Stephen's Reviews > Fuzzy Nation

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
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's review
Jan 16, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: audiobook, signed-first-or-limited-edition, 2011, science-fiction, alien-cultures
Read from January 13 to 15, 2012 — I own a copy

Friends...this here is a Fuzzy**:
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**The tiny guy not the grunge rocker dude

Fuzzies are like intelligent, bi-pedal cats the size of a raccoon...which makes them just about as saturated in adorable and cuddle-worthiness as you can get. They are like ewoks only cute, smart, endearing, pleasant to be around, brave, noble, plot-enhancing and 100% non-assclowny:
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Fuzzy Nation is a wonderfully successful reboot of H. Beam Piper’s popular, 1962 classic, Little Fuzzy.
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With deep respect for Piper’s original, which I enjoyed, Scalzi’s novel surpasses its source document on every level and I think this book is a perfect starter novel for people looking to dip their toe in the science fiction waters. Enough warmth and action to appeal to younger fans and SF novices and enough humor, depth and well-paced story to appeal to us older more mature fans.

PLOT SUMMARY:

Here’s the quick scoop...

The story takes place on the planet Zarathustra where ZaraCorp has been granted an exclusive mining and exploration charter from Earth to exploit locate and process the autochthonous commodities of the planet. Well, it turns out the planet is so loaded with mineral, gems and valuable goodies that strip-mining it will yield enough simoleons (aka dough, cabbage, wampum and mammon) to keep the corporation’s earnings and stock price up for decades...we are talking trillions of credits.

However.....*prepare yourself for a large, Kim Kardashian-sized.....BUUUUUUUUUUTTT*

ZaraCorp’s charter will be null and void and all of its untold riches will vanish faster than the truth during a presidential campaign if the planet is found to contain sentient life. So, when Jack Holloway, rebel, schemer, mover-against-the-grain, authority-averse prospector discovers a group of heart-achingly cute creatures while working for ZaraCorp, the entire future of exploration on this planet will be decided in a make-shift courtroom assembled to determine the answer to the query, “Are the Fuzzies people?”

THOUGHTS

Scalzi’s subdued, unsentimental, straight-forward prose is the perfect delivery system for this story. The Fuzzies are so damned likable and sweet that the narrative could easily have slipped into a cavity-causing fluff piece. Scalzi’s gives you none of it and avoids melodrama like he was allergic to it. Plus, he infuses the story with his trade-mark wit and sarcastic dialogue that keeps the story on a very even keel while allowing the unquestionable appeal of the Fuzzys to seep in on its own.

Believe me, they don’t need any assistance on that point.

A major improvement from the original is the character of Jack Holloway. Rather than the 70+ year-old father-figure of Piper’s original, Scalzi’s Jack is a young, morally-ambiguous loner. Holloway is a disbarred lawyer turned prospector who’s smart, common-sensical and very self-centered. While not immoral, he spends his time acting in his own best interest and is unconcerned about breaking rules or telling the occasional fib in order to get his way.

For all that, Jack is still likable and his “less than pure” motivations for doing what he does acts as an emotional restraint (in a good way) for Scalzi in telling the story. Rather than a moral champion like Atticus Finch, we get a Han Solo scoundrel who slowly grows into his role as savior for the rebellion against the empire Fuzzies against the corporation.

As for the Fuzzies. They are terrific characters that never cross the line from people to play thing. Again, Scalzi handles them wonderfully. You’ll see.

This is a classic science fiction yarn that does a terrific job of reminding us all why we love these kinds of stories. Smart, funny, engaging and, ultimately, uplifting.

4.0 stars. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!
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Comments (showing 1-42 of 42) (42 new)

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Randy Just finished the hardcover. It's been a few years since I read Piper's Little Fuzzy, but I could see strains of it here. Same characters, but a slightly different take.

Scalzi's love of Piper's work shines through, I read his blog regularly and he's always recommended that people read Piper if they haven't.


message 2: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Is it fuzzy and warm?


Stephen Fuzzy, warm and very good.


message 4: by April (new)

April I read Old Man's War and don't think I'll be going back for more of Scalzi.


Randy April wrote: "I read Old Man's War and don't think I'll be going back for more of Scalzi."

Be a mistake, April.


message 6: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich With the planet being named Zarathustra, is there a strong Nietzsche presence to the novel or was that just a nod to him?


