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Norstrilia Tells the story of a boy from the planet Old North Australia where rich, simple farmers grow the immortality drug Stroon , how he bought Old Earth, and how his visit to Earth changed both him and Earth itself A very eccentric novel, a bit frustrating at times, but quite entertaining It was frustrating in that there were so many potentially interesting issues that could have been pursued and they were left unexplored For instance, telepathy is just a given in Norstrilian society and if you Tells the story of a boy from the planet Old North Australia where rich, simple farmers grow the immortality drug Stroon , how he bought Old Earth, and how his visit to Earth changed both him and Earth itself A very eccentric novel, a bit frustrating at times, but quite entertaining It was frustrating in that there were so many potentially interesting issues that could have been pursued and they were left unexplored For instance, telepathy is just a given in Norstrilian society and if you are judged to be disabled i.e not a telepath , you are executed at age 18 The reason given for this is population control but surely that is easier to do before the children are born, rather than executing 18 years olds Once they have passed this test, they have qualified to take the longevity drug, Stroon, and live a long life producingof the drug for export Population control and extreme long life seem to be at odds with each other, and no discussion of this conflict happens Rod McBan has great difficulty passing this test he is an irregular telepath, although he is a nice enough fellow and his friends and family are distressed that he is likely to be executed instead of becoming the head of the farm and family Except one man, a childhood frenemy, who really has a hate on for Rod.After passing through the Garden of Death unscathed, Rod must deal with realities he needs to get off Old North Australia in order to remain safe With the help of his antique computer, he uses his Stroon wealth to buy the planet Earth aka Manhome and sets off on a wild adventure.The most interesting part of the book for me was the Underpeople class, developed from animals such as cats, dogs, cows, even rats They are treated as disposable, used to do the messy or boring work that real humans are reluctant to perform, despite their obvious human ness Once again, the history development of these persons is glossed over, but the exploration of discrimination is well developed and the critique of institutionalized discrimination is organic and not preachy There were also a number of religious themes that might interest some.Nowadays, this story would be done as a series, exploring all the history and fleshing out all of the characters This book rattles from beginning to end in less than 300 pages, just hitting the high spots.Things I particularly liked attention to Australia, a country which rarely gets mentioned in science fiction Rod s sensual appreciation of the environment of Old Earth.Other observations this books follows in a tradition of the 1960s science fiction that deals with telepathy as a real thing it joins books like Kurt Vonnegut s Welcome to the Monkey House in dealing with longevity and population control issues.A fun, fast, and quirky read To our detriment, this is Smith s only novel, his output otherwise being a large number of quirky short stories mostly set in this universe of The Instrumentality of Mankind Having said that, Norstrilia has a complex origin since it was originally published in two shorter separate parts in 1964 as The Planet Buyer which itself was expanded from a shorter piece The Boy Who Bought Old Earth and The Store of Heart s Desire Roderick Frederick Ronald Arnold William MacArthur McBan to the Hu To our detriment, this is Smith s only novel, his output otherwise being a large number of quirky short stories mostly set in this universe of The Instrumentality of Mankind Having said that, Norstrilia has a complex origin since it was originally published in two shorter separate parts in 1964 as The Planet Buyer which itself was expanded from a shorter piece The Boy Who Bought Old Earth and The Store of Heart s Desire Roderick Frederick Ronald Arnold William MacArthur McBan to the Hundred and Fifty First known as Rod McBan is a boy living on the peculiar world of Norstrilia, heir to one of the prosperous mutant sheep ranches.Norstrilia, or Old North Australia, where the people are still subjects of Queen Elizabeth II, despite the fact she s been dead for at least fifteen thousand years was originally an Australian farming world until a virus attacked the sheep What could have been tragedy changed the fortunes of mankind as a by product of the sheep s illness was Stroon, a longevity drug Thus Norstrilia became the richest planet in the galaxy The Norstrilians did not want to change their way of life however, and so incredibly high taxes are paid on any imported items to their world Their children are tested in their teens to see if they are physically and mentally fit to survive, and those that fail get sent to a painless death Rod McBan is about to be tested, and his family are worried Rod seems unable to hier or spiek In other words, unlike the other telepathic natives of Norstrilia, he can neither hear thoughts