John Scalzi has been one of my favorite authors since I read Old Man’s War a few years back. I’m sure he’s been on most people’s favorite list after reading that. It’s one all sorts of awards and I’ve devoured up the rest of the books in that series, including getting my hands on one of the Subterranean Press copies of The Sagan Diary. I am planning on jumping all over the hardcover Redshirts when that comes out next month, but my penchant for mass market sized books compelled me to wait for the paperback with Fuzzy Nation.
Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. One hundred seventy-eight light-years from ZaraCorp’s head office on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor on the planet Zarathustra, prospecting and surveying at his own pace.
Then, in the wake of a cliff collapse he accidentally caused, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginable valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp cancels their contract with him. Briefly in the catbird seat, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.
But there’s another wrinkle. ZaraCorp’s entire legal right to exploit Zarathustra is based on being able to certify that the planet 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 it’s family. As it dawns on Jack that these aren’t winsome petlike creatures but ratherpeople, he beings to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to the planet’s wealth is flimsy indeed … and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the “fuzzys” before their existence becomes more widely known.
So I got a bit lazy again there and typed out the back of the book blerb. Keeps me from blabbing too much, those are written by professionals and all. So anyways, for all that I waited for my preferred size publication, the genesis of this book fascinated the b’jebus out of me. With Fuzzy Nation, Scalzi took a book from the 60s he really loved and gave it a reboot with permission from the author’s family. I enjoy reading stories written from different points of view so this instantly intrigued me. Now, I haven’t read the original, in fact, H. Beam Piper wasn’t an author I was familiar with either so I was coming into this cold. Piper’s original, is in the public domain now and available over here via Project Gutenberg. I prefer my books on paper so haven’t had at it yet, but the summary shows that some of the characters have been mixed around but the principals and the general story arc are the same.
There are a couple things that the back of the book blerb is lacking. First off, Jack Holloway is an ex-lawyer. I don’t want to get into the whys and hows he went from lawyer to ex-lawyer, it plays some important parts of the plot. Being an ex-lawyer says something about a character to me more than just ‘surveyor.’ It paints a very different picture of Jack rather than just being a roughneck miner.
Since it’s been so long since the last Scalzi book I’ve read, the other thing not on the back of the book slipped my mind even though it never should have since I read his blog, Whatever. Fuzzy Nation is laugh out loud funny.Frequently. Seriously, if the people I work with hadn’t stopped paying attention to my weirdness long ago, I would have gotten a lot of strange looks. Jack is a delightful smart ass who enjoys pwning face with logic. He gives people their comeuppance but uses misdirection and some surprises to make that happen.
So much of the book follows a group of the Fuzzys moving in with Jack’s jungle compound and his growing fascination with the smart little buggers. He shows them to his ex-girlfriend Isabel who he named a mountain after and just happens to be ZaraCorp’s resident biologist. She starts things down the path to getting the fuzzys declared sentient which poses problems for ZaraCorp and Jack. Problems in the billions of dollars range because of the rare gemstones Jack finds.
Fuzzy Nation is definitely a throwback kind of book, which is fully intended I imagine, being a reboot of an older book. This doesn’t bother me at all and it successfully walks the line between being that old school book and having the styles that modern readers want. This is the kind of trend I can get behind having read almost as much old sci fi as I have current stuff. It’s taking the best of both worlds.
So as expected, I enjoyed the hell out of this book and laughed a long time with Fuzzy Nation.