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Welcome to Old North Australia, or Norstrilia, the only planet that has "stroon," a substance that indefinitely delays aging in humans. Stroon is cultivated from huge, deformed sheep farmed by the wealthiest estate owners to ever exist in all of humanity's existence. Rod McBan is the last of one of the oldest and most honorable families on Norstrilia. But he himself has s Welcome to Old North Australia, or Norstrilia, the only planet that has "stroon," a substance that indefinitely delays aging in humans. Stroon is cultivated from huge, deformed sheep farmed by the wealthiest estate owners to ever exist in all of humanity's existence. Rod McBan is the last of one of the oldest and most honorable families on Norstrilia. But he himself has shortcomings that would normally have led to his death under the strict laws governing population control on a planet where immortality is cheap and imperfect citizens are ruthlessly "culled" to make way for more productive members of society. But even McBan's vaunted stature in the society is not enough to save him from the basest of human emotions-jealousy- as the enmity of a former friend forces him to escape to Earth, where McBan's unprecedented fortune quickly makes him a magnet for all manner of crooks and revolutionaries.


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Welcome to Old North Australia, or Norstrilia, the only planet that has "stroon," a substance that indefinitely delays aging in humans. Stroon is cultivated from huge, deformed sheep farmed by the wealthiest estate owners to ever exist in all of humanity's existence. Rod McBan is the last of one of the oldest and most honorable families on Norstrilia. But he himself has s Welcome to Old North Australia, or Norstrilia, the only planet that has "stroon," a substance that indefinitely delays aging in humans. Stroon is cultivated from huge, deformed sheep farmed by the wealthiest estate owners to ever exist in all of humanity's existence. Rod McBan is the last of one of the oldest and most honorable families on Norstrilia. But he himself has shortcomings that would normally have led to his death under the strict laws governing population control on a planet where immortality is cheap and imperfect citizens are ruthlessly "culled" to make way for more productive members of society. But even McBan's vaunted stature in the society is not enough to save him from the basest of human emotions-jealousy- as the enmity of a former friend forces him to escape to Earth, where McBan's unprecedented fortune quickly makes him a magnet for all manner of crooks and revolutionaries.

30 review for Norstrilia

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    4.5 Stars. The only novel ever written by Cordwainer Smith which is a real tragedy for fans of excellent, imaginative science fiction. This is a great big story full of great ideas and cool concepts. Nominee Hugo Award Best Novel (1964) (The Planet Buyer)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    "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 producing more of 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    Norstrilia: The only novel set in the “Instrumentality of Mankind” universe Originally posted at Fantasy Literature I’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” universe Originally posted at Fantasy Literature I’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 found more to 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. Even more absurd 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 is more interesting, 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Roddy Williams

    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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ian Casey

    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 the more ambitious 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 Wave' more generally.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dev Null

    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.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Thom

    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 read more than 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 read more than 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 3½ stars, with a possible increase after reading the collected short works.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Charles Dee Mitchell

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I felt like I had stumbled into the middle of something here, and then I read that Nostrilia, Smith;s only novel, is tied into a web of short stories that more fully explains the future world setting. Given that, he does an excellent job of establishing that world with enough information without weighing down the action with ponderous exposition and elaborately developed back stories. Who wouldn't like a story about a boy who buys the planet Earth? And I love the self-imposed austerity of the Nos I felt like I had stumbled into the middle of something here, and then I read that Nostrilia, Smith;s only novel, is tied into a web of short stories that more fully explains the future world setting. Given that, he does an excellent job of establishing that world with enough information without weighing down the action with ponderous exposition and elaborately developed back stories. Who wouldn't like a story about a boy who buys the planet Earth? And I love the self-imposed austerity of the Nostrilians, the wealthiest people in the universe thanks to stroon, a drug they derive from gigantic deformed sheep. Stroon allows earthlings to live thousands of years instead of the allotted 400 or so.To limit their wealth and keep to their simple farming ways, Nostrilians impose a 2 mllion per ent tariff on all inboud goods. (I maybe got that figure wrong, it could be two thousand or twenty million.) The hero, Rob McBan, is the innocent country lad who has to make his way through a decadent earth filled with those who want to exploit him, kill him, or who think of him as a kind of messiah. The story is fun from beginning to end, but Smith does not stint on the dark background of his future world. Earth is maintained by a genetically engineered race of underpeople, human-like creatures derived from animals, Humans themselves, freed from disease and want, are given to boredom, intrigue, and entertainments that allow them to pretend they have actual problems. They are elitist and racist, and only a handful of them sense that the days of their civilization are justifiably numbered.

