Friday, August 31, 2018


Ursula K. Le Guin
Completed 8/25/2018, Reviewed 8/25/2018
5 stars

This is the third book in the Annals of the Western Shores Trilogy.  After finding the first book good and the second book really good, I couldn’t put the one down.  Thank goodness I read it on a Saturday.  This book was a tour de force.  I know now why it won the Nebula.  It is a superbly written account of the young life of a slave who embarks on a journey towards freedom.  There’s not much of a plot and not much action.  But it is truly an engrossing piece of fiction. 

The story begins with eleven-year-old Gavir living with his sister as slaves to a wealthy family.  His life is relatively easy.  His primary job is to sweep.  He goes to school and is being trained to be the next teacher at the school.  Gav is special, he has powers.  One power is that he remembers everything he reads and hears.  The other power is that he can remember the future.  His sister convinces him to hide his power of remembering because the peoples of the nation in which he is enslaved don’t have such gifts.  Some years later, tragedy strikes and Gav runs away.  He doesn’t know where he’s going, he just knows he wants to be free and to find a home. 

There isn’t much of a plot, it’s all about the story telling.  Le Guin has a wonderful way with prose that doesn’t rely on an overabundance of similes.  It’s plain and simple story telling with strong nouns and verbs.  The story is about a journey that has many interesting situations and many colorful characters.  There’s some action, but it’s more like a real life rather than a thriller.

Gavir is the narrator of the story.  He’s immediately likeable.  His sister Sallo is also a great character.  From this series, you really get the sense that Le Guin understands what it is like to be subjugated or enslaved.  As slaves, they do not have families, but fortunately, they were both sold to the same family.  They rely on each other for support in their lives as slaves.  Having been stolen into slavery as very young children, it’s the only life they know.  They are treated well by the house’s Mother and Father.  Their only problem comes from one of the sons of the family.  But the whole time you are reading this, you realize that hey, they’re slaves, not free.  Don’t they know better?  Well they really don’t until something terrible happens and Gav runs away. 

The book is long, and Gav comes upon several groups of people he stays with for long and short periods, but to go into too much detail about them would give too much away.  But each step of the journey gives Gav a deeper taste of freedom and a step closer to finding home.  He finds his talent for instant memorization makes him an excellent story teller, which gets him on the good side of many of the people he encounters. 

I don’t give five stars out that often anymore.  Perhaps I’ve become a little more jaded, only rarely getting an emotional reaction to a book. But this one really moved me.  I was so engrossed that the mild amount of action towards the end really got to me.  And my eyes got a little misty at the very end.  This is definitely the best of the three books.  It reads as a standalone novel, with the main characters from the other books only appearing at the end.  Five out of five stars.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


Jacqueline Koyanagi
Completed 8/28/2018, Reviewed 8/28/2018
2 stars

I didn’t care much for this novel.  It had a lot of interesting ideas, such as physical disability, gender issues, genocide, and alternate universes, but it didn’t seem to come together into a satisfactory whole.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about it is that the majority of characters are female, with a token male here and there, the opposite of what you find in most science fiction novels.  So it passes the Bechdel test in that there are women who have a conversation that’s not about men.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to raise this above the level of mediocre. 

Alana is a sky surgeon (read starship engineer) who works in a shop repairing ships, but has never been in space.  She has an autoimmune disease that contracts her muscles, causing terrific pain.  The disease can be treated, but the meds are expensive, and being a sky surgeon doesn’t pay well.  One day, a starship arrives looking for Alana’s “spirit guide” sister, Nova.  With Nova on vacation, Alana decides to stow away on the ship, hoping to parlay information on Nova’s location into a permanent job on the ship.  The plan works, sort of. 

The mission and the crew of the ship is anything but ordinary.  There’s the engineer who thinks he’s a wolf, the pilot who flickers in and out of existence, and the captain who is having an affair with the medical officer.  Alana falls for the captain as well.  But all this has to wait, because the crew is blamed for the destruction of a planet, Alana is running out of meds, Nova is not cooperating, and the pilot will soon blink completely out of existence unless they can get to an alternate universe.

So yeah, lots of interesting stuff.  However, no matter what strange things were going on, the story kept reverting to Alana as she obsessed and tortured herself over falling for the captain of the starship.  It was pretty normal obsession initially, especially since it conflicted with her first true love, being a sky surgeon.  She fell in love with the ship as well as with its captain.  The book is told in first person Alana, so the whole middle of the book was sitting in her head while she kicked herself for her feelings.  It got tedious quickly.

