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Fuzzy Nation Hardcover – May 10, 2011
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The Amazon Book Review
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Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn't care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp's headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation's headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that's not up for discussion.
Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.
But there's another wrinkle to ZaraCorp's relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species.
Then a small furry biped--trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute--shows up at Jack's outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp's claim to a planet's worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed...and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the "fuzzys" before their existence becomes more widely known.
Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author John Scalzi
Q: Why Fuzzy, why now?
A: Mostly because I thought it would be fun. I wrote Fuzzy Nation when I was between publishing projects, mostly for my own amusement, and not as something I actually intended for publication. It was only after it was finished that my agent said "Hey, I could work with this," and started the process of getting it published. That said, any time is a good time to help people make the acquaintance of the fuzzies, and of H. Beam Piper, the author who originally thought them up.
Q: How are Fuzzies different from Ewoks, Plushies, and Softies?
A: I think they're smarter and more complex than, say, the Ewoks, who are basically just furry cavemen. I think in both Piper's tale and my own, the motivations of the creatures aren't always obvious or straightforward -- they can be devious for their own ends when it suits them. They're more than just adorably marketable teddy-bear-like objects, which is one of the reasons for their longevity.
Q: H. Beam Piper probably isn’t a household name to the new generation of SF/F fans coming up. Thinking back to your reading growing up, who else would you recommend that might not be hugely known these days?
A: In science fiction, I was a fan of Keith Laumer starting in my high school years; a number of folks see similarities between what Laumer was doing and what I do, especially in "The Android's Dream." Laumer had a sense of humor, and of irony, and a really nice way of getting across the fact that even in the future, some things will be absurd.
Q: If this is Fuzzy retro-fitted for the 21st century, what should we expect that’s the same and what’s different from the original Fuzzy fiction?
A: What's the same: The very general plot line and the name of the main human character (and the name of the main Fuzzy). What's different: The actual character of the main human character. My Jack Holloway is substantially different from the one Piper had, and many if not most of the changes between the two books stem from the differences between those characters. It makes for a fun compare and contrast.
Q: What did the book allow you to explore that you haven’t in your other fiction?
A: It allowed me to explore how another writer solved the same plot and character issues that I was encountering, because our tales were naturally so very similar. This was the writing equivalent of walking a mile in another writer’s shoes. Piper and I are different writers and I made different choices than he did in many places. But every change was another opportunity to walk with Piper and to learn a little from him. It was a very interesting experience.
Q: In what ways was Fuzzy Nation fun to write and in what ways was it hard work?
A: It was fun to write because it was no pressure--since I didn't initially intend to sell it I didn't worry about the commercial prospects of what I was doing; I just focused on the pleasures of writing for the sake of writing. It's an exercise I recommend every writer do from time to time. How it was hard: For many reasons, the contracts and business end of this novel were more complex (and sometimes more annoying) than it usually is with books. That was a lot of work to sort out.
Q: Do you have a favorite scene or situation in the book?
A: I like when Jack Holloway first meets a fuzzy. I play the scene for laughs in many ways (there's even a little bit of slapstick), but at the end of the day it's very much a "first contact" scenario, even if Jack doesn't know if this creature he's discovered is actually smart or not. Either way, it's new beginnings for both Jack and the fuzzy, and that's always a fun thing to work out in words.
Q: What’s up next for the Scalzi Juggernaut?
A: The Scalzi Juggernaut will continue to power through its tour, which ends in Phoenix in the end of May, and then it is going to spend a little bit of time doing nothing but relaxing with family and friends. Then polishing the novel slated for 2012 (already completed but not yet edited), and prepping the 2013 novel, not yet written. There are worse ways to live a life.
“Scalzi is not just recycling classic Heinlein. He’s working out new twists, variations that startle even as they satisfy.” ―Publishers Weekly , starred review, on Old Man’s War
“If Stephen King were to try his hand at science fiction, he'd be lucky to be half as entertaining as John Scalzi.” ―Dallas Morning News on The Ghost Brigades
“Scalzi's captivating blend of offworld adventure and political intrigue remains consistently engaging.” ―Booklist on The Last Colony
Top customer reviews
He captured the tone of the Piper books quite nicely, while creating his own story line. I would hope he revisits the Fuzzy world again soon.
And if this book raises any interest in H. Beam Piper work, well that would also be a good thing I know I will be digging through my collection to reread them. And I will be ordering more books from John Scalzi as well. Always nice to discover an enjoyable author!
Holloway is wrangling with Zaracorp over the ownership of a sunstone discovery. If he wins, he’ll be richer than Bill Gates. Then he meets his first Fuzzy. Per law if the Fuzzies are sentient, then it’s their planet, including the sunstones.
Are they sentient? And even if they are, is Holloway willing to give up billions for some little furballs? What is Holloway going to do?
Fuzzy Nation is a fast, humorous read with a libertarian flare, which reminds me of some of Heinlein’s novellas.
That being said, I felt there was some sacrifice as far as developing most of the supporting characters. The author seemed to rely on tried-and-true familiar types to tell the story, like the bully, the ultra rich, out of touch snobbish executive, the good hearted, hands-tied-by-regulation manager, etc, instead of actually developing stand-alone, interesting supporting cast. It worked ok here because the book really reads fast and stays on the surface of the story most of the time, but for me, personally, it was missing.
That being said, great little story told in an interesting, flowing way!
The few novels from that time, as well as time before, that I've read have almost (not all) struck me as puerile. Here we have a replay of this as we see the world through the eyes of the narrator and protagonist. Each view is laughably simplistic as are the situations and their resolutions.
I can't discuss this further without some minor spoilers so proceed at your own peril from here to the end of this short review.
The protagonist is presented as our standard space opera asteroid sort of mineral explorer - disdainful of authority and loose of responsibility. Within what seems the first thirty pages of this book, he discovers a huge treasure and then a new alien species. Although the species is utterly unknown to the other humans on this rather heavily explored planet, he regards the encounter casually 'taming' the find within a few minutes using a technique which would work over weeks on a earthly alley cat. Well, it moved the plot along.
Then he fights with the corporate baddies who are portrayed, again, in a laughable one dimensional manner. Just as the left wing sorts of old time science fiction portrayed those who actually get work done as dimwitted overly greedy fools, so does this book. Thus we're told that those who can build and run huge companies are idiotic penny pinching morons. Really? Well, if you take joy in thinking those who run, say, IBM or other large companies, are miserly blockheads while those who can't get work there are hip high thinkers, you'll get a charge out of this book.
To give you a further idea how silly and simplistic this one is, at one point, for no good reason at all, the corporate baddies try to kill the hero by sabotaging his hovercraft. Luckily as is the case with all the books of this nature, this boy's craft just happens to have just the item needed to MacGyver up a way to preserve his life. After the failed attempt, the idiot 'hero', supposedly a lawyer, acts just as a rather un-reflective 12 year old boy would - he beards the corporate security goon in his lair, sucker punches him, makes a speech and the turns his back and strolls away. To my utter disgust the 'of course' occurs. The goon gets up from being punched, and conks our hero out cold and then spirits him away to imprisonment or perhaps a nasty finale.
I'm at this point now and am unsure if I want to read further. There is the ex girlfriend with who the hero bickers in a way that I'm sure 12 year old boys think adult ex lovers bicker and on and on.
Scalzi is one of my favorite authors who is able to combine a feel for old time science fiction with some feeling and depth. Here he has the old time down pat but the feeling is all missing. Callow, jejune and therefore ultimately a huge bore - that's what we have here unless you are looking for Volume 987 of Tom Swift Conquers Neptune in which case buy this book because it's right up your alley.
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