Book Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)
Audio Book Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)
Total Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5 stars)
John Scalzi is the type of author who can repurpose any storyline and make it, well, hilarious and relevant to the times. Fuzzy Nation retells the story of Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper (which I have not read, unfortunately) and puts a more modern twist on it. This is outside of just the technology, but also the treatment of women (and there are multiple powerful women throughout the story) as well as environmentalism.
In true Scalzi fashion, the story is easy to read (or in this case, listen to) and will keep you begging for more with each chapter. He constructs a narrative surrounding arrogant ex-lawyer Jack Holloway, and Jack’s own unreliability will keep the reader wondering what his next move with be. Will he save the small little animals on the planet, which he endearingly called the Fuzzies? Is he only out for himself? What DOES he really believe?
While the story itself is a predictable tale of colonialism gone awry and deterred by the native species, Fuzzy Nation takes an intricate look at law, witnesses, and the uniqueness of a potential new life form to tell its tale. Jack Holloway is a smart character, and while equally fooling the reader, he does the same to his fellow acquaintances. Although, he never manages to fool his bomb-exploding dog Jack.
I would like to applaud Scalzi in a few aspects, primarily with Isabel. It would have been so easy for Isabel to leave Mark Sullivan and prance over to Jack Holloway after he saved the fuzzies. But that’s not realistic, is it? No, Scalzi kept Isabel true to her character and did make Jack Holloway the knight in shining armor. Their friendship stayed just as that: friends. As soon as she appeared, I had a knot in my throat that her presence would add an unnecessary romance element to the plot. But it didn’t. So kudos to Mr. Scalzi on keeping a friendship that is also professional.
Finally, Wil Wheaton’s performance on the audio book is spectacular. He gives each character it’s own voice, which is sometimes necessary with the way Scalzi write dialogue. Men, women, lawyers, security officers, etc. each speak differently, including the titular character of the novel.
If you want a fun novel, I would recommend picking up or listening to Fuzzy Nation because you will be waiting for the surprises Jack Holloway has in store with each page. Plus, who want to hear about smart fuzzy creatures…as well as a dog who detonates bombs?
What’s it about?
Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp’s headquarters on 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 cancelling 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.