In general, the relationships all seemed pretty bizarre.  There were a lot of secrets and miscommunication which made the relationships seem dysfunctional.  I’m not so sure they weren’t.  I didn’t mind the polyamory, I minded how nobody would talk about it.  In fact, nothing about the relationships was clarified until the end.  I would have rather seen the relationships clear up early and let the science fiction part of the story carry the novel to the end.  Instead, the science fiction part of the story gets pushed back until nearly the end.  By that time, I didn’t care much about it anymore, I just wanted the book to be finished. 

I give this book two stars out of five.  It was a convoluted mess.  I’m saddened by this score, because I always want books with LGBTQ content to be good.  Of course, just because there’s a lesbian relationship in the story doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good book.  I just want it to be. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Book of Tongues

Gemma Files
Completed 8/24/2018, Reviewed 8/24/2018
3 stars

This was a fantasy/horror Western, a tale of the weird West.  After finishing it, I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.  The premise is interesting and the horror parts are intense, but I found it very hard to read.  I found the dialogue hard to follow in that it’s very Western twangy.  I guess it was very authentic, at least in the way we perceive the Old West’s way of speaking.  The prose was very complex, though not pretentious.  It made the whole reading experience rather exhausting.  There were times where it was very hard to follow.  The book was nominated for a Gaylactic Spectrum Award for best novel with positive LGBT content, so at least some people thought it was really good.  I’m settling for calling it good, because I had such mixes feelings about it. 

Ash Rook is a Civil War chaplain from the South who is wrongly hanged for killing his commander.  He survives the hanging through supernatural intervention, awakening his latent wizardly powers, though here he’s called a hex, as in hex-slinger.  The actual killer, Chess Pargeter, joins him, as do a few others from their regimen, as they journey to Arizona.  With Rook wielding supernatural powers and trigger-happy Chess, they decide to become outlaws, and Chess and Rook become lovers.  However, Rook has strange dreams of an Aztec goddess calling him to become a god like her.  Then Ed Morrow, an agent sent to infiltrate Rook’s gang to bring down the hex-slinger, joins the gang.  Together they cast spells and murder their way south eventually making their way to Mexico, where they literally go through Hell to find the destiny that awaits them. 

The book depicts violence quite graphically, mostly through the character of Chess.  Chess is an immature amoral who kills people who cross him the wrong way.  He’s a rotten kid with a bad temper and great aim.  He kills quite a few people over the course of this book with no hesitation and no regrets.  Chess makes no bones about being gay and doesn’t care who knows, considering how good he is with a gun.  The sex is also relatively graphic.  So if you don’t like sex and violence, this is not the book for you.  However, the sex and violence are germane to the plot.  It gives you strong sense of who Chess is and what makes him tick.  Despite the terrible nature of Chess, I found I liked him, despicable as he was.  He’s definitely an anti-hero, along the lines of the Bonnie and Clyde. 

Rook and Ed are also major characters with the story being told through their points of view, as well as Chess’.  I imagine Rook as being a middle-aged Sam Elliot, slow-talking and relatively level-headed.  He wields his hexing power via quotations from the Bible.  And he’s madly in love with Chess.  Ed is basically the moral compass in the group, watching all this with horror and intrigue. 

My biggest problems with the book were the dialogue and the prose.  They were very difficult to read.  I found myself often rereading passages because I didn’t get them the first time.  As I mentioned above, the dialogue is “authentic” Old West speaking patterns.  The prose particularly was very complex.  I don’t exactly know how to describe it.  It wasn’t contrived metaphors like in “Yiddish Policemen’s Union”.  The best way I can put it is that it felt like it was nonlinear, making me lose the flow of the story. 

I give this book three stars out of five, giving it props for the premise and the Sam Peckinpah-like realism.  I took points off for the complexity of the prose and the speaking patterns.  You should also know that the book is the first in a series that ends in a cliffhanger.  I didn't take points off for that, I was just glad I understood the ending.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Accidental Creatures

Anne Harris
Completed 8/23/2018, Reviewed 8/23/2018
3 stars

This was an entertaining novel.  However, it was written in a way that I can only call fluff.  It had an interesting premise and interesting ideas, but the execution made it feel like pulp fiction.  It made for very easy reading.  In fact, I read it in two days; granted a lot of that was during down time at work.  The book is packed with a lot of action and dialogue.  There’s not much in the way of quality prose.  But it was fun and light.

