by John Scalzi
“You're an interesting person, Jack." Sullivan said. "I wish I could figure out what you were thinking when you punched Stern and turned on Isabel."
"Well, I think that's the thing." Holloway said. "I think it's clear that sometimes I just don't think."
"I think you do." Sullivan said. "It's just you think about you first. The not thinking part comes right after that.” ― John Scalzi, Fuzzy Nation
In 2011 the acclaimed modern Sci-Fi writer John Scalzi (The Android's Dream) rebooted the original Fuzzy novel written in 1962 by H. Beam Piper. Piper wrote two sequels to Little Fuzzy; Fuzzy Sapiens (originally published as The Other Human Race), and Fuzzies and Other People, which was published after Piper's suicide in 1964.
Since Piper's death, others have written novels in the Fuzzy series. These novels include Fuzzy Bones, by William Tuning, and Golden Dreams: A Fuzzy Odyssey, by Ardath Mayhar. There were also two further installments in the series, Fuzzy Ergo Sum and Caveat Fuzzy, by Wolfgang Diehr.
Scalzi's story is set in a distant future when corporations strip-mine entire planets if the Colonial Authority doesn’t stop them first, Jack Holloway discovers an unbelievably rich seam of sunstones on Zara XXIII, exquisite jewels found only on that planet. Holloway has a past as a disbarred lawyer and in his new career the claim he makes on the seam puts serious stress on his relationship with ZaraCorp, the company that runs Zara XXIII. And that’s before he discovers a race of native creatures whose potential sapience could nullify ZaraCorp’s mining rights on the planet. In his original novel, Piper presented issues including the meaning of sentience and the ethics of the mining companies who took advantage of the resources on vulnerable alien planets. Scalzi updates Piper's story and more importantly provides richer characters (both alien and human) who are believably real. Piper’s Jack Holloway is a crotchety prospector with the proverbial heart of gold; Scalzi’s Holloway is brilliant, but sometimes he makes the unwise moral choice as a way of railing against the universe. Scalzi also updates and expands upon the cynicism of the original to be more familiar to a contemporary audience: Piper’s corporation attempts to hide its frequent environmental depredations from notice (and also plans to wipe out the Fuzzies), while Scalzi’s has the corporation develop a public “eco-friendly” campaign. Scalzi ends up improving on Piper's novel with a richer and deeper story that still pays homage to the classic SF style of the fifties and sixties. Piper's novel seems somewhat juvenile in comparison. Scalzi's Fuzzy Nation is compact and readable with some great courtroom scenes.
His update is a worthy successor to the classic novel from the sixties that began our (especially those of us who were teens back then) fascination with the lovable aliens known as Fuzzies.
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