I had never heard of Cordwainer Smith aka Paul Linebarger until I was introduced to the SF Masterworks list. The stories in this book are all part of Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind universe in the extreme far future. In this universe deep space interstellar travel is painful to man and drives him insane and the Instrumentality controls all things humankind keeping everyone happy and healthy. Underpeople, animals developed into human-like form, do all menial labor. Mankind is for all intents and purposes immortal through the use of stroon, a drug from the planet Old North Australia (Norstrilia). Dune anyone?
Then the Instrumentality discovers that they have done their job too well. Mankind is slowly going insane because the Instrumentality has made them too safe and happy. So the Instrumentality re-introduces ancient diseases, cultures, languages, etc. and implements a maximum age limit. Thus the Rediscovery of Man.
With the exception of the novel Norstrilia, which is definitely on my too read list, this book includes all of Smith's writings. If these stories are any indication, I really wish he had produced more. I highly recommend these stories to anyone!