  10. 5 out of 5

    William Korn

    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 get more meat out of the story by reading The Rediscovery of Man first.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chris Gager

    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 in more detail 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)

  12. 5 out of 5

    D.M. Dutcher

    Rod McBan, master and owner of a farm on the planet Norstrilla where giant sick sheep exude a drug which refined gives people immortality, is at risk to his life due to an old quarrel in his 3rd childhood. What does he do? He turns his old computer on the world and lets it buy up Old Earth itself. Even that isn't enough, as he has to escape to it. Once there, he gets involved in the wild plots of the Instrumentality of mankind and might just find himself. The book is a riot of color and language. Rod McBan, master and owner of a farm on the planet Norstrilla where giant sick sheep exude a drug which refined gives people immortality, is at risk to his life due to an old quarrel in his 3rd childhood. What does he do? He turns his old computer on the world and lets it buy up Old Earth itself. Even that isn't enough, as he has to escape to it. Once there, he gets involved in the wild plots of the Instrumentality of mankind and might just find himself. The book is a riot of color and language. It is more than just a novel, but a mythic tale of a future world that feels like a legend. The characters are unforgettable, each one. From the girlygirl C'mell. derived from a cat but one of the most perfect women in the universe, to the Catmaster, master of the Department Store of Hearts Desires and the last psychologist on earth, and to Rod McBan himself, a boy from a world where they kill their own people to keep the population down and a handkerchief costs more to import than a if he bought a planet. He has a gift for making what would seem to be absurd and outrageous believable and epic. It also has some profound meditations on what it means to be human, and is one of the most religious SF novels I've ever red. Perfect people live 400 year lives free of worry and want, but are dying inside, while the poor oppressed Underpeople, derived from animals, live full and rich lives under the sign of the Fish. The rediscovery of man involves teaching them imperfection and suffering so they can live again. It's like almost every chapter you find something. It gets even more meaning when you read his short stories, and you know who Joan is, or who Paul loved and lost on top of Alpha Ralpha Boulevard. The world is rich and linked together like a living thing, and only Dickson's Childe Cycle novels come close. There's honestly nothing like it, from his wild creativity to his poetic use of language. A forgotten masterpiece of SF.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I adored the collection of Cordwainer Smith's short stories called The Rediscovery of Man so was pretty pleased to track down this related novel. And I totally enjoyed it, but was a little let down. It isn't as good as some of the shorts. The plot of Norstrilia is pretty great, as far as it goes -- it's like a smart deconstruction of the gee-whiz sci-fi of Asimov or Heinlein. But the characters are shallow and underdeveloped. And there are a few annoying features, like the VERY '60s post-beat poe I adored the collection of Cordwainer Smith's short stories called The Rediscovery of Man so was pretty pleased to track down this related novel. And I totally enjoyed it, but was a little let down. It isn't as good as some of the shorts. The plot of Norstrilia is pretty great, as far as it goes -- it's like a smart deconstruction of the gee-whiz sci-fi of Asimov or Heinlein. But the characters are shallow and underdeveloped. And there are a few annoying features, like the VERY '60s post-beat poetry introduction. Yikes. It's also amazing to read this (and lots of other good classic science fiction) and think about the male writers of the time who were so insightful and imaginative about the future of technology and human existence, yet were unable to imagine updated gender relations or a changed role for women in human society. How did they miss that? It was bubbling up right under their noses! Anyway, I remain fascinated by Cordwainer Smith and his strange twisted images of the future. While reading this book, I kept wishing there was more Smith to read, that he had spent more time honing his science fiction. I also think that if I ever had the insane idea to get a Ph.D. in English (maybe when I am retired??) I would love to do a serious assessment of Cordwainer Smith and his complicated life and career.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Rawlins

