Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wikipedia - Norstrilia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Norstrilia is the only novel published by Paul Linebarger under the pseudonym Cordwainer Smith, which he used for his science-fiction works (though several related short stories were once packaged together as a short novel The Quest of the Three Worlds). It takes place in Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind universe, and was heavily influenced by the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West.Contents [hide]
1 Plot
1.1 Setting
1.2 Plot summary
2 Publication history
3 References


The central character of Norstrilia is Roderick Frederick Ronald Arnold William MacArthur McBan the Hundred and Fifty-First, an inhabitant of a planet known as "Old North Australia", or simply "Norstrilia"; this is the only location in the Instrumentality of Mankind fictional universe which produces the precious immortality drug "stroon", which indefinitely delays aging in humans. Stroon (or the "Santaclara drug") is a substance harvested from the huge diseased sheep the Norstrilians raise, and which has the curious property of being resistant to all attempts at artificial synthesis by the most advanced science of the period. Since the Norstrilians have an effective monopoly, stroon sells for astronomical prices, and Norstrilia is fabulously wealthy (wealthier than any other single planet). To safeguard their archaic way of life (resembling Australian ranchers with a British cultural inheritance), the Norstrilians are forced to develop the most advanced defense force and weaponry known (see Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons); to protect their culture, imports from other worlds are taxed at rates exceeding 20 million per cent, reducing what would be a staggering fortune on another planet to humble penury on Norstrilia itself. Since stroon permits what is practically immortality, they are also forced to cull their young in order to prevent overpopulation (only those children who pass the tests of the "Garden of Death" enter adulthood).
Plot summary

Rod McBan is the last male descendent of one of the oldest Norstrilian families, and is the last heir to one of the best ranches, the Station of Doom. As such, he has been spared the culling three times, though he is generally considered unfit, as his ability to communicate telepathically with other Norstrilians is erratic and unreliable. After his last test — which he finally passes with the aid of a Lord of the Instrumentality and his own freak telepathic talents — he learns that an envious former friend, who suffers from an allergy to stroon and so is condemned to live a mere 150 years or so, seeks to kill him, using the pretext that the test was biased and administered unfairly.

Rod survives one assassination attempt. To escape the danger, he amasses an immense fortune overnight by playing the futures market in stroon, following a plan formulated by his ancient computer (which has certain more-or-less illegal quasi-military capabilities) which was passed down to him by an eccentric ancestor. By the next day, he is the wealthiest person in history. Noticing this, the Instrumentality changes the rules so it cannot happen again, but in typical fashion, lets him keep his money to see what he will do with it. Wild rumors begin to circulate about him. He is believed to have "bought Old Earth" (the home planet of mankind), though the reality of his convoluted financial deals and investments is considerably more complex.

For his safety, Rod is sent to Earth, where his unprecedented fortune quickly makes him a magnet for all manner of crooks and revolutionaries. After a series of adventures among the "underpeople" (animals genetically modified to resemble humans and possessing intellects that sometimes surpass their masters, used as slaves and generally despised) in the company of the bewitching Cat-woman C'mell, he meets their leader, E'Telekeli, an experimental creature of bird origin with enormous psychic powers. In exchange for most of Rod's immense fortune (to be used to campaign for the rights of the underpeople), he and Lord Jestocost, a Lord of the Instrumentality who is sympathetic to the underpeople's cause, send Rod safely back to Norstrilia, after fixing his telepathic disability and providing a psychological remedy for Rod's enemy.
Publication history

Before being published in a single novel in 1975, portions of Norstrilia were published as two short novels: The Planet Buyer in 1964, and as The Underpeople in 1968.
Norstrilia, 1975. Cordwainer Smith, Ballantine Books, ISBN 0-345-24366-8
Norstrilia, 1995. Cordwainer Smith, NESFA Press, ISBN 0-915368-61-7
We the Underpeople, 2006. Cordwainer Smith, Baen Books, ISBN 1-4165-2095-3

4 out of 5

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