First of all let me state that this is a British collection of only 12 short stories from the author, named "The Best of Cordwainer Smith" in other editions.
Cordwainer Smith is the pen name of Mr. Paul M. A. Linebarger, who lived a comparatively short (1913 - 1966) and difficult life. He was educated in China, Germany and USA. He loose one eye in an accident being a child. Had a PH degree in Political Sciences, was a university professor and worked undercover for CIA. At the same time he wrote fascinating sci-fi stories.
My first contact with the author's stories was "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" (included in this volume). It was obvious for me that this was a fragment of a greater story, full of mysterious and provoking ideas as the Rediscovery of Man, the Eketeli and so on. I was captivated by the imagery and searched for more works from Cordwainer Smith. Little by little they were appearing in different sci-fi magazines and short stories collections.
There are various editions of collected short stories of the author. This book contains twelve of them, constituting a fair sample of the author's universe giving the reader a broad inkling to it.
Each story of this publication has a short introduction by J. J. Pierce, editor of this collection.
"Scanners Live in Vain" was Cordwainer's first published tale, situated around year 6000 AD, describes a crisis within the Scanners Guild and the emerging of a new type of interstellar flight.
In "The Game of Rat and Dragon" humans and telepathic cats join forces against dreadful dragons of deep space.
The story "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" is an overwhelming recreation Joan D'Arc story transferred to the Underpeople and my favorite one from the author.
The second outstanding story in this volume is "Under Old Earth" describing the pilgrimage of agonizing Lord Sto Odin to the Gebiet a mysterious place under old Earth.
"Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" describes the Rediscovery of Man a sort of Cultural Revolution decided by the Instrumentality and focuses on a young couple trying to cope with the new situation.
Last of my favorite tales in this book is "Ballad o Lost C'Mell" about the lovely cat-girl C'Mell and her impossible love for Lord Jestocost.
Recently all Cordwainer Smith tales has been published in Spanish in a four volume edition and I obviously treasure them!
This is a wonderful sample from an unjustly underrated author.
Reviewed by Max Yofre.