Read in ‘The Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels 1956. (ed T.E. Dikty, Frederic Fell, 1956).
If you want a few hundred words on a full plot summary read the wikipedia page on the story.
Written some ten years after the young Linebarger wrote ‘Scanners Live in Vain’ (it took five years to get that story published), this story is similarly set in a future with ‘The Instrumentality’ and has mention of ‘Scanners’. But here the story revolves around telepaths, without whom humanity cannot travels outside of our solar system. There are dark energies out there, which we perceive as dragons, and these telepaths (‘pinlighters’) with their companion ‘Partners’ do battle with these enemies.
The story has many excellent turns of phrase, and leads the reader through the story introducing background concepts and technology, with the odd clever ‘reveal’ (we aren’t told immediately that the small ‘Partners’ are in fact cats).
The dark depths of empty space are well captured, as is the combat and the psychological issues (these latter being Linebarger’s military specialism), and with a neat touch of humanity at the end (the protagonist finds that no woman can compare to his companion feline).
One thought on “Cordwainer Smith. The Game of Rat and Dragon. (Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1955.)”
I would love to track down the old pulps that some of my favorite stories are in, including this one and others by Cordwainer Smith. He was such a unique writer and I’m sad he didn’t have time to be as prolific as some of the other greats. I’m so grateful to the friend who introduced me to Smith’s stories, as the pleasure has been immeasurable. Very nice review.