Norstrilia Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Norstrilia

Norstrilia is a 1975 science fiction novel, the only one written by Paul Linebarger (under the pen name Cordwainer Smith).
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The inhabitants of the planet Norstrilia are collectively and individually fabulously wealthy, for only on Norstrilia is the drug stroon produced (from giant mutated sheep). Stroon confers immortality. To avoid overpopulation and to keep themselves tough enough to hold onto their wealth, the Norstrilians test their adolescents; any who fail are immediately euthanized.

Rod McBan has repeatedly failed the test (his telepathic powers are strong, but too erratic), but because he is the last living heir to one of Norstrilia's oldest and best sheep ranches, he instead has his mind wiped each time; he goes through childhood again and again in the hope that he will one day prove himself worthy.

Meanwhile, an insane former friend who is allergic to stroon tries to murder Rod. To protect himself, Rod gambles in the financial market on stroon futures with the aid an ultra-sneaky (and illegal) family computer and becomes the richest person in history overnight. The Instrumentality of Mankind, which governs humanity, makes sure this cannot be repeated, but lets him keep his money. They then send him to Earth, away from his enemy.

There Rod becomes acquainted with the beautiful C'Mell, one of the "underpeople" (genetically modified animals who are made to resemble humans and can often think as well as, sometimes better than, their masters). She takes him to meet E'Telekeli, the leader of the underpeople. With the assistance of Jestocost (a justice-loving Lord of the Instrumentality), they make a bargain: much of Rod's wealth (to help the underpeople gain their freedom and civil rights) in exchange for telepathically gifted E'Telekeli fixing Rod's mental problem and providing a way for his Norstrilian foe to seem to experience a long, full life. This enables Rod to go home.
Best part of story, including ending: Smith/Linebarger has devised an original, imaginative fictional universe, not just in this novel, but also in his short stories. Also, like very few others (e.g. Jack Vance), his writing style is utterly distinctive.

Best scene in story: The night that Rod sets the financial market on its collective ear is amusing.

Opinion about the main character: Rod's a nice, down-to-earth (in both senses of the term) kind of boy.

The review of this Book prepared by J. Lee a Level 10 Peregrine Falcon scholar

Chapter Analysis of Norstrilia

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 30%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 10%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 30%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 30% FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   science fiction story Repressive society story    -   Yes Repressive because:    -   kills without good reason Lifeform altered?    -   Yes Kind of alteration:    -   personality change Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   wealthy Age:    -   a teen


A substantial portion of this book takes place on a non-Earth planetary body:    -   humans in a futuristic society Takes place on Earth?    -   Yes Planet outside solar system?    -   Yes

Writing Style

scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   none/very little science jargon needed How much dialogue?    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like Norstrilia

Cordwainer Smith Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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