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Fuzzy Nation    by John Scalzi order for
Fuzzy Nation
by John Scalzi
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy and its sequel, Fuzzy Sapiens (combined in The Complete Fuzzy) are two of my favorites in classic SF, not because I consider the writing to be top notch but because the story is so appealing to anyone who loves small furred creatures. I've always suspected that Star Wars' charming Ewoks are the terminally cute little fuzzies in disguise.

Now John Scalzi, a modern Heinlein and author of the wonderful Old Man's War series , has written his version of the fuzzy story, Fuzzy Nation, stripping the original of some of its excess of sentimentality but retaining its heart. He tells us that his version 'appropriates the general story arc of Little Fuzzy, as well as character names and plot elements, and weds them to entirely new elements, characters, and events.' He also encourages readers who have not read Little Fuzzy to do so (and I second that notion).

The hero is still Jack Holloway, a prospector on Zarathustra, mining sunstones and content with his own company. But Scalzi's Jack is not as old as Piper's (or as altruistic) and he's even wilier. He's a disbarred lawyer with a dog named Carl, whom Jack's trained (to the consternation of his ZaraCorp contractor rep) 'to set off high explosives.' When Carl does so as the story begins, the resultant unexpected cliff collapse exposes 'a billion-credit sunstone seam', making Jack a very rich man.

Jack first encounters a fuzzy when his cabin is invaded by a 'cat thing' on two legs. He takes a video of its intrusion, which he gives to biologist Isabel Wangai. Jack and Isabel have a history, which he admits he screwed up. Jack also meets Wheaton Aubrey the Seventh, a scion of the family that owns ZaraCorp, on a tour of its divisions and properties. After trying to get out of the agreement already made with Jack, Aubrey declares the seam excavation to be the planetary organization's top priority. Of course the discovery of sapients on the planet would stop that excavation cold.

The David versus Goliath story runs its course. An entire Fuzzy Family moves in with Jack, and Isabel shows up to assess these new animals. She soon begins to see them as much more, but proving it will be a challenge. Aubrey tries to get out of the deal made with Jack by sabotaging his skimmer - Jack is almost eaten by zararaptors and then arrested by company goons. He's aided by Isabel's new boyfriend, company lawyer Mark Sullivan, who continues to help as the trio races against time (and ZaraCorp's extinction attempts) to prove fuzzy sentience.

Though I'll always have a soft spot for the original, I loved Scalzi's reimagining of it in Fuzzy Nation. His characters (human and fuzzy) have more depth than Piper's, and Jack's legal shenanigans are a delight to follow as he proves himself the right man to act as 'Defender general of the fuzzy nation'. I highly recommend Fuzzy Nation as a must read for any SF fan.

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