time to finish this book. It came highly recommended and I really wanted to read it.

I felt it started off really strong, with the creativity and energy of Philip K Dick and Alfred Bester, plus some Fritz Leiber weird thrown in. Some of the now standard SF tropes were presented, often in ways far ahead of their time.

Then somewhere in the middle of the book, things took a weird turn. The stories started feeling like parables of the future (indeed some of them actually were), like t...more
Doug Gordon
One of the great opening lines in SciFi is this from "The Ballad of Lost C'mell": "She was a girlygirl and they were true men, the lords of creation, but she pitted her wits against them and she won."

Reading Cordwainer Smith reminds me a lot of reading Tolkien in that you can sense that there are thousands of years of untold history behind the world that he has invented. The difference, of course, is that Smith's world is as far in the future as Tolkien's was in the past. The stories are incredi...more
Douglas Hayes
Some of the best science fiction ever written. I've read many stories to my older children and read the whole corpus several times.
Some very good stories in there, but I did find some of them heavy going. I don't think the writing style suits me.
"Scanners Live in Vain" is one of my top 5 favorite short stories of all time. Read it!
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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...
Norstrilia The Instrumentality of Mankind Scanners Live in Vain The Game of Rat and Dragon Quest of the Three Worlds

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