nor project them A girl who loves him, Lavinia, knows that this is not strictly true as there are times when Rod can hier everyone s thoughts for miles around and when he is angry his mind is powerful enough to disable or kill.Having survived the test, with the help of Lord Redlady, a member of the ruling body The Instrumentality of Mankind it seems Rod is still in danger from one Houghton Syme, an old schoolmate of Rod s who is determined to kill or destroy him Rod has access to an ancient computer, hidden on his land which, when Rod asks it for help, puts a financial scheme in motion By the next day, Rod McBan is the owner of virtually all of Old Earth and therefore has to travel there to take ownership of his prize and escape the murderous attentions of Houghton Syme.Once on Earth he becomes acquainted with the Underpeople races of bioengineered animals who have a prophecy of a rich man coming to Earth to set them free Could this be Rod McBan Smith certainly had a facility for creating well defined characters Norstrilia is set in a marvellously detailed if slightly unrealistic landscape The narrative is peppered with songs and poetry which adds to a certain undercurrent of joy that suffuses the book Eccentric and fascinating figures appear and disappear, such as The Catmaster, who is a kind of guru healer figure and the only Underperson allowed by special dispensation of The Instrumentality to take Stroon Smith throws in ideas right left and centre, such as the giant alien architects who once visited human worlds and built indestructible buildings on various planets on a whim before leaving It s a marvellously clever mix of comedy, drama, satire and romanticism, interspersed with poetry and song.At the end of the day, however, it is simply the story of a young man who much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz travels to another world, has adventures, makes friends and enemies and ultimately realises that what he wants and needs has been at home in his own back yard all the time What I learned from this book 1 Inflation has its uses.2 Sometimes the best computer for the job is the laminated brain of a mouse.3 The economic significance of mutant sheep.4 Go big or go home A sideways and roundabout look at a strange and twisted future involving everything from telepathic mink to bird men with hypnotic mandalas to a man who literally bought the planet earth I don t know why it works, but it most certainly does this is a must read for anyone who appreciates a un What I learned from this book 1 Inflation has its uses.2 Sometimes the best computer for the job is the laminated brain of a mouse.3 The economic significance of mutant sheep.4 Go big or go home A sideways and roundabout look at a strange and twisted future involving everything from telepathic mink to bird men with hypnotic mandalas to a man who literally bought the planet earth I don t know why it works, but it most certainly does this is a must read for anyone who appreciates a unique imagination of the world to come Norstrilia The only novel set in the Instrumentality of Mankind universeOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureI ve always wanted to read the work of Cordwainer Smith pen name of Paul Linebarger, a scholar and diplomat who was expert in East Asia and psychological warfare , who also moonlighted as a quirky SF author who wrote a number of short stories mainly in the 50s and 60s set in the Instrumentality of Mankind, a full fledged galaxy spanning far future universe.He has something of a cult Norstrilia The only novel set in the Instrumentality of Mankind universeOriginally posted at Fantasy LiteratureI ve always wanted to read the work of Cordwainer Smith pen name of Paul Linebarger, a scholar and diplomat who was expert in East Asia and psychological warfare , who also moonlighted as a quirky SF author who wrote a number of short stories mainly in the 50s and 60s set in the Instrumentality of Mankind, a full fledged galaxy spanning far future universe.He has something of a cult following, but really only has a few books to his credit, the collected short stories that can be found in The Instrumentality of Mankind 1974 , The Best of Cordwainer Smith 1977 , and The Rediscovery of Man 1993 He wrote only one novel, Norstrilia 1975 , which itself was initially two shorter books The Planet Buyer 1964 and The Underpeople 1968.Not knowing which to read first, I decided to start with the novel Norstrilia, but I now think that was a mistake Although Smith has created a rich and imaginative world that doesn t resemble anything else I ve read before, I think he really established his reputation with his short stories, and having just read the most famous one, Scanners Live in Vain 1950 , I d say that Smith s skills lie in the short form, not the long That is a poignant, bizarre, and haunting story that really is an amazing creation I foundto like in that story than in the entire book, so I am now reading The Rediscovery of Man collection If you want a taste of Cordwainer Smith, start with his short stories instead Norstrilia features an immortality drug called stroon derived from a fungus that infects giant sheep cultivated by hardy, frugal and conservative and now ultra wealthy settlers from Old North Australia, space travel via planoforming, telepathic