Stephen s.penkevich wrote: "With the planet being named Zarathustra, is there a strong Nietzsche presence to the novel or was that just a nod to him?"

It's just a nod, s. If there was any Nietzsche subtext in the novel, it completely escaped my notice.


message 8: by Kerrie (new)

Kerrie I remember reading The Fuzzy Papers: Little Fuzzy & Fuzzy Sapiens years and years ago (high school?) but don't remember anything about it other than that I liked it!


message 9: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent The Scalz did a good job not turning the Fuzzies into Ewoks. Not my favorite book of his but I still thought it was pretty good.


message 10: by Richard (last edited Jan 15, 2012 07:14PM) (new)

Richard Derus Stephen wrote: "If there was any Nietzsche subtext in the novel, it completely escaped my notice."

Would have to say that the text of Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for None and All, the transitional role of man between ape and superman, and the power accorded man over ape that must later be surrendered to superman, is being snarkily turned on its head by both Piper and Scalzi.

Haven't read Scalzi's version, but I remember Piper's as being pretty damned certain that God is indeed dead, and so it's up to us to make and enforce moral laws...but not the Nietzschean kind.

Also present is the ancient, non-Christian notion in Zarathustra's teachings that all evil in the material world comes from a separate, equal-to-God entity, and the flesh is the creation of that entity. (Same idea got the Cathars into a world of hurt 1500 years later.) The corporate owners of Zarathustra are minions of Satan, accepting the primacy of the material and refusing the notion of any redemptive acts as necessary, and Jack's position is Zarathustra, the flawed savior.

Is it obvious that I once wrote a paper about this in school?


Stephen Kerrie wrote: "I remember reading The Fuzzy Papers: Little Fuzzy & Fuzzy Sapiens years and years ago (high school?) but don't remember anything about it other than that I liked it!"

If you liked the original, Kerrie, I think you will really enjoy this reboot.


Stephen Dan wrote: "The Scalz did a good job not turning the Fuzzies into Ewoks. Not my favorite book of his but I still thought it was pretty good."

Agreed on both counts. What's your favorite Scalzi? Mine would be either The Last Colony or The God Engines.


Stephen Richard wrote: "Is it obvious that I once wrote a paper about this in school?"

It is obvious both that you wrote a paper on the subject and that you have more brains crammed into your skull than most families. Doesn't that cause severe headaches?


message 14: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Stephen wrote: "Richard wrote: "Is it obvious that I once wrote a paper about this in school?"

It is obvious both that you wrote a paper on the subject and that you have more brains crammed into your skull than most families. Doesn't that cause severe headaches?"


...what...? The throbbing in my noggin makes my ears ring, can't hear you.

Considering your level of educational attainment versus mine (no high-school diploma, two years of college...I ***hate*** bureaucracy and tend not to interface well with rule-based institutions, hence the ungranted diploma), that's a nice compliment (I think), so thank you!


message 15: by Ronyell (new)

Ronyell Awesome review Stephen! This reminds me of Star Wars in a sense.


message 16: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Stephen wrote: "Agreed on both counts. What's your favorite Scalzi? Mine would be either The Last Colony or The God Engines. "

I'd go with Old Man's War or The God Engines.


Stephen Dan wrote: "Stephen wrote: "Agreed on both counts. What's your favorite Scalzi? Mine would be either The Last Colony or The God Engines. "

I'd go with Old Man's War or The God Engines."


I really wish Scalzi would do something else set in the world of the God Engines. That was such a good read.


Stephen Ronyell wrote: "Awesome review Stephen! This reminds me of Star Wars in a sense."

Thanks, Ronyell.


message 19: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Stephen wrote: "Dan wrote: "Stephen wrote: "Agreed on both counts. What's your favorite Scalzi? Mine would be either The Last Colony or The God Engines. "

I'd go with Old Man's War or The God Engines."

I rea..."


Yeah. I could easily get behind a full length novel set in the God Engines universe.


message 20: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus ***aaarrrgggh***

I've been struck by the book-bullets Stephen and Dan are spewing so cavalierly! I must now have The God Engines! Must! Cannot survive without it!


message 21: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Richard wrote: "***aaarrrgggh***

I've been struck by the book-bullets Stephen and Dan are spewing so cavalierly! I must now have The God Engines! Must! Cannot survive without it!"