The story concerns GeneSys, a giant biotech firm that creates organic polymers.  It is the biggest corporation in Detroit, now that cars are mostly a thing of the past.  Residents can either work a desk job or be vat divers, people who dive into vats of the highly toxic chemicals that create organic polymer products.  Accidents occur often, killing the vat divers with horrific deaths.  The chemicals taint the DNA of vat divers whose offspring have DNA damage.  They’re called sports.  The book follows a group of sports, two of which, Chango and Helix, grow to love each other.  It also follows a brilliant scientist, Hector Martin, who is developing a biological entity for GeneSys to do the work of the vat divers.  Hector’s experiments lead to a scientific breakthrough that threatens the stability of GeneSys, and embroils everyone in a battle against the megacorporation.

The plot may sound confusing but it all makes sense as you read it.  To be more specific leads to spoilers, so I left it rather vague.  The story is somewhat cyberpunk, with its evil megacorporation, designer drugs, artists, and bionetwork.  It has a gritty feel, though not as much as say a William Gibson novel. 

There are a lot of characters in the book, but they are easy to keep track of.  The sports are a pretty fun lot, though Chango and Helix are the primary characters with the most amount of story time.  Chango is the younger sister of Ada, a woman who was a pioneer in the unionizing of the vat divers.  Ada suffered a tragic vat diving accident and died a horrible death.  Chango is highly suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her sister’s death.  When Helix, her girlfriend, expresses interest in vat diving, Chango of course goes through the roof.  Helix doesn’t know why she wants to be a vat diver, but she knows she must become one. 

Helix is an interesting character.  Unlike Chango, whose mutation is having two different colored eyes, Helix has four arms and fanged canines.  Her adoptive father, Hector Martin, the brilliant scientist previously noted, has kept her pretty much locked away from society.  Helix runs away one day, falling literally into the arms of Chango.  Her journey to figure out who she really is leads her to meeting others like herself and eventually to the battle with GeneSys. 

I give the book three stars out of five.  It’s an exciting romp with a lot of twists and turns.  It could easily be given an action-sci-fi movie treatment.  I thought there were some plot holes, but the action kept me from thinking too much about them.  I didn’t think it was a great novel, but I never got bored with it.  The book won the first Gaylactic Spectrum Award for best novel with positive LGBT content back in 1999. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Ursula K. Le Guin
Completed 8/19/2018, Reviewed 8/20/2018
4 stars

This is the second book in Le Guin’s “The Western Shore” young adult trilogy.  I liked it a lot better than the first book.  I particularly liked the premise, that one nation has invaded a major city and tried to force its religious beliefs on the subjugated people.  Specifically, the invaders have banned reading and writing, forcing the people into illiteracy.  The book says a lot about intolerance and slavery.  It features a seventeen-year-old girl as the main character and I thought she was marvelous.  It also has the two main characters from the first book, although you don’t have to read the first book to get this one.  It’s nearly a stand-alone novel.  After reading this one, I’m really looking forward to the final book, which won the Nebula award for Best Novel in 2008.

The plot is basically about the city, Ansul.  It was once a noted center of learning, featuring a university and a renowned library.  When the Alds conquered Ansul, they destroyed most of the books and punished people for reading and writing with the death penalty.  Memer is a young girl whose mother was raped by one of the invaders.  She is the result of that horrific event.  She lives with a former Waylord of the city, who is basically the patriarch of the family name.  He secretly teaches her how to read and write.  They both have access to a secret library in the house where they have been hiding books that the Alds have not found.  Then a poet and his wife come to town and they seem to be the tipping point in a rebellion to oust the invaders. 

Memer is a wonderful character.  The book is written in first person from her point of view.  Despite being half Ald, she hates them for what they did to her mother and her city.  As a child, she played with the books in the secret library, but when the Waylord offers to teach her to read, she jumps at the chance.  Of course, all this has to be done secretly. 

Then Orrec and Gry (from the first book) come to town.  Orrec is the poet and has been invited by the Gand, the Ald ruler of Ansul, to recite his poetry to him.  They stay in the Waylord’s house and Memer gets close to them, particularly Gry, who becomes a confidant.  You see, Memer’s mother died very young.  So Gry is a strong, positive, female role model for her. 

