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Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith

Norstrilia (original 1975; edition 1994)

by Cordwainer Smith

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8311610,880 (3.99)26
Authors:Cordwainer Smith
Info:Framingham, MA : NESFA Press, 1994.
Collections:Your library

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Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith (1975)



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This version came with the story "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell." It was an appropriate pairing as C'Mell figures heavily in Norstrilia. I last read it years ago; I had every hope I would enjoy it again. I am so happy that I fell once again in love with it.

This classic science fiction novel draws heavily on the short stories set in the time of the Instrumentality of Mankind. I had re-read many of them shortly before I started this book. I think it deepened my appreciation of Norstrilia. I had the background to understand more about the harsh, practical world of Norstrilia, along with its customs. It is a harsh world and its customs seem cruel to me, but it made perfect sense in the setting of the book. I like Rod and C'Mell; I was totally surprised at some of the final scenarios.

If you are a science fiction fan and have read any of Cordwainer Smith's short stories and liked them, but not read Norstrilia yet, you definitely should check this book out. ( )
  Jean_Sexton | Feb 9, 2017 |
Although it does occasionally show some signs of age, this book is set so far in the future that hardly matters. Apart from that, it is so lyrical in its tone that you hardly care about the fairly limited plot, if you look at it from a completely objective point of view. Cordwainer Smith is another 'forgotten' writer from the early sixties, though this mainly because he was not primarily a writer but, as Paul Linebarger, spent much of his time in the far east in various posts interacting with the Korean and Chinese governments. Norstrilia is his only novel but the Instrumentality of Man provides the background to quite a few short stories (some of which are collected in 'The Rediscovery of Man) and it's Linebarger's Far Eastern experience that informed that background. ( )
  JohnFair | Jun 4, 2016 |
  ngunity | Nov 23, 2014 |

Cordwainer Smith was a pseudonym of US author Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger, who under his own name was Sun Yat Sen’s godson, an expert in psychological warfare and an adviser to the US military in a number of combats up to but not including Vietnam. He wrote quite a lot of science fiction of which this is his only novel, but many if not all of his short stories and novellas are set in the same universe as Norstrilia – and they leave tantalising traces in the narrative here, such as a number of references to the much feared but never explained Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons, or the likewise never explained ‘underhuman’ saint D’joan.

‘Norstrilia’ is a corruption of ‘North Australia’: the story begins and ends on the planet of Old North Australia 15 thousand or more years from now. The Norstrilians are fabulously rich but deliberately simple people, presumably based on the impressions Australians made on Linebarger when he spent six months in Canberra in the 1950s. The Norstrilians’ wealth comes from giant sheep, not from wool but from the by-product of a sickness that has infected all the flocks … The book is very funny, and full of bizarre inventions – such as a lethal sparrow the size of a football, or beings known as underhumans who are basically animals genetically engineered to have human intelligence and other qualities, or the more or less self-explanatory Department Store of Heart’s Desires, or a future Earth where illness and enmity have had to be artificially reinvented to stop humans from going extinct from boredom. Some of the inventions are of the ooh-he-thought-of-that-in-1964 variety (the novel was first published as two separate stories in the 1960s). There are computer networks, videophones and CCTV. There’s cheerful female-to-male transition (anatomical details passed over in discreet silence). The plot hinges on spectacular manipulation of the global financial markets, though as this is fantasy there is no crash. There’s a totally gorgeous cat underhuman, named (according to the internets) after Linebarger’s own cat. At one point the hero has to restrain himself from running to kiss his computer – a moment imagined 40 years before the iPhone was invented. And there’s a revolutionary movement motivated, almost certainly without deliberate reference to Che, by love both for the oppressed and the oppressor.

It’s a rollicking read, rarely a dull moment, that reminds me of why I love genre fiction. ( )
  shawjonathan | Oct 9, 2013 |
An odd coming of age story of sorts. It reads like a transitional form between Arthur Clarke and Ursula Le Guin. ( )
  djfiander | Feb 19, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cordwainer Smithprimary authorall editionscalculated
Avon, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berkey, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0915368617, Hardcover)

This is the first American hardcover edition of Cordwainer Smith's only SF novel. Originally published as two paperbacks. Includes an introduction by Alen C. Elms.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:32 -0400)

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