Only partners could fight this deadliest ofwars—and the one way to dissolve thepartnership was to be personally dissolved!
rtners for the trip. By senior rights, he took first draw.
* * * * *
He grimaced. He had drawn a greedy old character, a tough old male whose mind was full of slobbering thoughts of food, veritable oceans full of half-spoiled fish. Father Moontree had once said that he burped cod liver oil for weeks after drawing that particular glutton, so strongly had the telepathic image of fish impressed itself upon his mind. Yet the glutton was a glutton for danger as well as for fish. He had killed sixty-three Dragons, more than any other Partner in the service, and was quite literally worth his weight in gold.
The little girl West came next. She drew Captain Wow. When she saw who it was, she smiled.
"I like him," she said. "He's such fun to fight with. He feels so nice and cuddly in my mind."
"Cuddly, hell," said Woodley. "I've been in his mind, too. It's the most leering mind in this ship, bar none."
"Nasty man," said the little girl. She said it declaratively, withou
The Game of Rat and Dragon is an early story in Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind series. The planoform ships that ply the stars are menaced by malevolent interstellar entities, and protected by pinlighters - parasite craft released from the host vessel carrying light bombs that can dispel the attackers. The pilots of the craft are sentient cats in telepathic communication with human controllers aboard the ship they are protecting. The cats perceive the attackers as rats, hence the title.
The cats are examples of Underpeople - animals genetically engineered to provide sentience - and used for various tasks deemed to risky for true humans. The fate of the Underpeople is an underlying thread in the Instrumentality series, with slowly growing attempts to see the Underpeople granted full rights as sentient beings.
All of Smith's work is simply wonderful.
I first read "the game of rat & dragon when I was about 16 in the mid '50s and it has stayed with me ever since. 7 years later I married a "Little Girl named West" (5 ft 1 & 1/2 inches and 100 lbs) whom I soon found was actually a cat-in-human-form. Our 50 year marriage, before her always dodgy chest finally did for her, was almost telepathic. I have just re-read "The Game of Rat & Dragon" for the first time in over 50 years and I acn't help wonder whether my "Little Girl Called West" might not be out there on a star-ship pin-lighting in the "Up-and-out." The question is "Is she part of the human fighting team, or has she reverted to feline form and is one of the telepathic Partners?"
I read about a third of the book and couldn't handle any more. Just a uninteresting story.
Linebarger, AKA Cordwainer Smith wrote many out of the ordinary stories which foreshadowed a large number of far future stories by many authors. Dr Linebarger was Sun Yat Sen's godson and many of his stories reflect Chinese story telling techniques. Game of Rat & Dragon is one of my favorites.
I don't understand the 2 star review; I thought the story was excellent, and the ending very clear. Read it for yourself; it's short and easy, but describes an interesting symbiotic relationship between humans and cats to protect spaceships from interstellar predators which can only be discovered by telepaths.
This story is just plain weird. It's worth reading just because of how different it is, but the writing is very poor - no engaging plot, and an ending that is not only unsatisfying but doesn't fit the story.
It probably deserves only 1 star, but I give it 2 because of the unique concept.
Good science fiction story. Earth ships making warp jumps are attacked by intangible creatures in interstellar space. Telepaths can detect the creatures and attack them, but are too slow to win very often. But cats have great reflexes. So each voyage telepaths are mentally paired with cats to fight the beasts.
A good, tense, plot, great (human and cat) characters, and good description of a mental space battle.
The Game of Rat and Dragon is a popular addition to many science fiction anthologies illustrating not only the Golden Age of Science Fiction, but of the gifted talent of writer Cordwainer Smith (1913-1966)
This story deals with a far future where interstellar spaceships are crewed by humans telepathically linked with cats to defend against the attacks of malevolent entities in space.
The characters are memorable and the battle scene, though way too short, is exciting enough for the most jaded reader.
Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger aka cordwainer smith was an early contributor to the "golden age" of science fiction. the worlds were fabulous and well-fleshed but it was the people and their ethical dilemmas that always were at the center of the stories.
this story is good introduction to the worlds he created. if you liked this, there are more stories of his out there...