No, No, Not Rogov!
by Cordwainer Smith

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

If, February 1959

collected in —
You Will Never Be the Same
The Instrumentality of Mankind
The Rediscovery of Man

September 2008


The science-fiction short story "No, No, Not Rogov!" by Cordwainer Smith leads off with the first of these passages and follows it after just a few paragraphs with the next one below:

That golden shape on the golden steps shook and fluttered like a bird gone mad — like a bird imbued with an intellect and a soul, and nevertheless, driven mad by ecstasies and terrors beyond human understanding — ecstasies drawn momentarily down into reality by the consummation of superlative art. A thousand worlds watched.

Had the ancient calendar continued this would have been A.D. 13,582. After defeat, after disappointment, after ruin and reconstruction, mankind had leapt among the stars. ...

Here's the next:

The Ministry of State Security had been positively shocked when they found that a Nazi agent, more heroic than prudent, had almost reached N. Rogov.

Rogov was worth more to the Soviet armed forces than any two air armies, more than three motorized divisions. His brain was a weapon, a weapon for the Soviet power. ...

In "No, No, Not Rogov!", Cordwainer Smith integrates those wildly divergent spacetimes into a memorable story. The dancing woman in the far future is exactly what the plot calls for in that aspect. Even more strikingly, the Soviet characters and setting are just right for the grounded, current-time body of the story. Soviet Academician Rogov, his wife, and several agents of the State are deftly drawn.

The story is too short to share the plot here. I will say that Smith suggests that telepathic powers may be achieved not by some evolved organic mentalism, but via electrical progress: subtle, but — as we have come to believe — more prosaic. Progress along this biophysical line of mind-brain electronic communication has been in real-world news lately. But Soviet-style scientific materialism is ideal to appreciate such an effort and, impelled by Stalin himself, drive to its fulfillment.

This is one of Smith's first science fiction stories, and like many others of his Instrumentality of Mankind series, a tour de force: readable, thoughtful, and emotionally gripping.


© 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson

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