BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Jack Holloway is a disbarred Lawyer-turned-Miner on Zarathustra, where he hits the find of a lifetime, only to find it jeopardized when he comes across a Fuzzy creature.
PROS: Fast paced yarn with good characters in a smart story.
CONS: Runs a little too fast; I devoured this in a single sitting. I kind of wish that it had a little more at times.
BOTTOM LINE: Fuzzy Nation is a fun ride, one that will be familiar to readers of Scalzi’s other books or his website, Whatever. It’s fast, entertaining story that for the most part, doesn’t skimp on the story.
Taking inspiration from H. Beam Piper’s story Little Fuzzy (in the public domain, well worth checking out for its own merits), Fuzzy Nation is a story of its own, sharing a number of characters and key plot points, but updated with all the trappings and understandings of the modern day. It works well.
Jack Holloway is a disbarred lawyer-turned-miner for ZaraCorp on the planet Zarathustra, when he hits it big: the find of a lifetime, and he’s found a way to take a sizable cut. The trouble is, the corporation’s license to mine exists only because the planet is thought to be uninhabited by any sentient life. When Holloway comes across a small creature in his home, it sets into motion a chain reaction that not only threatens his own cut, but that of the company. The rest is as one would expect, if anything, because there have been so many examples in corporate culture in recent memory. Faced with the possibility of the loss of the find of a lifetime, problems arise for Holloway and the Fuzzies that he discovers.
The book starts off with a bang and doesn’t let up for a moment. The entire book feels like Scalzi had a lot of fun writing this, and it shows. I laughed often throughout the book, and generally had a good time the entire day that I blew through it. Between a well thought-out world and a cast of fun characters, the pages fly by, and it’s a good trip.
While it’s a fast read, there’s a good amount of substance to it, and while there’s not as much as I would have liked (I found myself wishing that there was just a bit more to savor – I think that the book could have been longer), there’s a lot there, from corporate ethics to quite a lot of legal talk that allows Holloway to use the corporate structure against itself. The last act of the book, a court-room scene, is way more fun than it should have been, and left me hanging.
This isn’t your father’s – Piper’s – Fuzzy story. The deliberate story of the nature of intelligence is largely stripped out in this version, replaced with a tale more about corporations and culture than anything. The changes to the story really don’t improve upon it, but then again, a reboot is never really designed to improve upon a story, just to take some of the same elements and tell them in a slightly different way, at least in theory, and Scalzi’s done a good job in making a reboot that works well. It feels like there’s quite a bit glossed over when it comes to the legal parts, and from my own knowledge of big legal cases, but it works for what it is.
This is also a book that can be read independently of the book that it’s taken its inspiration from: There’s the general similarities, but Scalzi has written a book that doesn’t require foreknowledge of Little Fuzzy or any of its sequels, while telling his own story. At the same time, he’s gone on record saying that people should go read Little Fuzzy, if anything because it’s a fun science fiction story, and having read it recently, it’s certainly a worthwhile read.
The characters are the real standouts here. Jack Holloway (who, when this book is optioned into a movie, should totally be played by Josh Holloway, of LOST fame), steals the show as the lovable jackass who somehow gets himself into trouble and then back out again. A close second would be his dog, Carl, who’s captured perfectly as the perfect dog. Secondary characters fall a little more into the background, but Jack’s former love interest Isabel and her new beau, Mark Sullivan, break the story up from a guy and his crazy pets story, and we get a good adventure with some well rounded and fairly believable characters.
Still, I can’t help but wonder if my reading of Scalzi’s blog has helped provide some vital context to my enjoyment of the book. There’s quite a bit of the author here, from Holloway’s insistence on getting paid a fair wage for what he works for, the logic-banter and so forth, not to mention several film references and of course, Bacon. Much of this I recognize from Whatever, and while I got a kick out of the references, will a person who’s not familiar with the back story get the same out of it? Hopefully – it makes for a fun ride.
At the end of the day, Fuzzy Nation is exactly what a book should deliver: entertainment, escapism, and some commentary. This book delivers all in good fashion, and it’s a world and story that I hope we’ll see again in the near future.