When the rebellion begins the book gets exciting.  But that’s not to say that the first half of the book is not good.  It’s very good.  It’s just not action packed.  I’ve never read an action packed Le Guin novel, but the rebellion is really well written and exciting.  She captures the anger of the people superbly.  Except for the catalyst event, the rebellion is rather peaceful, which says something about the type of people Le Guin imagined. 

There isn’t much magic in this book.  What magic there is comes towards the end, so to discuss it would be a spoiler, but it’s subtle and has to do with Memer. 

I give this book four stars out of five.  I think I particularly liked the book because it was about books.  Being a YA novel, it was easy reading, and relatively fast-paced.  I read the whole book on a Sunday. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Centuries Ago and Very Fast

Rebecca Ore
Completed 8/18/2018, Reviewed 8/19/2018
3 stars

This was an odd book.  It’s a collection of interrelated short stories about a 14,000-year-old gay man who can travel through time.  It follows him from cave man times to the present where he has a relationship with a thirty something cop.  It’s an intriguing premise but not necessarily always executed well.  I found myself sometime stumbling over clumsy prose, but pushing through because it was so interesting.  In the end, I had to say I was satisfied with the book, I just wished it was written a little better. 

The book is about Vel who is nearly immortal.  He can die if mortally wounded, but otherwise has been living since Paleolithic days.  He is accepted by the tribe, taking care of children who otherwise would have been have been strangled by their mothers who could not take care of them.  He also hunts with the tribe, killing mammoths and helping process them for food and clothing.  The stories about Vel in the past are told from Vel’s point of view.  They jump around in time from the Stonewall riots in NYC in 1969, to 18th century London where he helps a young male prostitute escape his predicament and the sodomy laws of the day, to a pre-Roman period where he is a minor deity of a spring.  These stories are interwoven with a narrative told by Thomas, Vel’s present day lover, who knows the truth about Vel.  Thomas worries about growing older while Vel remains the same age. 

The stories were all interesting.  My favorites were a tale about Vel, Thomas, and Vel’s descendants gathering for a traditional prehistoric Yule and the tale of the 1726 London and the male prostitute Vel tries to rescue.  The Yule story is full of great descriptions of the ritual.  It includes a scene where a young girl is made to swear that she will never tell anyone of the secret of Vel’s longevity.  The London story is a look at how gay men lived in the eighteenth century with the brutal sodomy laws that resulted in many hangings.  I also enjoyed following along with Thomas’ tale in the present day. 

Some of the stories included sex scenes which may not be for everyone.  However, one of them was very interesting in that it described Thomas’ problems with sex being a survivor of sexual abuse.  It is graphic yet very gentle, showing Vel’s patience and compassion with Thomas. 

My only real problem with the book was that the prose was choppy at times.  There were parts where I couldn’t follow the sentences.  It was like they didn’t have any structure, or parts were missing, like the subject.  I don’t know if this was style, or an editing problem, but I didn’t like it.  It happened mostly during the Paleolithic stories.  At first, I thought it was supposed to be like “cave man talk”, but the story was being told from the present reflecting on the past, so it was fluid at other times.  The prose was inconsistent at best.

I give the book three stars out of five.  It’s good, but could have used a better editor.  The book is short and interesting, so it makes for a compelling read.  It was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award for books published for the first time in paperback and the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for positive LGBTQ content.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Collapsing Empire

John Scalzi
Completed 8/16/2018, Reviewed 8/16/2018
4 stars

As my regular readers know, I’m not a big fan of space opera, but this one blew me away.  If anyone was going to do it, it would be Scalzi.  His humor and his excellent dialogue made this a really enjoyable read for me.  As with most of his works that I’ve read, the science is a little soft but his ideas are interesting.  He doesn’t write great prose, and the world building could be better, but his breakneck pacing and easy readability made for a stunning story. 

The basic premise of this novel is that humans have populated other planets by means of something called the Flow.  It’s akin to a wormhole.  It permits traveling light years in a matter of months.  The inhabited planets connected by the Flow are called the Interdependency and it is governed by an emperox (gender neutral for emperor).  Most of the planets are not that hospitable and rely on each other for resources often including food.  The problem is that the Flow is beginning to break down.  As planets become isolated, they humans on them will eventually die because of their interdependence on each other.  One family knows the truth about the imminent collapse and must alert the emperox of this impending disaster.