spieking and hiering, and a permanent underclass of Underpeople on Old Earth genetically engineered from various animals Ruling over this is the Instrumentality of Mankind, a quasi government body of immortals that seek to keep mankind vigorous by introducing imperfections and problems into what had become a stagnant and decadent utopia, and also reviving some of the ancient cultures of man, a process known as The Rediscovery of Man.The protagonist of Norstrilia is Rod McBan the 151st, a young man born into the most venerable family on Old North Australia Norstrilia , who lacks the telepathic ability to spiek and hier like his fellow Norstrilians, and thus faces a life and death test The Garden of Death at age 18 that determines whether he can a full fledged man and citizen, or be given a lethal injection of the giggling death Suffice to say he survives due to extenuating circumstances, but after that gets targeted by an assassin jealous of his status and immortality He decides to let his ancient computer, which has been idly calculating various scenarios to accumulate vast wealth for thousands of years out of cybernetic boredom, to leverage all of Rod s considerable assets contained in his farm s stroon fortune to do a byzantine series of futures transactions to corner the market for stroon Incredibly, the computer manages to pull this off and makes Rod into the wealthiest individual in the universe overnight With this new fortune, he literally buys Old Earth and everything it contains, and decides to travel through space via planoforming to visit his new acquisition.Of course Rod s incredible wealth attracts all sorts of thieves, gold diggers, and revolutionaries, all who want something from him, so he genetically alters himself into a cat man to travel Earth anonymously, with a gorgeous girlygirl cat woman named C mell and a tiny monkey physician named L Agentur He undergoes various adventures with aristocrats and underpeople, learning of the harsh inequalities that permeate Old Earth society, and finds himself sympathizing with the underpeople, who actually keep decadent human society functioning but get treated only with contempt in return In the end Rod finally takes decisive actions that change the fate of the underpeople and himself.I give the author full credit for creating an unusual and quirky universe, but I found the ultra rich but stubbornly frugal farmers of Norstrilia pretty hard to believe 15,000 years in the future The idea that their society would be sustainable as a group of independent minded sheep farmers sitting on vast wealth but prevented from spending it by a 20 million percent tax on imports seems pretty ridiculous, don t you think Yes, they allow citizens to cash out and lead an opulent life offworld, it s hard to picture anyone not taking this option over time Evenabsurd is the idea that an antique semi military computer could manipulate the stroon futures market of a galactic civilization spanning thousands of worlds, overnight This is the equivalent of the NYSE or NASDAQ being taken over by a nerdy kid with a Commodore 64.Norstrilia also betrays its origins as two different stories cobbled together The first half featuring his trials on Norstrilia and the second half with his adventures with the Lords of the Instrumentality and the underpeople don t really mesh well together I d have to say the second half isinteresting, but neither really captured my interest like I was hoping If I was feeling harsh I would give it 2 stars as it feels a bit slapped together, but will be generous and assign 3 stars for the overall unique vision of the future he gave us It is one of the enduring tragedies of science fiction that the man who wrote as Cordwainer Smith died so young His life was weird and fascinating from living in China during the revolution to writing what is still considered to be one of the fundamental texts on psychological warfare and his experiences with such a variety of people and cultures comes through in his stories He takes perfectly believable aspects of people and twists them so far out of proportion that they are barely recogn It is one of the enduring tragedies of science fiction that the man who wrote as Cordwainer Smith died so young His life was weird and fascinating from living in China during the revolution to writing what is still considered to be one of the fundamental texts on psychological warfare and his experiences with such a variety of people and cultures comes through in his stories He takes perfectly believable aspects of people and twists them so far out of proportion that they are barely recognisable in order to show them in high relief like the Norstrillans in this story, who are the wealthiest people in the known universe by orders of magnitude, but deliberately keep themselves in a simple lifestyle by imposing an import tax of 2 million percent on everything coming in to the planet Or people whose lives are so perfect they have no challenge, so they deliberately re introduce accidents and disease to their world to keep things interesting He also tackles in one of those strange coincidences of unknowingly reading two books about the same theme back to back, which seem to happen to me inordinately often the same sticky question of how immortality would change human society that Elizabeth Moon was