Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi

Tor Science Fiction, ISBN 9780765328540, March 2012

Half a century ago, H. Beam Piper gave us the wonderful story, Little Fuzzy. Delightful as it still is, in some ways its age shows. John Scalzi, one of the many who loved Piper's Little Fuzzy, rather more recently set himself to writing an updated, 21st century story of the Fuzzies, originally just as a writing exercise for his own edification and pleasure. It couldn't end there, of course, and after book contract negotiations somewhat more complex than average, you can now read Fuzzy Nation.

The story is basically the same. Jack Holloway is a prospector on a planet being mined by a huge, multisystem corporation. He's got a past he doesn't talk about, and he's difficult and a known troublemaker, and just generally doesn't deal with rules well. One day, a furry, bipedal creature about four feet tall shows up at his cabin, and all heck breaks loose.

At first, it's fairly mundane heck: The creature is small, agile, and has amazing manual dexterity, has no idea what's what in the cabin, and is terrified of Jack's dog, Carl. Then things get a little more complicated. This is a new life form, a mammal-like biped on a planet that has mostly reptilians. The logical person to report this to is his ex-girlfriend, who is the company's staff biologist, and just a bit annoyed with Jack, just because he lied under oath, claiming that she had lied about him teaching his dog to set off explosives...

It's tricky, and it gets trickier when she starts to suspect that the Fuzzies aren't just clever animals, but people.

The difficulty level goes through the stratosphere when the corporate chairman's son shows up on a tour, and becomes directly involved in making sure the Fuzzies aren't declared an intelligent species, bringing the company's mining operations to a crashing halt.

Scalzi's Jack is a different character than Piper's Jack, and the Fuzzies are different, too. They remain complex, interesting beings who keep surprising the humans around them. It's a lot of fun, both entertaining and thoughtful.


I bought the ebook edition.