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|The Rediscovery of Man
by Cordwainer Smith
Reissued by NESFA Press, 1993
Amazon.co.uk: hardcover, paperback
Highly recommended by: Ross Pavlac
The godson of Sun Yat Sen. A professor of Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University by day. A consultant to the CIA and U.S. military intelligence by night (including authoring Psychological Warfare, the definitive work on the subject, under his real name, Paul Linebarger.) A writer of some of the most elegant, poetic science fiction ever. Period. And a committed Christian. While Tolkien rules the fantasy genre, in the (sometimes not so) humble opinion of Ross Pavlac, no one touches Cordwainer Smith in the science fiction genre. You want to see uncompromising top quality SF with a no-nonsense Christian theme underlying the action? No one did it better than Cordwainer Smith.
Note that you may see other titles by Cordwainer Smith in bookstores. [Norstrilia and The Rediscovery of Man] are his complete works if you own them, you will own all of his science fiction output.
I read both The Rediscovery of Man and Norstrilia based on Ross's recommendation on this reading list, and enjoyed both greatly. No heavy handed preaching, but a positive portrayal of Christianity and Christian values. Ron Oakes
The Cordwainer Smith stories have an interesting mix of the imaginative SF of the late Golden Age of the 50s, with a sort of mythic sense of history depending upon apparently minor choices which reminds me of The Pilgrim's Progress, or the stories of George Macdonald, or fairy tales. Probably the most famous story in this collection is "On the Storm Planet", which has been anthologised in "best of" collections, not just of Cordwainer Smith works, but of 20th century SF.
According to the introduction by John J. Pierce, Linebarger grew up nominally Methodist, and only joined the Episcopalian Church as a compromise with his second wife, Genevieve, who grew up Catholic. Apparently, he became a believer around 1960, six years before his death. Thus, references to Christianity (the Strong Old Religion, the Sign of the Fish, the First Forbidden One, the Second Forbidden One, and the Third Forbidden One, the two pieces of wood and the image of the man in pain, the God Nailed High) are scattered throughout the stories written later, but absent in those written earlier. This is made all the more confusing since the stories in this collection are arranged in order of internal chronology, rather than publication date. In fact, it's tempting to read the Instrumentality stories, at least, as a sort of episodic novel, but if you try to read them that way, you end up with odd discrepancies, such as technologies which are crucial to one story still being undiscovered in a later story. It is better to take each story on its own, although there are certain recurring themes (destiny vs. free will, security vs. freedom, etc.), and the broad sweep of Linebarger's imagined future history. Greg Slade (July, 2004)
I really like this man's work. Cordwainer Smith's short story, "The Ballad of Lost C'mell," and my favorite, "Scanners Live in Vain" are on the all time great list for science fiction short stories. Brandon Barr (July, 2007)
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