    Ever read Dune? Like it? In particular, did you like the world, the spice concept, the idea of spaceflight powered by precognitives, a universal economy based on a life-extending substance, etc? Well, good. Because then you already like most of Norstrilia. I can only imagine Frank Herbert liked this book a whole lot, because he borrowed a shocking amount of it wholesale. Norstrilia is basically Dune without the pretension, long monologues, weird social-political diatribes, and giant worms. Instea Ever read Dune? Like it? In particular, did you like the world, the spice concept, the idea of spaceflight powered by precognitives, a universal economy based on a life-extending substance, etc? Well, good. Because then you already like most of Norstrilia. I can only imagine Frank Herbert liked this book a whole lot, because he borrowed a shocking amount of it wholesale. Norstrilia is basically Dune without the pretension, long monologues, weird social-political diatribes, and giant worms. Instead, it is fast-paced, humorous, and has super-giant sheep. A masterpiece, in my opinion, from an utterly forgotten sci-fi great.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bricksed

    It's a tragedy that Cordwainer Smith left so little behind; this book, along with the collection of short stories from the same universe whose title escapes me now, is an example of absolutely masterful science fiction. It's a tragedy that Cordwainer Smith left so little behind; this book, along with the collection of short stories from the same universe whose title escapes me now, is an example of absolutely masterful science fiction.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Thompson

    This odd, meandering tale felt more like a prequel than a stand alone novel. Just when things seemed to start happening, it ended. I'm actually a bit glad I won't make it to my book club meeting about this one because "if you can't say anything nice..." This odd, meandering tale felt more like a prequel than a stand alone novel. Just when things seemed to start happening, it ended. I'm actually a bit glad I won't make it to my book club meeting about this one because "if you can't say anything nice..."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    This is a compellingly bizarre book. Set in the far future, there's little or no attempt to make the science plausible; rather, all of the strange characters and milieus and technologies work more on a metaphoric level, allowing Smith to explore various aspects of sociology, politics, religion, psychology, economics, and the like. For example, the book features "underpeople" which are animals modified into human form so as to fill service roles in society; Norstrilia itself is short for Old Nort This is a compellingly bizarre book. Set in the far future, there's little or no attempt to make the science plausible; rather, all of the strange characters and milieus and technologies work more on a metaphoric level, allowing Smith to explore various aspects of sociology, politics, religion, psychology, economics, and the like. For example, the book features "underpeople" which are animals modified into human form so as to fill service roles in society; Norstrilia itself is short for Old North Australia and is a planet on which an immortality-bestowing fungus called stroon is harvested from huge, sick, hundred-ton sheep, a product that enriches the Norstrilians out of all proportion to the rest of the galaxy but for the fact that extremely high taxes keep the Norstrilian farmers limited to a spare, hardscrabble rural life. The novel is often quite funny, something that frequently doesn't work for me in fiction, but here the humor was wry and subtle and definitely tickled my funny bone. Overall, the book was very reminiscent of something Kurt Vonnegut might have written. This was the only novel-length work Smith wrote, having focused instead on short stories, many of which are seemingly set in the same universe as NORSTRILIA. I may try to track one or two of them down some day... 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4

  18. 4 out of 5

    Koji Mukai

    Incidences of too casual a description of violence aside, what surprised me the most was the modern sensitivity on cultural issues such as class and gender. Because of this, I found many of the characters very sympathetic.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jamesboggie