delving into in her Serrano books.This is a story which describes a young man who buys the earth and goes to visit it, becomes a cat, meets some people, and goes home That s not what its about, but thats how the story goes to find out what its about you ll just have to go and read it I can t imagine summarising it in any way that wouldn t do it an injustice I described Norstrilia to a friend as a charming kind of bonkers , and for me it was Nevertheless I understand why it was problematic in a number of ways particularly the 1960s sexism and portrayals of slavery and xenophobia, albeit much of this was deliberately echoing older pulp sci fi as well as giving the impression of a rushed and cobbled together mess at times It also had one of the most passive protagonists in recorded history and a villain who was so underdeveloped as to be essentia I described Norstrilia to a friend as a charming kind of bonkers , and for me it was Nevertheless I understand why it was problematic in a number of ways particularly the 1960s sexism and portrayals of slavery and xenophobia, albeit much of this was deliberately echoing older pulp sci fi as well as giving the impression of a rushed and cobbled together mess at times It also had one of the most passive protagonists in recorded history and a villain who was so underdeveloped as to be essentially an off screen character Some people aren t feeling the same charm I did underneath those issues and I don t blame them.Perhaps we can mostly agree that much of the book is at least bonkers, whether charming or not The portrayal of such absurdities as thousand tonne giant mutant sheep being shorn with lawnmowers was enough to engage me in the world It does throw these loopy ideas at you frequently and many of them are neither explained nor expanded upon, though I understand much of it ties into the short stories collected in The Rediscovery of Man Apparently it was one of theambitious early examples of a sci fi universe and the novel is meant to be read within that broader context.Smith s prose tends to the literary and his influences and style are uncommon He is clearly inspired by Chinese literature, not least Journey to the West His interests in psychology, pscyhological warfare and political activism also inform the novel There are hints of Christian allegory but he seems to retreat from embracing them At times he arguably subverts them Rod McBan is not the messiah, he s just a very naive and rich boy.I for one was amused by the humorous though at times severely dark portrayal of a future culture based on the Crocodile Dundee image of 20th century Australians Like so much in the book, the portrayal is consciously mythic and mythopoeic This is a universe as people perceived it after the fact, with exaggerated characters and cultural self images that would break down under critical scrutiny The Chinese influence manifests in this aspect.It s certainly a book with a convoluted publishing history, having taken about six years to write as a novel, then being hacked apart for various different versions in magazines and being split into two novellas not once but twice Thus I m privileged to have got my hands on the 1994 NESFA Press hardcover which is apparently the definitive edition I highly recommend it if you can find a copy as it includes an extensive introduction and an appendix with extracts from alternative versions of the text.All things considered I would say this book may still appeal to fans of sci fi of the irreverent variety Douglas Adams et al , of space opera, of cool settings with a range of possibilities, and of New Wavegenerally Interesting book, the author s only novel Feels like a serial adventure, collected tales and indeed this universe is detailed through the author s other short stories.Set in the far future, this coming of age story fits in the space opera mold at times Bigger ideas from the author s world are only hinted at Originally written in 1960 and published in two parts, I read the restored version but have yet to readthan a few of Smith s short stories.Dr Paul Linebarger, aka Cordwainer Smith Interesting book, the author s only novel Feels like a serial adventure, collected tales and indeed this universe is detailed through the author s other short stories.Set in the far future, this coming of age story fits in the space opera mold at times Bigger ideas from the author s world are only hinted at Originally written in 1960 and published in two parts, I read the restored version but have yet to readthan a few of Smith s short stories.Dr Paul Linebarger, aka Cordwainer Smith, died 8 years before this restoration was published Norstrilia is considered an SF masterwork and is on David Pringle s list of 100 best SF novels A solid 3 stars, with a possible increase after reading the collected short works This is the only novel Cordwainer Smith ever wrote during his distinguished career It tells the story of a boy form the planet Old North Australia where rich, simple farmers grow the immortality drug Stroon , how he bought Old Earth, and how his visit to Earth changed both him and Earth itself This is essentially a coming of age story with a difference And what a difference Roderick Frederick Ronald Arnold William MacArthur McBan to the Hundred and Fifty First is a typical teenager in a most atypical