We the UnderpeopleCordwainer Smith
science fiction, short stories
Introduction by Robert Silverberg. Selected by Hank Davis.
In a far-flung future, planoforming ships knit together a galaxy ruled from Earth by the ruthless benevolence of the mysterious Lords of the Instrumentality, who presided over a utopia without death, danger – or freedom. The Underpeople, humanlike beings created from animals to do the work of utopia, had no rights, and could be disposed of at the whim of a human. But they had become more humanlike than their creators, and their leader, the cat woman C'Mell, had a plan for gaining their freedom – which made her much too dangerous a person to be permitted to live. Elsewhere in the galaxy, the planet Norstrilia had power of its own, for it was the only source of stroon, the drug which arrested aging and made humans immortal. Its inhabitants were wealthy beyond comprehension, and one of them, a boy named Rod McBan, with the help of his computer, had manipulated the galactic economy until he completely owned the planet Earth – which made him much too dangerous a person to be permitted to live. But when Rod came to Earth and joined forces with C'Mell and the Underpeople, the petrified utopia of the Instrumentality began to crack and fall apart as freedom was reborn in the galaxy...
The NESFA Press volume The Rediscovery of Man reprints all 30-odd of Smith's science fiction stories, including the Casher O'Neill ones later fixed up as Quest of the Three Worlds (1966). The identically titled Gollancz volume is a reprint of the 1975 Del Rey volume The Best of Cordwainer Smith, which comprises about half of the complete short fiction. NESFA has also done an edition of Smith's only SF novel, Norstrilia, originally published in two halves as The Planet Buyer (1964) and The Underpeople (1968) and only published in one volume in 1975. And the Baen volume We the Underpeople contains five long stories plus Norstrilia. The NESFA Rediscovery of Man is suited best for Smith's fan as a proofread hardback, and annotated with helpful background information.