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Fuzzy Nation

by John Scalzi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Fuzzies (alt 4)

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1,6111089,610 (3.94)85
Jack Holloway, prospecting on Zara XXIII for ZaraCorp, finds an immensely valuable stream of sunstone. But when he forwards footage of the planet's catlike, native "fuzzies" to a biologist friend --who believes the "fuzzies" are sentient--hired company thugs, murder, and arson soon follow to protect ZaraCorp's mining interests.… (more)
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» See also 85 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
Spoilers ahead.
Rereading John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation (2011) alongside H. Beam Piper’s original Little Fuzzy (1962), I wondered what Scalzi did to make the tone of the two novels so different. They are both satirically comical, and both make corporations run by thugs into believable villains. Zarathustra Corporation seems to be a veiled reference to German industry in World War II. His coopted murderer becomes an object of pity when he commits suicide in his cell. I shivered when I learned that Piper committed suicide just two years after Little Fuzzy was published. Scalzi removes the German reference by renaming the company ZaraCorp. He also lets his heroic Papa Fuzzy deliver justice by kicking the oafish murderer off the planet with the memorable line, “Get off my planet, you son of a bitch.”
Piper’s fuzzies are innocent, comic characters that are given funny names and are adopted by kindly humans, including protagonist Jack Holloway. Scalzi dials down the comedy in the descriptions of Jack’s interaction with the fuzzy family. There is no suggestion that they will become part of his household in the long run. Scalzi also dials up the sentimentality of jack’s reaction to the deaths of two fuzzies at his house. Papa Fuzzy’s noble speech at the trial clearly establishes him as a thinking being, no matter whose definition of sapience one might use. Piper’s story is rife with Freudian psychobabble about the meaning of sapience. Scalzi ditches Freud for a linguistic model that may be too simple but is at least cogent: I can talk therefore I am sapient. In the end, I am not sure that the distinction between Papa Fuzzy, Jack, and Carl the dog is as clear as Scalzi makes it out to be. I wonder if that is Scalzi’s point in naming a town after Carl.
The most important change that Scalzi makes in rebooting Piper is in his treatment of Jack. Scalzi gives Jack more of a back story. He is a disbarred lawyer with a degree from Duke. He got in trouble when he punched out a client in open court because he needed a mistrial. He is a man much more likely to ask for forgiveness than permission. His ex-girlfriend Isobel tells him that he does not know how to apologize. It is a skill he learns in the end and attains self-knowledge well beyond anything in Piper. The key moment comes in the epilogue when Mark Sullivan, now married to Isobel, asks Jack about his motives. Jack replies that at first, he acted out of self-interest, then curiosity, and finally because he knew he was the only man who could get justice for the fuzzies:
“Why were you the only one who could make it happen?” Sullivan asked
“Because Papa Fuzzy said I was a good man. I’m not, Mark. I’m selfish and unethical and I am happy to lie and deceive to get what I want…. I am not a good man, Mark,” Holloway said. “But I was the right man. And for this, that was enough.”
By contrast, Piper gives the fuzzies the last word: “And they would pay the Big Ones back. First they would give their love and make the m happy. Later, when they learned how, they give them their help, too.” 4 stars. ( )
  Tom-e | Dec 26, 2022 |
Second read and still enjoyed it. ( )
  clacksee | Dec 12, 2022 |
I think the audiobook version, read by Wil Wheaton, earned an extra star as his narrations always seem to make the book better. Perhaps it's his enthusiasm, or simply his clear and natural way of speaking, but I find it very enjoyable.

But I'm also becoming quite a fan of John Scalzi after reading several of his books lately. I enjoyed the Old Man's War books that I've read, but some of the others have been even better. He has a great sense of humor that seems natural rather than contrived. He doesn't make a big deal out of it, it's just there most of the time, so it doesn't really detract from the story like some authors.

In this story, the main character is a former lawyer, and he seems to live up to everyone's expectations by being a bit self-centered and unlikeable. But since he's often unlikeable to people who deserve his contempt, it's OK with me. He's actually pretty honest, and seems to care about others, sometimes even when they are not exactly friends.

But the main theme of the book is how we differentiate between common animals and people. What is the definition of sentience? How do you treat an animal that looks like a cat, doesn't seem to talk, or do much of anything other than play, eat, and sleep? Or, more specifically, is it OK to destroy and rip off their planet? Well, if you can get rid of all of them before anyone decides, then it's OK, as long as you're a large and rich corporation.

This book was inspired by an older book, Little Fuzzy by Henry Beam Piper, written back in the stone age (around 1960). It dealt with the same issue, and there were some similarities, especially in the names of some characters, but the story was pretty different. This book was included with the Scalzi book on my Audible edition of the book, so I gave it a listen. It was somewhat interesting, but not as good, in my opinion. ( )
  MartyFried | Oct 9, 2022 |
I love John Scalzi, though I haven't read many books by him. That is, I love him as a person. I follow him on twitter and read his blog, and pretty much love everything he has posted. Therefore, I feel guilty I haven't read more books by him, though I own a far number of them. By my count, Fuzzy Nation is my third book of his I've actually read.

I really need to kick myself in the ass for not reading more of him because so far, I have loved every one of his books I've read.

This was a bit different in that it was an audiobook. I remember picking this up when it was a daily deal over at Audible many years ago, and then forgetting about it. I've recently realized that audiobooks are perfect for car rides, even if it's a relatively short one.

I was a bit wary of Wil Wheaton as the narrator since in the sample I listened to, I found his voice a bit grating. This soon passed as his narration was pretty damn spot-on with the sarcastic asshole nature of Jack's character. I loved him as a narrator.

I had never read Little Fuzzy so came into this book pretty much a blank slate, and after reading Fuzzy Nation, will have to hunt down a copy of Piper's original novel. Because I really really liked this. The biological/evolutionary bits, the political ramifications, the legal wrangling. All of it. Jack Holloway was an asshole but you can't help rooting for him. And the book was funny. ( )
  wisemetis | Oct 9, 2022 |
I didn't read the original Fuzzies books, I intend to, but this one I loved.
One of the best written books ever.

A bit too American in the bombastic way the hero does justice to the little fellows.
And the ending is not really a big surprise.
But very very good nevertheless. ( )
  Faltiska | Apr 30, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Scalziprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wheaton, WilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Fuzzies (alt 4)

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To Mary Robinette Kowal, a good friend and even better writer:

and

Ethan Ellenburg,who did more work to make this happen than either of us expected. His efforts are greatly appreciated.

The author additionally bows deeply in the direction of H Beam Piper, for the most obvious of reasons.
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Jack Holloway set the simmer to HOVER, swiveled his seat around, and looked at Carl.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Jack Holloway, prospecting on Zara XXIII for ZaraCorp, finds an immensely valuable stream of sunstone. But when he forwards footage of the planet's catlike, native "fuzzies" to a biologist friend --who believes the "fuzzies" are sentient--hired company thugs, murder, and arson soon follow to protect ZaraCorp's mining interests.

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