30 November 2015

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

Hardcover, 671 pages
Published 1993 (contents: 1928-79)
Acquired February 2015
Read April 2015
The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith
edited by James A. Mann

The Rediscovery of Man collects all of Cordwainer Smith's short science fiction. I previously read a book that collected most of it, When the People Fell, and rereading my review, I find that I largely stand by it: the best stuff is "Scanners Live in Vain," "The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal," "A Planet Named Shayol," and the three Casher O'Neill stories. Like When the People Fell, this book collects the stories in their chronological order in Smith's "Instrumentality of Mankind" future history, with "out-of-continuity" tales thrown in at the end. It would be nice to read Smith's work in publication order, I think, to see the contrast that provides.

There are some stories collected here that weren't in WtPF, ones about the Underpeople, the animals-mutated-into-human-ish-life-forms servitor race: "The Dead Lady of Clown Town," "Under Old Earth," "Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons," "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard," and "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell." None of these made much of an impact. I don't know if it's because none of them were as good as the great stories I mentioned in paragraph one of this review, or because I wasn't reading them carefully because they were nestled among stories I didn't have to read carefully on account of them being rereads. But anyway, still an excellent book, and I look forward to finishing off Smith's sf oeuvre with Nostrilia in a couple years, I'm sure.

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