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Fuzzy Nation Mass Market Paperback – March 27, 2012
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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.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“A perfectly executed plot clicks its way to a stunning courtroom showdown in a cathartic finish that will thrill Fuzzy fans old and new.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“In a genre flooded with bloated epics, it's a real pleasure to read a story like this, as compactly and directly told as a punch to the stomach.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Scalzi readers as well as Piper fans should enjoy this modern throwback to SF's early years.” ―Library Journal
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Top Customer Reviews
Good if you're looking for: plot twists, political intrigue, long complicated plans you don't see at first all coming together in the end, and courtroom drama
Bad if you're looking for: Combat/battles, honor & glory, a powerful/epic underlying meaning, some unique take on first contact
This is a book you can read in a few hours even if you're a slow reader. It has a very long comprehensive ending not typical of most books these days, almost to the point of being disney-esque (happy ever after and all that). If you're desperate for more old man's war, this ain't it and you need to look elsewhere.
The book is a quick feel good story that is probably best for a young teen audience that haven't been exposed to a lot of sci-fi. The limited pages/material prevents creation of rich characters like those in multi-book arcs, so you're stuck with stereotypes like brainy scientist chick, loveable rogue main character, and arrogant corporate boss. The complicated plot gives away too much too soon via obvious clues if you've read tons of stories (the clues kind of stick out like sore thumbs... you find yourself stopping for a minute to say "That's odd, why did the author include that observation in the story? Oh, duh, it's an obvious clue he's beating me over the head with."
All being said, I don't regret the hours spent reading this story. It was a good one for the amount of time I had to invest, and Scalzi's writing is good considering the tale he was spinning. Given the book's length, it's probably perfect for a read during a flight. Just enough to start on the departure and finish on the return trip.
Lastly, if for some reason you haven't had the fortune to read Scalzi's "Old Man's War"... do so immediately. That is a story that's powerful enough for you to remember decades later.
My own connection to the original franchise is minimal, I've heard it mentioned a few places and read the last volume a long time ago. I don't feel that it's a betrayal to revive it again, and am not as critical as if it were, say, another butchering of the Foundation Universe. I don't much like the practice of taking over abandoned genre sand-boxes, and it's hard to fight the impression that Scalzi is doing this as a way of provoking more discussion and a sense of newness over his writing while at the same time is explicitly becoming less original.
All that aside, what emerges from the story is quite generic, even if it were rebranded enough to have no relation to the original series I'd still feel safe calling it heavily derivative. There's dynamics of colonization, alien contact, a bit of corporate intrigue, and a protracted high-impact legal battle. The story isn't terrible, but it doesn't do very much with any of these elements, or do more than slightly warm over the stock SF narrative of past decades. Scalzi has in the past brought a lot more humor and energy to proceedings that can push through his employment of cliches, here the plot is slow enough and the dialog labored such that it settles into mediocrity early, and only pushes past that in brief flashes across the book. For all that we were laboriously told about the impact of the proceedings on the planetary ecology, on the characters' finances and ideals, on indeed on the larger colonial economy, it was very hard to feel that there were real stakes at any point. I've read worse books from 2011, and even books less distinguished, but this had a sense of controlled mediocrity that felt particularly frustrating, like Scalzi was consistently hitting safe groundballs to push forward his story, and in the process draining it of real interest.
I gobbled down the Old Man War trilogy, a fun ride with a fair bit of substance below the surface, particularly in worldbuilding. Since then I've felt a deep sense of diminishing returns, Scalzi's contribution to the 2008 Hugo Shortlist meltdown with the breezy, inconsequential tie-in Zoe's Tale, the deeply inert God Engines, and in the 'real world' his own insistence on defending fandom against the whiners and critics--which is to say defending it as a zero-challenge exercise in mediocrity, among other things. I guess given that it shows an avoidance of hypocrisy to carry that into his own writing, in which the very reboot format declares his intention to boldly chart a story of change and revolution in an echo of past forms, staying strongly within a particular box. Which isn't the worst thing in the world, and I'm sure a lot of people will be pleased by Fuzzy Nation, but I'm not pleased by the way things seem to have gone. I think I'll add Scalzi to the category of Dropped Authors (with Stross, Sawyer, Martin, Bear and Haldeman) authors that I had followed pretty regularly, but are not delivering at a level to reward that attention, whom I'll avoid in the future unless I encounter a review or other reason to suggest things have significantly changed.
Similar to and better than: God Engines by John Scalzi
Similar to and worse than: Newton's Wake by Ken Macleod