Let’s get down and dirty with some old-fashioned science fiction today! We’re looking at Fuzzy Nation, the new book from author John Scalzi, and boy is it a good one! I mean, the book starts with a guy’s dog named Carl setting off a little strip mining explosive. Who doesn’t love a book with dogs who can do cool tricks like that? All my dogs can do is bark at the mail carrier (although they do it very, very well).
THE OFFICIAL BLURB: Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp’s headquarters on a planet 178 light-years from the corporation’s headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that’s not up for discussion.
Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is canceling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.
But there’s another wrinkle to ZaraCorp’s relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species.
Then a small furry biped—trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute—shows up at Jack’s outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to a planet’s worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed…and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the “fuzzys” before their existence becomes more widely known.
MY THOUGHTS: First off, if you’re an old-school sci-fi reader, this all might sound kind of familiar, as it is John Scalzi’s re-imagining of the 1962 story Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper, authorized by Piper’s estate. I could act all knowledgeable and scholarly and shoot a bunch of nonsense at you about the original book but, to be honest, I haven’t read it. I’m not familiar with it. I read this cold, as a new story.
And it works. Jack Holloway is the Han Solo-ish rascal you have to love, thumbing his nose at authority and anything that might threaten his coolness. Yet underneath, he’s a decent guy with a conscience who’s forced by circumstances to take on The Man for the good of these little catlike animals with whom he and Carl the dog bond.Well, yeah, and helping the pretty ex-lover biologist doesn’t hurt.
The writing is sharp, the humor is sharper, it moves fast, it’s fun, and it has a message that doesn’t have to beat you over the head to make its point. Even if you’re not a hard sci-fi reader (and believe me, I am no fan of the traditional space opera), this is a good read. And now I’m curious enough about the 1962 original story to check it out.
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