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Fuzzy Nation
John Scalzi
Tor, 304 pages

Fuzzy Nation
John Scalzi
John Scalzi was born in 1969. His first job out of college was as a film critic at the Fresno Bee newspaper in California. Since 1998, he has been a full-time freelance writer. As well, he is the Chief Entertainment Media Critic for Official US Playstation Magazine. He lives in the small rural town of Bradford, Ohio with his wife and daughter.

John Scalzi Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The God Engines
SF Site Review: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
SF Site Review: The God Engines
SF Site Review: Metatropolis
SF Site Review: Agent to the Stars
SF Site Review: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
SF Site Review: The Android's Dream
SF Site Review: Old Man's War

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

In Fuzzy Nation, John Scalzi updated H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy. While this one lacks the thematic depth of The God Engines, it may well be more powerful in terms of drama, reminiscent of what Joss Whedon might pull off if he were to film Little Fuzzy.

Jack Holloway is a loveable rogue who trains his dog to blow up a cliff-side full of nesting birds in order to unveil a possible vein of sunstones -- a mood-ring kind of jewel that rivals the beauty and value of diamonds. However, an immediate call from Zarathustra Corporation tells Jack that his disregard for ecological impact has canceled his contract and kicked him off the planet.

Zarathustra starts singing a different tune as soon as it turns out Jack's hunch was correct. The sunstone find is the largest in the universe and can set the company up for decades of financial prosperity. The only things standing in the company's way are 1) Jack, now in a position to negotiate a better cut for himself and who somehow finds new ways to cut himself a larger percentage each time they meet, and 2) cuddly little Fuzzies, a native species whom Jack discovers combing through the food in his house. If they turn out to be sapient, Zarathustra could lose the entire planet.

Through a stroke of packaging genius, the Audible version of the novel includes H. Beam Piper's original. Comparing the two is quite intriguing. James Gunn has said that newer science fiction gets written better and better but is about less and less. While Scalzi's The God Engines disproves Gunn's dictum, Fuzzy Nation fulfills it. Both discuss what sentience is and what impact that might have on future corporate ventures, but this is almost the entire focus of Piper's while Scalzi's develops the main protagonist's complexity and chooses what would make the better story. While Jack Holloway's development is dramatic genius, what the Fuzzies do in the finale is less clear.

spoiler alert

After discovering an earlier explorer's technological device for learning language, a Fuzzy discovers the device. What follows could happen but feels improbable without previous exposure to technology and foreign language. Moreover, although the revelation in the courtroom is dramatic and powerful, a clear-cut case isn't quite as philosophically stimulating as defining what and where the borders of sentience are, which is more of Piper's focus (although he also strives for drama in creating chase scenes).

My reader conscience plagues me for overemphasizing the intellect over drama because this novel is dramatically well worth not just reading but rereading. Scalzi's work has converted another fan, who will have to hunt down everything he's written. My puny bank account, which gets sand kicked in its face by book prices, loathes him.

Copyright © 2012 Trent Walters

Trent Walters teaches science; lives in Honduras; edited poetry at Abyss & Apex; blogs science, SF, education, and literature, etc. at APB; co-instigated Mundane SF (with Geoff Ryman and Julian Todd) culminating in an issue for Interzone; studied SF writing with dozens of major writers and and editors in the field; and has published works in Daily Cabal, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Hadley Rille anthologies, LCRW, among others.

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