The book is told from three points of view.  The first is Cardenia, the new emperox.  She lives in Hub, a planet that is basically the hub of the Interdependency.  It has the most Flow lines going to and leaving from it.  At the beginning of the book, Cardenia’s father dies and she reluctantly succeeds him.  Her older brother was supposed to be the successor, but he died in a car crash.  She is a genuinely nice person and may not have what it takes to govern the Interdependency.  She’s a very relatable character and I enjoyed following her through the nine months in which the book takes place.

The second POV is Marce Claremont, the son of Flow physicist who confirms that the Flow is collapsing.  The Claremonts live on End, a planet that is, well, basically, the butthole of the Interdependency.  At the beginning of the book, the Duke of End is battling a rebellion, making things difficult for Marce to leave End to get to Hub to alert the emperox of his father’s finding about the collapse.  He is another genuinely nice person and a bit of a country bumpkin. 

In contrast to these two, the third POV is the outrageously offensive Kiva Lagos.  She’s a daughter of House of Lagos, a merchant dynasty that transports food around the Interdependency.   She’s brash, bossy, and loves the F-word.  I really enjoyed her character.  She adds a lot of humor to the book.  As with many of Scalzi’s books, all the characters are rather snarky, but Kiva is over the top. 

This is my fourth Scalzi novel and like his others this is a fun fast read.  His dialogue is always snappy.  There isn’t much in the way of prose or world-building, which is a shame because he omits descriptions of people and places which would have added to the reading experience.  But the book is so fun and so easy to read, that I forgive him on that count.  It kept me turning the pages even when as I was falling asleep with my e-reader in my hand.  And I wasn’t even that upset that he left some plots hanging for the sequel.  I give this book four stars out of five. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Old Man’s War

John Scalzi
Completed 8/11/2018, Reviewed 8/12/2018
4 stars

I’m coming to realize I really like John Scalzi’s writing.  He creates interesting universes and produces space opera that’s easy to read, something I don’t find too often in this sub-genre.  And he makes you think.  This book is about an army made up of people seventy-five years old and older put into younger clones of themselves and sent off to space to protect Earth’s interplanetary colonies.  It asks the question would you go to war to be young again and see space.  I really liked the book and will probably read the rest of the series eventually. 

The story follows John Perry, a man who on his seventy-fifth birthday goes to visit his wife’s grave and then joins the army.  He made his peace with his son and the rest of his friends and family.  Then he goes to space and gets a new body, his younger self, with enhancements like green coloring to allow for the absorption of sunlight to produce food like a plant, a brain implant to communicate telepathically, and synthetic blood for faster clotting and provide more oxygen to the enhanced body.  He goes on several missions, but on one mission where he’s nearly killed, he’s rescued by special ops, which includes a woman who appears to be his long dead wife.

The plot of the story is sort of “Ender’s Game” in reverse.  Instead of children going off to war, it’s senior citizens.  I don’t usually care for either space opera or military SF, but this was kind of both and I enjoyed it.  The characters were well drawn, particularly John Perry, as the book is told in first person by him, but I also liked the group of seniors he meets at the start of his basic training.  They’re all interesting people and it’s fun to watch them after they get their new bodies.  Unfortunately, most of them separate although two pairs get assigned to the same squads.  It was also cool that one of the characters was gay, because it was a total non-issue.

The alien life is interesting too.  It seems that if they can travel in space, they are looking to create colonies on uninhabited planets, just like us.  That’s where the conflict comes in.  Just like us, they want to protect their colonies and take over colonies inhabited by other aliens, or us.  There are two sets of aliens with whom we get some in depth study.  But the book is rather short, and we don’t spend that much time with them.  I expect that there are more and deeper plotlines for the aliens in the later books. 

I give this book four out of five stars.  It’s sharp, witty, and serious at the same time.  I’ve read that it’s a take on Robert Heinlein, and Scalzi even thanks Heinlein in the acknowledgements.  It makes one pause and think of Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” but this book is a lot less right wing.  While the aliens are still the bad guys, there’s a moment of moral dissonance during a battle where John Perry is stepping on one-inch tall aliens and slowly having a nervous breakdown.  It’s well done and adds a level of moral ambiguity that I thought was missing in “Starship Troopers”. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Ilario: The Lion’s Eye

Mary Gentle
Completed 8/8/2018, Reviewed 8/9/2018
2 stars

I really struggled with this book.  It took me eight days to read a 322 page book, which is a long time for me.  I didn’t care for the plot, and many times, it devolved into soapiness.  It’s a shame because I would think there’d be so much you could do with a story about a true hermaphrodite during the Renaissance.  This is the first of a two-part series.  It ends in a cliffhanger, but I don’t feel any compulsion to read the second part. 

