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John Scalzi – Fuzzy Nation

September 22, 2014

74. Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (2011)

Read By: Wil Wheaton
Length: 7h 18m (301 pages)

Genre: Science Fiction

Started: 28 August 2014
Finished: 31 August 2014

Where did it come from? Audible.
Why do I have it? More Scalzi that I hadn’t read, and narrated by Wil Wheaton is always a plus.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 24 August 2014.

Why should we only
protect an alien world
if they are sentient?

Summary: Jack Holloway is an ex-lawyer who now makes a living as a mining surveyor for Zaracorp, currently living on the planet Zara XXIII. When a cliff that he is surveying collapses, he’s in trouble – Zaracorp has to protect its image against the concerns of the environmentalists – but when he discovers a rich seam of incredibly valuable sunstones is discovered in the cliff, his bosses are willing to overlook his eccentricities (like letting his dog, Carl, detonate the explosives Jack uses). Shortly thereafter, Jack returns home to find that his house has been broken into, by a formerly unknown species that looks something like a bipedal cat but have the intelligence at least of a monkey. Jack asks his former girlfriend, Zaracorp’s planetary biologist for Zara XXIII, to examine the species (five of which have now semi-permanently taken up residence with Jack and Carl). She decides that the Fuzzies, as Jack has dubbed them, are not only intelligent, they’re actually sapient. But if that’s proven to be true, Zaracorp will have to leave the planet, including the massive sunstone seam, immediately, so there are powerful people that have a vested interest in making sure the Fuzzies are proven to be animals – or exterminated before a decision can be made. Jack’s not exactly disinterested himself – his finder’s fee will net him a massive profit from the sunstones – but he might be the only ally the Fuzzies have.

Review: This book is a reboot of H. Beam Piper’s 1962 novel Little Fuzzy (which I have not read, nor even heard of prior to reading this book) – same characters and storyline, but updated to a modern sensibility. I went into it not knowing hardly anything about the plot (other than the Ewok-esque creature on the cover), and expecting something with the same level of snarky humor as Redshirts or Old Man’s War. So initially I was a little disappointed – there are definitely funny scenes and good one-liners, and Jack’s a snarky bastard, but overall I didn’t find it as funny as most other of Scalzi’s books that I’ve read. It’s also filled throughout with a bunch of corporate contract negotiations and legal maneuvering, which take up a lot of the initial scenes and didn’t really hook me in. But as I got more and more into it, I became more invested in the characters, and Jack’s legal maneuvering became something to cheer for, not just sit through. As much as I normally dislike situations where good people (or at least people trying to do the right thing) are stuck powerless in terrible situations against opponents who are holding all the cards, in this case, it was fun to watch them play the one card they do have, especially when it winds up being exactly the one right card. (There may have been fist-pumping involved as I was listening. More than once. At least I wasn’t in public!)

So, as the plot maneuvers through its twists and turns, almost all of which managed to totally surprise me and yet fit into the plot perfectly, I wound up being totally won over, and eventually I remembered that Scalzi also has books like Zoe’s Tale, and this book is just as full of heart, with the same occasional touches of heartbreak. I wound up really enjoying this book – it had the right pace, the right level of complexity, and a great blend of action and humor and cleverness and emotion. (And also Carl – I’m always a fan of good dog characters in my stories.) 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: This book was a little bit of a slow start for me, but I wound up enjoying the heck out of it. Recommended for fans of Scalzi’s, or science fiction, or anyone who’s thought about xenobiology, and how our current societal attitudes would really affect the way we deal with alien life.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Ela’s Book Blog, Mervi’s Book Reviews, Stainless Steel Droppings, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Jack Holloway set the simmer to HOVER, swiveled his seat around, and looked at Carl.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2014 8:20 pm

    Sounds good! I have both this and Little Fuzzy on my TBR list. Little Fuzzy is in the public domain so it’s readily available for free. Scalzi actually got the blessing of Piper’s estate before publishing his version even though he technically didn’t need to.

  2. September 23, 2014 8:24 am

    I listened to this on audio last year and really enjoyed it as well!

  3. September 24, 2014 4:18 pm

    Good to know this isn’t Scalzi at the top of his funniness game — Fuzzy Nation is the book I have of his, so it’s probably the first one I’ll read. But I’ll keep in mind that this one becomes awesome after the slow start.

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