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

(Instrumentality of Mankind)

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  857 ratings  ·  76 reviews
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
Hardcover, 671 pages
Published June 1993 by NESFA Press
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Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
Who would have thought that someone who lived an interesting life, wrote interesting things... Hmm

Anyways Cordwainer Smith created a fascinating world with an immense future and past history, but unlike Stapledon who told his history through cold hearted academic style, he told it through its myth, legends and fairy tales, sometimes "corrected" for the official history. In this he had made it seem far more real and palatable than Stapledons world (thank god for that it's a 600 page book).

Jun 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy
(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
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,
Michael Battaglia
Oct 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What are the chances that a professor with a PhD in political science and an expertise in the Far East would be able to write even one excellent science-fiction tale? There's probably a good chance that he might be able to crank out one or two decent ones in his spare time, but what if he was able to churn out over thirty of them in the course of his relatively short career, not only making each one noticeably different but also putting together a rather detailed future history on the sly, the ...more
Jun 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Rediscovery of Man is set in the Instrumentality of Mankind universe, one with many mysteries and insights. Throughout the myriad and excellent short stories, Cordwainer weaves a tale about mankind and its future that rivals the best and is unique in both its scope and creativity. From "pin-lighters" to "Go-captains", Underpeople (persons of non-human animal stock who have been made to look and act human), and ingeniously realized planets such as Shayol—where the Instrumentality sends people ...more
MB Taylor
Feb 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Oct 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Paul van der Bijl
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
excellent so far. nearly done. i'll update when i'm finished. maybe some of the best scifi i've ever read
Chris Gager
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Been waiting for this for a few weeks. My local; librarian finally got it from the Mt. Holyoke College library. Doesn't look like it's been read very much - if at all. I read "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" not too long ago in a SF collection titled "Machines That Kill" and was smitten. I had a vague recollection of the name of the author and the character C'mell from previous reading(probably anthologies), however, as I've been a sci-fi fan since about 8th grade(1959-60) or so. I'm not going to list ...more
This book contains all of the short stories written by Cordwainer Smith, who died rather young (50 or so) and before the full blossom of his career could occur.

The first third of this book is full of absolutely brilliant stories. Not every one was a hit, but I was so impressed as I went through them. My favorites are Scanners Live in Vain, The Game of Rat and Dragon, and The Lady Who Sailed the Soul. They were so, so good. But somewhere along the line, they stopped being good, and started being
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jason Farley
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
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"
Marc Alan
May 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middleshelf
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
Apr 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Who is this person? I found this book at a cabin in Rockport, read a few stories, and have checked this book out of the library.

I'd be embarrassed, slightly, if I weren't completely and suddenly kind of obsessed.
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Much like Wolfe, Smith is a writer who inspires a small but very passionate following (as can be seen from many reviews here). He has a definite craft that comes through on the more famous stories, and the quirks of his writing do give them a distinctive voice. Whether you'll be one of his ardent admirers or not will probably come down to your general affection for science fiction of his time and how you'll take the recurring themes of his work. In my case the former tends to work against him ...more
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As I write this review, the current goodreads rating for this book is 4.48. These stories were praised by Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Fred Pohl, and had an influence on science fiction. What explains their power?

Cordwainer Smith was the pseudonym for Paul Linebarger. From what I gather, Linebarger was a Professor of Political Science, specializing in East Asian affairs, and an advisor to the US government and to Chiang Kai-shek. He also wrote a book, entitled _Psychological Warfare_ ,
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Zachary Rawlins
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
E. K. Strider
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
Todd Martin
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: finance
Cordwainer Smith was the pen-name that Paul Linebarger (July 11, 1913 – August 6, 1966) used for his works of science fiction. Linebarger was a professor at Duke and later Johns Hopkins University in international studies (specializing in Far Eastern affairs and psychological warfare). In his spare time he wrote fiction and became a minor footnote in the annals of sci-fi. Although he never received much recognition during his lifetime, he was highly regarded by his peers including Roger Zelazny, ...more
Lune Loh
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gift-books
Very enjoyable classic scifi. Lots of fun traditional 50's themes (mind reading! animals genetically adapted to be humanoid!). Some very creative ideas.

Also the less-fun but sadly expected traditional 50's treatment of women (as if they are another species). Some of the later stuff went deep into (I think) trying to be some sort of Christian metaphor.
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic collection of the most singular and imaginative sci-fi I've read in a loooong time. Extremely highly recommended
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the finest, and nowadays thoroughly forgotten, works of worldcrafting I have ever read. Refreshing original concepts - and not overworked. Great stuff.
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf
May 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Cordwainer Smith (actual name Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger) created a great setting in his body of work, adding to it with each short story, as well as his lone novel, so that at the end of the day the universe of the Instrumentality of Mankind feels vibrant and complex yet understandable. Unfortunately, this great setting is never complemented by any individual stories of particular excellence, leading to the best part of Smith being the background of his stories instead of the actual action ...more
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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.

Other books in the series

Instrumentality of Mankind (7 books)
  • The Instrumentality of Mankind
  • The Rediscovery of Man
  • Norstrilia
  • The Planet Buyer
  • The Underpeople
  • We the Underpeople
  • When the People Fell