Review: Fuzzy Nation

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

9647532Genres: Science Fiction, Fiction
Maturity Level: 4
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

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. 

Maybe I’m just choosing the wrong John Scalzi novels, but I’m starting to suspect that he’s highly overrated. Fuzzy Nation, which is based off the H. Beam Piper novel Little Fuzzy, takes what could have been a very serious and compelling Sci-Fi work asking deep and meaningful questions, and turned it into an action-adventure-courtroom-drama.

Fuzzy Nation follows Jack Holloway, a frustratingly stereotypical jackass protagonist. Holloway cares about himself and only himself, and doesn’t have a problem screwing other people over to get there. He goes out of his way to antagonize literally everyone, sometimes by insulting them, sometimes by punching them in the face. His only redeeming quality is that he’s moderately funny. And he loves his dog.

Holloway’s journey through the novel was predictable. There was minimal character development, and at the end of the novel I’m still pretty sure he did everything for his own selfish gains. Instead the book was filled with pointless banter, Holloway lawyering literally every situation he found himself in, even when it didn’t make sense, and unconvincing red herrings. Only once was I taken by surprise.

Let me come back to my assertion that Scalzi might be overrated. When I first read Zoe’s Tale, I thought maybe he was just trying his hand at Young Adult but didn’t really have experience with the writing style. Fuzzy Nation was equally juvenile. The review on the back of my book calls him the most “accessible” science fiction author writing now. Well, it was definitely accessible. Honestly, it felt like I was reading a novelization of a courtroom drama like Law and Order. Everything was just so over simplistic, repetitive, and unsubtle. The world-building was minimal, with descriptions so vague that I was having trouble picturing the animals and planet. Also, does he have any other words in his vocabulary for “said”? (I’m also starting to suspect I may be a literature snob…)

That being said, I enjoyed the heck out of this book. The fuzzys (IT SHOULD BE FUZZIES!!! IN ENGLISH WE CHANGE -YS TO -IES WHEN IT’S NOT A PROPER NOUN!!!!!!!!!!!!) Sorry.

The fuzzys really captured my attention and imagination. I loved getting to know them and watching the process of figuring out whether they’re sentient or not. Despite the television-ness of it, I love a good courtroom drama, and I don’t get to read them very often. Zarathurstra XXIII was a fascinating planet that I was dying to learn more about. I would especially like to know more about these Zara Raptors, the planet’s dangerous predators. We only got one tantalizing look at them, and I’m pretty sure they’re sentient too.

The underlying themes of this book especially intrigued me. The ethics of exploiting the resources of other planets is becoming increasingly relevant as Elon Musk is starting corporate space exploration. The question of what makes a being a PERSON is also interesting to me. Scalzi mentioned there was a set list of criteria decided by a court, but only mentioned ONE item, the ability to speak. What else??? If we discovered life out there, how would we determine if it was sentient? Which brings about the philosophical question: what makes us different from animals anyway? I wish Scalzi had spent more time exploring these questions and less time on Holloway being a jerk.

And, banal as the humor often was, the physical comedy did make me laugh out loud. I think Scalzi would make a fantastic screen-writer. A movie of this book would have been soooooo much fun!

In the end, if you like a fast-paced, fun Sci-Fi novel, this one is definitely for you. But if you’re looking for more serious Science Fiction that explores what the future could mean for us, maybe skip this one and check out Little Fuzzy by Piper instead. It looks like most people who read both preferred the original.

6 thoughts on “Review: Fuzzy Nation

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