Good luck finding it at a reasonable price.


message 22: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Liberry. Ordered already. Pick it up tomorrow. Subterranean and PS books are never within my reach unless I buy them the *second* they come out, like the David Herter-Czechoslovakia novels I dote on.


message 23: by Ivana (new)

Ivana there are some stuff in this plot( such as exploting some planet) that remind me on the movie Avatar- another hollywood rip-off?


Stephen Ivana wrote: "there are some stuff in this plot( such as exploting some planet) that remind me on the movie Avatar- another hollywood rip-off?"

There are some similarities in the plot but the greedy corp taking advantage of the plantary resources of a less technologically advanced species is a fairly common SF trope. I do think Avatar "borrowed" heavily from Poul Anderson's short story "Call Me Joe" and Alan Dean Foster's Midworld though.


message 25: by Dan (last edited Jan 16, 2012 12:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Kemper's review of Ghost Brigades points out a lot of similarities between that book and Avatar.


Stephen That was a great review and there are some definite similarities. Although I would still argue that Poul Anderson is the father of the handicapped, wheel chair bound man being plugged into badass alien body. I think Cameron did a full on swipe of that.


message 27: by Carol. (new)

Carol. Hm. I was expecting a Kardashian photo...


Stephen Carol wrote: "Hm. I was expecting a Kardashian photo..."

I thought about it, but decided it didn't go well with the picture of the Fuzzies.


message 29: by [Name Redacted] (last edited Jan 18, 2012 11:59PM) (new) - added it

[Name Redacted] Everything you've said about the "new" Jack Holloway is exactly why i haven't read this reboot of my beloved Fuzzy franchise. As soon as I heard there would be a reboot, I knew that the central character would be exactly what every central character in current fiction (video & literary) turns out to be: a morally ambiguous, handsome younger man. Should I expect a sexy romance in there too? It's like we can't get over our cultural fascination with Han Solo and so we keep shoehorning him into our stories.

What made the original story work for me was the fact that Holloway WAS a nobody -- an old, grizzled prospector with no real agenda and no real ties to the outside world, he was just trying to earn a living on the fringes of society until he happened to run into one of the Fuzzies. And because they became his pets/surrogate children, he got swept up into the conflict between scientists and corporations and governments. He didn't understand the science, the politics, the ethics or the business; he was as much a bewildered outsider as the Fuzzies. That felt far more authentic and plausible to me than the Fuzzies just happening to run into a Han Solo clone who just happens to have exactly the background and motivation needed to defend them while still remaining charmingly roguish.

I'll probably wind up reading this. My love for the Fuzzies is too strong. But I hate that they (I'm assuming there was some publisher input, based on my knowledge of how publishing works) felt readers couldn't relate to the character of Holloway unless he matched our current obsession with youthful anti-heroes.


[Name Redacted] Also, have you read "The War With the Newts" by Czech luminary Karel Capek? It reminded me of a darker take on the same theme (though, just as Fuzzies predated Ewoks, Newts predated Fuzzies).


Stephen I haven't read "The War With the Newts" but will check it out. It sounds like something I might like.

As for the reboot, according to Scalzi he wrote is a a kind of fanfic with no thought of publishing. When his publisher eventually saw it they contacted Piper's estate and got their blessing to publish it. I certainly can't argue with your criticism of the reboot and the young anti hero. I guess it didn't bother me as I am very much a fan of that kind of character and actually preferred young Jack to old Jack (though I am a fan of the original as well).


message 32: by Ivana (new)

Ivana Stephen wrote: "Ivana wrote: "there are some stuff in this plot( such as exploting some planet) that remind me on the movie Avatar- another hollywood rip-off?"

There are some similarities in the plot but the gr..."


I'll check it out. thanks
the movie Avatar reminds me on the Dance with the Wolves too...anyway I just had Déjà vu when I was watching it.


message 33: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Han Solo discussion, putting my oar into:

In my observation, the ability of a story to survive is partly dependent on its ability to accommodate the current obsessions of the society that grew from the society that it was created in.

1960s Star Trek, full of Good Liberal Values favoring change, morphs into 1980s Star Trek, full of Defending the Right and Just status quo, morphs into 1990s Star Trek Fighting the Sleazy Bastards Who Pray Different, morphs into the 2000s Star Trek with a crossdressing captain who stands for nothing and interests no one, morphs into 2010s Star Trek with a cool, young anti-hero and a gay Spock.

THAT, laddies and gentlewomen, is a *ro*bust* story!

I'm locked in budget and presentation making hell. Bye now. Love y'all.


