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We the Underpeople

(Instrumentality of Mankind)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  193 ratings  ·  20 reviews

In a far-flung future, planoforming ships knit together a galaxy ruled from Earth by the ruthless benevolence of the mysterious Lords of the Instrumentality, who presided over a utopia without death, danger—or freedom. The Underpeople, humanlike beings created from animals to do the work of utopia, had no rights, and could be disposed of at the whim of a human. But they h
Paperback, 623 pages
Published July 29th 2008 by Baen (first published 1968)
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Ed Erwin
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, favorites
This book contains five short stories and one novella. After only one story I decided I want to read everything this guy ever wrote. (Well, all his SF, anyway.)

After reading all five short stories, I returned the book to the library. I still want to read everything he wrote, but he wrote so little that I need to save it for later.
Max Nemtsov
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Вот все нам рассказывают о поэтичности Кордуэйнера Смита, но это просто литература (а фантастики столько лет тщатся доказать принадлежность своих излюбленных субжанров к большой литературе — с УДЛП, — что поневоле заподозришь их в том, что они сами в это не верят: вот и тут тот же случай), потому что поэзия — в самом охвате будущей истории, от 1900 до примерно 16 000 года (хоть и отрывочно). Человечество, конечно, столько не проживет, поэтому его сказания из будущего давно прошедшего времени, ко ...more
I'm having trouble writing something coherent and meaningful about this book. (Although, to be fair, I usually have trouble writing anything coherent and meaningful.) The books is a collection of some of Cordwainer Smith's short stories and his only complete novel, "Norstrilia". I was unfamiliar with the author before this, aside from the famous short "Scanners Live in Vain". I was also unaware of the fact that all of his works fit into the same future history, spanning thousands of years. Now, ...more
David Anderson
Jul 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
We the Underpeople and associated anthology When the People Fell collect Cordwainer Smith's stories and his single novel dealing with the dystopic Instrumentality of Mankind. This is compelling, thought-provoking science-fiction at it's best. Humanity has overcome poverty and suffering through it's reliance on an underclass of workers, the underpeople. Because these underpeople are derived from animal stock, their exploitation need not be recognized as such, and thus they form the perfect perman ...more
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's unique. There's some interesting concepts and poetic parts that are easy to read, but then there are terribly weak, two-dimensional female characters and lines that should only come out of Will Shatner's mouth. Overall, the book's OK. It gets better as you move along through it. ...more
Alexis Neal
This collection includes five short stories and one full-length novel by Cordwainer Smith, all of which take place in his Instrumentality of Mankind universe and involve 'underpeople'--humanoid creatures derived from animals for the purpose of completing various menial and/or skilled tasks. These underpeople look like human beings, more or less (some retain certain animalian features--noses, whiskers, unusual size, etc.) and have enhanced mental abilities, but at root they are still dogs, cats, ...more
Mark Isaak
Dec 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
Although these are six separate stories, originally published separately over a span of eight years, the stories share a common universe, weave together a common history, and sometimes share the same characters; in the end, they all fit together like chapters in a larger epic novel. Most of the stories deal, in some way or another, with the problems of extreme prosperity. The characters are not the most interesting I have seen, but the society, technology, and government show a great deal of cre ...more
Benjamin Kahn
I read the first two stories of this book before I gave up on it. I didn't like Smith's writing style and didn't find the stories that interesting. I contemplated trying to push through it and then decided why bother? I think you either like his style or you don't. I didn't. ...more
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These stories really opened up my mind to the possibilities not only of our distant future but of our distant past as well. When I first read them the high-tech boom was just beginning. Now these stories seem very prophetic in many ways. I highly recommend anything by Cordwainer Smith.
Feb 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Collection of 60s far future post scarcity space opera stories and novella generally focused on the long centuries of civil rights struggle of the "underpeople", a caste of uplifted animals forced into slavery by the "men" and the "instrumentality", a ruling class of powerfully psychic and long-living oligarchs, who do things like engineer out all doubt and unhappiness from people's minds and remove money from the economy to make a smooth-running, bland utopia (minus the ignored suffering of the ...more
Jenny T
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my first major forays into classic science fiction (1960s in this case) turned out to be quite an exhilarating, poetic, *strange* adventure.

We the Underpeople is comprised of several long short stories and a novel, Norstrilia, which, combined, tell the tale of an Earth in the far future, inhabited by true humans (kept stagnantly and oppressively happy by a totalitarian government called the Instrumentality) and the underpeople, humanlike beings bred from animals to serve as slaves to mank
A few of the stories of the Underpeople, ie., humaniform people raised from animal stock, were fantastic. Others had the true horror hidden in quick passages, such as how an underperson would be put to death if they weren't able to be trained for some gainful employment. They're treated almost as if they were of sub-par intelligence, but as far as I could see, they were just as smart or smarter than true humans. The stories generally held to a class of stories about oppressed peoples, but only a ...more
Jan 08, 2009 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Second time getting this from the library, so far I've read all of the short stories, with only the novel to go. I really hope the worldbuilding is more prominently featured in it -- the stories are fabulous, but I'm craving something longer and meatier in the setting. ...more
Terry Grignon
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the clear classics of Science Fiction even though this is not a novel but a collection of short stories and a novella. The Dead Lady Of Clown Town, one of the former, would be my vote for the best short story in or out of the genre.
Elda Pianezzi
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-project
A very imaginative book, full of interesting ideas. A social critique on the scientific level, which takes very original twists and turns. The underpeople are fabulous characters: very versatile and very amusing.
Interesting ideas - a classic SF book
Vitaliy Hristyuk
This book will always have a place in my heart... Sad, sad story of d'Joan... beautiful and fantastic Norstrilia.

How sad that we had only a decade or so of Cordweiner Smith before his death...
Nov 23, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quit-reading
I'm sure it's a good book; it just wasn't my bag. ...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 (6 books)
  • The Instrumentality of Mankind
  • The Rediscovery of Man
  • Norstrilia
  • The Planet Buyer
  • The Underpeople

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