    I have strongly mixed feelings about this novel. I found it intriguing, but I also feel unsatisfied. Norstrilia is a dense science fiction novel. It is filled with science fiction concepts, like AI, supercomputers, faster-than-light travel, immortality, telepathy, and uplifted animals. I am sure there are concepts I missed, simply because there are so many author Cordwainer Smith lightly touched upon. The interplay of these elements in a far future setting was fascinating. I really wanted to unde I have strongly mixed feelings about this novel. I found it intriguing, but I also feel unsatisfied. Norstrilia is a dense science fiction novel. It is filled with science fiction concepts, like AI, supercomputers, faster-than-light travel, immortality, telepathy, and uplifted animals. I am sure there are concepts I missed, simply because there are so many author Cordwainer Smith lightly touched upon. The interplay of these elements in a far future setting was fascinating. I really wanted to understand this universe. Unfortunately, the overarching feeling I had while reading this novel was one of waking up in a foreign land to be dragged breathlessly through a chaotic marketplace. The main character, Roderick Arnold William MacArthur McBan to the one hundred and fifty-first, is a passive protagonist driven by the vague plots of cryptic strangers. In what seems to be a few days, Rod is transported from his world of Old North Australia to Old Earth. Plot points arrive abruptly with little explanation. He is introduced to a lifetime of wonders. He could spend years studying what he sees, but instead he is rushed through by other characters with hidden agendas. Readers are often told how to feel about a character rather than earning those feelings through effective writing. It all seemed so chaotic and disjointed to me. I am going to give a few examples of what I felt was abrupt and confusing. (view spoiler)[ First, the whole premise of the plot is suspect. Rod discovers that a powerful figure wants him dead. His computer offers a solution: buy the planet Earth. The computer never explains why it will protect Rod or why it is Rod's only option. It simply says it has run simulations that suggest it will work. The plan is introduced and implemented within a couple of pages. I still do not understand why Rod's only defense was buying an entire planet. That seems rather drastic to me. Why not hire a lawyer and a body guard? (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Second, Rod is dramatically transformed into an underperson to hide him from threats by greedy people. I never saw an explanation for why the incredibly powerful Instrumentality could not just protect him. It just happens within the span of a few paragraphs. (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Third, Rod is paired with a catgirl named C'Mell. After many paragraphs saying love between humans and underpeople is forbidden and these two are just friends, C'Mell suddenly takes her clothes off and offers herself to Rod. He declines, and she just pretends it did not happen. This happens in two paragraphs with absolutely no warning. (hide spoiler)] These and many other examples left me disoriented and unsatisfied while reading Norstrilia. Despite my critiques, I am not unhappy that I read Norstrilia. I think readers should probably read The Rediscovery of Man first, since it is referenced frequently in this novel. I expect to read that collection and return to Norstrilia in the future.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Cordwainer Smith comes up with some really original ideas. I like his writing, although he writes oddly, and doesn't always follow the patterns a person is used to in stories. For example, in this novel, the protagonist, Rod, never takes a lot of initiative. The plot is not driven by his actions. I would have preferred a more active protagonist, but it can't be that way: this story is part of a larger bunch of stories, and the story has to be driven by the needs of humanity, the underpeople, the Cordwainer Smith comes up with some really original ideas. I like his writing, although he writes oddly, and doesn't always follow the patterns a person is used to in stories. For example, in this novel, the protagonist, Rod, never takes a lot of initiative. The plot is not driven by his actions. I would have preferred a more active protagonist, but it can't be that way: this story is part of a larger bunch of stories, and the story has to be driven by the needs of humanity, the underpeople, the Instrumentality, etc. So this book is how one man's story fits into the "Rediscovery of Man" and the story of the underpeople. I would probably give it just 3 stars by itself, but having read all the other fiction that goes with it in the Corwainerverse, I think it works pretty well. The ending also made me happy, and that might have bumped it to 4 stars just there, especially the dream elements. That's a great way to have your (impossible) cake and (dream about) eating it too. This way he gets to (view spoiler)[have C'Mell - in a way, and for a time - and end up with Lavinia in the end. And also Houghton Syme can find some happiness. I like that Rod decides to give old Hot & Simple a measure of happiness. (hide spoiler)] I'm vastly amused by the premise, too. Points for imagination here: giant sick sheep producing an immortality drug; a boy who buys the Earth; a telepathic eagle that lives deep under the ground! What a creative mind...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    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 ba 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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jim Mann

    Cordwainer Smith wrote SF like nobody else. His vast future of the Instrumentality of Mankind and the Rediscovery of Man is a mythic work. It's strange and wonderful, and as most of it is in such a distant and strange future most of it hasn't dated. It still feels fresh and new. Norstrilia is his only novel set in that future (and in fact the only novel he wrote under the name Cordwainer Smith). It tells the story of Rod McBan, who, to escape a plot on his home planet of Norstrilia, buys the Ear Cordwainer Smith wrote SF like nobody else. His vast future of the Instrumentality of Mankind and the Rediscovery of Man is a mythic work. It's strange and wonderful, and as most of it is in such a distant and strange future most of it hasn't dated. It still feels fresh and new. Norstrilia is his only novel set in that future (and in fact the only novel he wrote under the name Cordwainer Smith). It tells the story of Rod McBan, who, to escape a plot on his home planet of Norstrilia, buys the Earth, travels there, and becomes involved with the complex society of the Underpeople. It's a wonderful book, full of invention and detail, that merits rereading. This is the first time I've re-read it in a number of years -- maybe even since I edited the NESFA Press edition back in 1994. I don't think I'll wait that long to read it again.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Edward Davies