Stephen Richard wrote: "I'm locked in budget and presentation making hell. Bye now. Love y'all."

Talk about a "drive-by" post. You empty both barrels on my beloved Trek and then scamper off leaving carnage in your wake. If I may quote Charles Dickens...


message 35: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Stephen wrote: "Richard wrote: "I'm locked in budget and presentation making hell. Bye now. Love y'all."

Talk about a "drive-by" post. You empty both barrels on my beloved Trek and then scamper off leaving carnage in your wake. If I may quote [The Great Satan]..."


You may. I shall excoriate you for doing so, but of course you may....

On break, research hell was worth it, a whole new suite of possibilities opens up. At the price of a throbbing brain and a very dry, sore eyeball or two. c ya


message 36: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Okay, I am fried and I can't make another bullet point or I will commit consummately anti-social acts. It snew upon me as I took my compadre to the train station, so I came inside, poured a scotch rocks, closed the curtains, and came to finish up this fight.

Stephen. Really. Unloaded on ST? How can you *chinwobble* impute to me such, such poltroonery and pusillanimity? I loved Trek in the day, until they got that crossdresser from Quantum Leap to bore us with nothing stories about nowhere important told in no kinda good dialogue.

That mythos is astoundingly evergreen! It allows each new generation to graft onto it their own obsessions, and it remains recognizably itself! Brilliant stuff! Please dear goddesses allow me to find such a structure within my humble old brain-folds and bring it forth for all ages to come to love! (And pay licensing fees to me and my heirs and assigns.)

I intend no smallest criticism of Trek. I don't enjoy ST:TNG anymore, and I never liked DS9 a whole lot; Voyager was okay for a while; but golly gee, I *am* a grandpa, and I've found some new literary obsessions. I don't eat an entire sausage and pepperoni pizza at a sitting, either. (In fact, just remembering that I used to caused me to feel seasick.)

But look down on TREK?! Are you mad? I look down on Chuckles the Dick, I look down on Tolkien, I look down on George Lucas...NEVER Trek!


Stephen Richard wrote: "until they got that crossdresser from Quantum Leap to bore us with nothing stories about nowhere important told in no kinda good dialogue..."

I was/am not a fan of that one either and it really irked me that they didn't do something decent with it. I had tongue planted firmly in cheek on the razzing though.

Richard wrote: "But look down on TREK?! Are you mad?"

Medical tests are inconclusive so let's call it a maybe.

Richard wrote: "I look down on Chuckles the Dick...

This initially made me sad, but now it is just a great topic for banter.

Richard wrote:"I look down on Tolkien...

I liked LOTR but don't have a big dog in that fight...more fun banter fodder.

Richard wrote:"I look down on George Lucas... At this point, who doesn't. The man murdered greatness.

Richard wrote:"NEVER Trek! *leans back in chair smiling as all is right in the world*


message 38: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Honestly, I expect you to erect a Dickens tree and decorate it with little Dickens ornaments (these really exist, more's the pity) and sing Dickens carols on 2/12/12.

Of course, you realize that by doing so, you only make inevitable the End of Days on 12/21/12 because the Muses don't like Chuckles any more than I do. They told me so.

Good. Glad we're of the same mindset.


Stephen Wrong, sir. When Cthulhu awakens and claims the Earth for his dominion with the Shrike* at his right hand, Sir Charles shall reign over this small planet as Protector General.

I shall be one of the saved and you shall be tossed in the belly of Sarlacc** where you will be slowly digested over a thousand years.

* From Dan Simmons' Hyperion
** From Return of the Jedi.


message 40: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Oh well. I shall summon the ghosts of Shakespeare and Marlowe to come and waft me to Elysium, where the Arcadian shepherds and I shall frolic. Stomach acid free.

Did you ever read The Anubis Gates? His Egyptian underworld was superb. For two years after first reading it, I cursed people by saying "Apep eat you!" I got tired of explaining so I quit. Footnotes don't work so good in conversation.

Praise Cthulu! (No sense running unnecessary risks....)


Stephen I read The Anubis Gates years ago and really liked. Since then I have become a huge fan of Powers' work and so this is on my list to re-read. I think I will enjoy it even more the second time around.


message 42: by Richard (new)

Richard Derus Avo, chal! Now there is a book waiting for its miniseries. What visuals! Spring-heel Jack...the sorcerers in the pyramid...the journey through the underworld...*drool*


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