Hardcover review copy courtesy of the Publisher, Tor
Reboots are common in all forms of entertainment – superhero comic books possibly the most prevalent medium/genre, though television and film are no strangers either. Then along comes John Scalzi who might be the first person to reboot an entire novel series/milieu with Fuzzy Nation. The series Scalzi has rebooted is the classic series of Fuzzy Stories by the late H. Beam Piper and he started it “for fun, and as an exercise in retelling a particular story I enjoyed.” In many cases, when good writers let loose and simply have fun, it is the readers are the beneficiaries. Such is the case with Fuzzy Nation.
In initial essence, Fuzzy Nation is a first contact story. Jack Holloway is former lawyer turned prospector for ZaraCorp on the planet Zarathustra where he’s searching out precious ore. His one companion, at the beginning of the novel, is his dog Carl when he finds a deposit of the sunstones, the most valuable mineral in the universe that will make him an ultra-billionaire. One of the rules a company like ZaraCorp must abide by is that any work they do on a new planet must not impact any intelligent life native to the planet. Upon his return from this amazing find of sunstones, Jack finds a small, fuzzy creature in his home. Fortunately, Jack once dated the planetary biologist Isabel Wangai whom he asks to ‘meet’ the Fuzzy, which soon turns into a small family of Fuzzys whose visits become more frequent.
The novel shifts a bit from first contact to nearly a legal thriller as proof of the Fuzzys’ intelligence becomes critical in the future of many things, like Jack’s life, ZaraCorp’s foothold on Zarathustra, and the Fuzzys themselves.
I’ve been a fan of Scalzi’s writing since reading Old Man’s War a few years back and visiting his blog every day. His smart, snarky, and engaging style that I (and many, many readers) have come to enjoy is on full display here in Fuzzy Nation. The pacing is extremely brisk, making the 300 pages quite readably and consumable. I’ll admit to wishing there was more to the novel because reading Scalzi is lots of fun. He intersperses humor and thought-provoking ideas seamlessly, from the depiction of how the Fuzzys interact with Holloway’s dog Carl to the ethical pontifications and ramifications of alien life in a place where humans have begun to feel a sense of comfort.
The only slight I can level at Fuzzy Nation is that Jack Holloway, while extremely engaging, affable to read, in general a great protagonist, comes across as a little too knowing. His legal background helped to inform his maneuverings with and against the ZaraCorp throughout the narrative. Well, that minor complaint and that I want to read more about Scalzi’s rebooted Fuzzy universe. For the time being, I’ll take a look at Piper’s classic Little Fuzzy something which Scalzi aimed in publishing the novel.
In summary, Fuzzy Nation was a blast, and (not yet having read the original) seems to me a perfect example of how to do a reboot. I’m not saying other authors should willy-nilly pick up other author’s properties and restart them, but that maybe I’d like to (as I suggested) see where Scalzi next takes the story he told in Fuzzy Nation and where Jack Holloway’s story continues.
Scalzi continues to be one of the authors whose sensibilities, smartness, and style make him one of the go-to authors who would appeal to readers new to SF while still pleasing long-time readers of the genre.
© 2012 Rob H. Bedford