    This is one of the best SF or fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time. McBan’s transformation into a simple farmer to the owner of the entire planet earth is cleverly executed and paced so well that it makes the unlikely storyline feel plausible and makes for a fascinating, though short, read. Once you’ve read this, you’ll find yourself believing in cat people, talking apes, and giant sheep with the ability to extend human lifespans.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bob(by)

    Got about 3/4 of the way through this and picked up another book. Oh and it had to go back to the library. The writing is pretty high quality, but the plot failed to capture my interest for whatever reason. Sometimes I just can't explain these things. Got about 3/4 of the way through this and picked up another book. Oh and it had to go back to the library. The writing is pretty high quality, but the plot failed to capture my interest for whatever reason. Sometimes I just can't explain these things.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Honestly, I like the short stories better, but this novel had a lot of charm. Very sixties sentimentality, mixed with the man who sold the world kind of ideas, and yet, it fit perfectly with the extended future histories that made his writings really special.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    1980, give or take...

  27. 4 out of 5

    spikeINflorida

    Reads like a children's story mixed with mythic folklore warped by Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Meh Reads like a children's story mixed with mythic folklore warped by Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Meh

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    a strange, strange book but very, very good.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    This is such a good book! Cordwainer Smith is now one of my favorite authors. I`m STILL trying to figure out how I missed him for 58 years! This is such a good book! Cordwainer Smith is now one of my favorite authors. I`m STILL trying to figure out how I missed him for 58 years!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Bauer

    Despite leaving an impressive body of work, Norstrilia, Smith's sole SF novel, seems irrefutable proof that he left us too soon. It functions both as a climax to his earlier Instrumentality of Mankind short stories and a rip-roaring odyssey on its own. Though, for better or worse, it seemed to nail the former more so than the latter from my personal reading experience. Rod McBan the 151st is in trouble. He's set to inherit his family's stroon farm on the planet of Northern Australia (The titular Despite leaving an impressive body of work, Norstrilia, Smith's sole SF novel, seems irrefutable proof that he left us too soon. It functions both as a climax to his earlier Instrumentality of Mankind short stories and a rip-roaring odyssey on its own. Though, for better or worse, it seemed to nail the former more so than the latter from my personal reading experience. Rod McBan the 151st is in trouble. He's set to inherit his family's stroon farm on the planet of Northern Australia (The titular Norstrilia), and that's baller. Stroon, nicknamed the Immortality drug, does literally that. Ingesting it can allows someone to potentially live anywhere from 400 to 1000 years. Maybe even beyond that if the ennui doesn't get them first. The only thing in Rod's way is his own homeworld's strict population control laws. Every Norstrilian is expected to undergo a testing when they come of age. And if they fail, you guessed it, they die. Rod's chances of passing are low, since by Norstrilian standards he's considered a freak due to his inability to communicate telepathically. Scared for his life, he uses his family's secret and not-strictly-legal computer to play the stroon futures market and buy Old Earth in an attempt to bankrupt Norstrilia and set the terms of his survival. Rather than save him though, this act of his merely trains more crosshairs on him, and sets him on a runaway odyssey that will take him to Old Earth, and throw challenge after challenge in his way. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. If you've read Smith's The Rediscovery of Man short story collection, you'll find a lot of familiar faces and concepts in Norstrilia. C'Mell and Jestocost feature prominently along with the Underpeople. Passing references are made to The Crime and Glory of Commander Suzdal and the Planet Shayol. Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons get name-dropped semi-regularly. You get it. This is easily one of Norstrilia's greatest strengths as a novel. The feeling that what you're reading truly is the next chapter in this tapestry that Smith has woven up until now with all his Instrumentality stories. It also, I think, may just be it's biggest weakness. I can't even imagine reading this without having read at least a few of the stories contained within The Rediscovery of Man. Like, Cordwainer Smith stories are weird. Amazing, beautiful, tragic, and uplifting. But freaking weird! The sheer amount of references in Norstrilia lead me to believe that reading this without any prior background knowledge must either boggle the mind or leave the reader thinking it a bit of a scatter-shot work. Even being familiar with the universe it took place in, I still found it a bit uneven at times in terms of dramatic punch or character development. All that said, easily a must-read if you're already a fan of the man's oeuvre. The sheer imagination on display is just wonderful. For instance, there's an assassination attempt with a mutant sparrow that has to be read to be believed (Someone put this shit on film! It's terrifying!). It truly makes one wonder what would have been next for the Instrumentality of Mankind universe if its creator had had the time to bring it to its possibly divine conclusion.

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