When his ultra-logical computer tells him that to survive he must become the richest man in the universe, Rod McBan the hundred and fifty-first thought he had a good plan. A telepathic cripple, rejected by many of his people, owner of the Station of Doom, the safety of wealth would keep him safe. In one crowded, unbelievable night he achieved the impossible, became the richest boy in the galaxy.
But Rod McBan will soon discover that money brings trouble. A galaxy of people and other beings - out to rob him, use him or kill him!
Cordwainer Smith, pseudonym of the late Paul Linebarger, a professor and part-time spy, wrote only one SF novel, but it is in keeping with the picture of a future world he built in his other fiction. This novel, originally conceived and published in two parts in 1964 and '68, and later issued in paperback by Ballantine in 1975, begins like a more traditional SF tale. Protagonist Rod McBan's Norstrilian peers consider him inferior because he lacks their telepathic abilities. Nearly ``culled'' as part of the strictly regulated society's population control, McBan uses a computer to arbitrage the galactic financial markets, enabling him, literally, to buy Earth. While the first half would merely have made an interesting novel, the second, more lyrical part displays Smith's superior writing abilities as he describes both the Underpeople (genetically designed combinations of humans and other species-and the Instrumentality (an organization for keeping humanity from becoming stagnant). The result: a novel that transcends its time. Though not a scholarly edition (the variorum is incomplete and the introduction leaves much to be desired), this composite text, ably edited by James A. Mann, is a fine companion to the author's complete short fiction, The Rediscovery of Man.