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Cordwainer Smith

2022-03-06 — Michael Haupt

A while ago, I read some stories and a novel collected in a book titled "We the Underpeople" by Cordwainer Smith. This was an unexpected and very positive experience in my science fiction reading journey.

All of Smith's stories are set in the same universe, and cover a timespan of thousands of years, shedding light on the different periods and key events in the world's history. In that, it predates Iain Banks' Culture universe by decades, and I dare say Banks' works are more focused on grandeur and distinctively more hollow than Smith's (if somewhat equally witty).

This anthology contains Smith's only novel, Norstrilia, and some carefully selected short stories that serve as a good introduction to the universe and well prepare the unsuspecting reader for the novel. The writing is a bit unforgiving in that it throws the reader right into the water at the deep end of the pool, there is no introduction as such; one has to figure things out and tie strings and little clues together while reading. That makes it very interesting, at least for me.

I'm not going to give away too many of the details here, just that Norstrilia's plot about someone buying the entire planet Earth just because he can made me chuckle. (Iain Banks must have known this when he wrote about The Business owning the entire Roman empire.) Cordwainer Smith's writing is witty, thought provoking, and unusual in the best possible way. Strong recommendation.

Tags: books