place and time By turns arrogant, naive, very intelligent, warm, clever, depressed, and ultimately very likeable, Rod McBan solves a personal problem by conniving with the McBan Family Computer to buy the entire planet Earth lock, stock, and underpeople The main narrative traces his This is essentially a coming of age story with a difference And what a difference Roderick Frederick Ronald Arnold William MacArthur McBan to the Hundred and Fifty First is a typical teenager in a most atypical place and time By turns arrogant, naive, very intelligent, warm, clever, depressed, and ultimately very likeable, Rod McBan solves a personal problem by conniving with the McBan Family Computer to buy the entire planet Earth lock, stock, and underpeople The main narrative traces his growth to responsible adulthood as he comes to Earth to manage his purchase.The story is set in Smith s marvelous alternate universe, the Instrumentality of Mankind see The Rediscovery of Man In his journey, Rod McBan meets personages both high and low, from the great Lords of the Instrumentality who ceaselessly work to help mankind reach its full potential, to the underpeople genetically engineered animals bred to do the dirty work that mankind no longer wants to do His interactions with them inform his own growth and the growth of mankind as it comes to inhabit the entire galaxy.Cordwainer Smith has many axes to grind in his alternative universe, although he usually grinds them with considerable subtlety Injustice, the advantages and disadvantages of religion, technology, duty, pride, power, lust, and dedication are but some of the big issues he takes up Smith s own rather unique life gives some interesting twists to his opinions.Norstrilia can be enjoyed on its own, but its constant references to Smith s larger universe suggest that the reader would getmeat out of the story by reading The Rediscovery of Man first When I m done with this I ll have read all of Mr Smith s work He died young and had a very demanding day job so there s not much there But what s there is cherce My library copy is a small hardbound with a dull brown cover so I ll leave this cover up Turns out, upon further investigation, that this is a re bound paperback It now has a hardbound cover, probably applied by the UMASS Amherst library where it s on loan from I never heard of such a thing before, though it seems like someth When I m done with this I ll have read all of Mr Smith s work He died young and had a very demanding day job so there s not much there But what s there is cherce My library copy is a small hardbound with a dull brown cover so I ll leave this cover up Turns out, upon further investigation, that this is a re bound paperback It now has a hardbound cover, probably applied by the UMASS Amherst library where it s on loan from I never heard of such a thing before, though it seems like something that libraries would do to prolong the lives of paperback books.Getting into this story now and enjoying it very much love the humongous sheep Yes indeed folks, this book was Dune before Dune was Dune Pretty darned obvious I d say The Demon Princes is another work that this is suggestive of ceilinging Rod has reached Earth HOW a typical CS mystery Some kind of mysterious space travel which he explains indetail in other stories If you make it crazy enough who s to say it won t work He doesn t explain that much Rod has met the amazing C mell, whom I ve already met in other stories She seems to be CS s dream girl YUM YUM In telling a longer story, i.e one with a sort of linear plot with some logic supposedly involved our beloved Mr Smith shows some weaknesses He seems to get bogged down at times and action details is not really described clearly and convincingly A minor quibble Blue men easy to visualize these days Now a bit of Stranger in a Strange Land with the arrival of Rod prophesized savior of the underpeople on Earth Manhome.Been busy busy lately so my reading progress has been a bit slow Rod has been getting deeper into his earth adventures and the connections to Stranger in a Strange Land and Dune come up again For Paul Atreides it was the Gom Jabbar and for Paul it was the Hate Room Then there s the Catmaster C william s similarity to good ole Yoda Frank Herbert owes a LOT too this book Bit of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as well in the financial manipulations The Demon Princes also Moving roads who was the guy who wrote stories about the moving roads Heinlein Finished up last night with this intriguing but a bit disappointing book Mr S had trouble keeping his weird mojo going for a couple of hundred pages No big deal Then there was the somewhat religious tone of the last part He never got to expand much on the future of the Instrumentality because of his early death His interest in religion and spiritual matters and the effect it had on his stories reminds me of J D Salinger, whose fiction went to almost total hell after he began to try to hook it onto his spiritual notions Did I mention another connection or two Dies Irae Bryan M Stableford and The Island of Dr Moreau Used the term higher power maybe he was in AA The big, big warehouse Raiders of the Lost Ark E telekeli a bird man The World of Tiers though those were bird women


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