The story is about Ilario, someone with fully functional genitalia of both sexes.  Ilario can pass as a man or a woman, depending on how they dress.  (I’ll use the third person plural pronouns for Ilario).  They lived in a kingdom on the Iberian Peninsula where they were the King’s freak, after being raised by foster parents.  After nearly being killed by their birth mother, they leave for Carthage.  There, they’re kidnapped and sold into slavery, but their master, Rekhmire’ is a gentle Egyptian eunuch who purchases him for scroll copying.  In addition, he lets them pursue their love of painting, even going to Rome so that they can study under a master of a new style of art.  However, they are being chased by assassins hired by Ilario’s birth mother and step-father, who is the first minister of the court of the King, because they’re embarrassed to be related to a hermaphrodite. 

The book is told in first person, but I didn’t feel like I really got inside Ilario’s head.  As characters go, I found Rekhmire’ to be quite likeable.  He was a compassionate person and treated Ilario well.  I also really liked Honorius, Ilario’s birth father.  Both men were very accepting of Ilario and embraced them with a deep love and respect.  However, there’s one scene that went on and on that I didn’t care for.  It was a discussion between Ilario, Rekhmire’, and Honorius which was basically an exposition that recounts the story of Ilario growing up and being hated by their step-father and birth mother, and the plot to kill Ilario.  It was simply painful to read and I felt it could have been told much cleanly and concisely.  I think that was the point where I realized the book wasn’t written well and that set the tone for my inability to get too far into the book each day.

I was really disappointed in the world building as well.  Considering the stories locales include Carthage, Rome, and Venice, I didn’t get the feeling that I was in any of those places.  Carthage was interesting in that it was covered by a darkness called The Penitence.  But the only thing that I really got out of it was that there was a specific kind of lamp in use all over the city, and the author referred to those lamps at every opportunity.  Rome had its ruins and Venice had its canals, but the author just didn’t do much with them. 

I give this book two stars out of five.  I was really looking forward to this book because of its intersex main character, but the execution of the book made it a disappointment.  This is surprising because the author won a British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel for another book, “Ash”.  However, I’m less likely to read that one because of my experience with “Ilario”. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Fuzzy Nation

John Scalzi
Completed 7/31/2018, Reviewed 8/1/2018
5 stars

I had some hesitation going into this reboot of the Little Fuzzy series because I loved it so much.  In retrospect, I think I should have rated them higher than I did.  Because of this I had a little trouble going into this book, but I quickly got over it and by about halfway through, I was riveted.  Scalzi really knew what he was doing when he sat down to write this.  He took the basics of the novel, reduced the number of characters, and made it a little more believable.   

The basic plot is the same.  Jack Holloway is a private contractor, surveying and prospecting on the planet Zarathustra.  He works for a megacorporation, ZaraCorp who has sole prospecting and mining rights on the planet.  ZaraCorp maintains this monopoly so long as there is no sapient life on the planet.  Then Jack’s home gets invaded by Fuzzies. They’re adorable and they seem to be smarter than the average mammal.  Soon the question becomes are they sapient.  If they are, ZaraCorp loses all of its rights to the planet and Jack also stands to lose a fortune.  But it is for the court to decide if they are sapient or not.

Jack in the original novel is a 70-year-old bear of a lovable old guy.  In this novel, he’s younger and pretty self-centered.  He’s basically a good guy, but has his faults, and is always looking out for himself first.  Jack is almost an anti-hero, but from the beginning, by the way he interacts with his dog Carl, you know that you’re going to like him, despite his faults.  Jack’s ex-girlfriend is ZaraCorp’s chief biologist. She’s the one who questions the Fuzzies’ sapience.  Her new boyfriend is a lawyer for ZaraCorp.  Basically, everyone who lives on the planet work for the company.  ZaraCorp, while bad in the original, is downright dastardly in this one. 

All the characters are much more fleshed out than in the original.  Probably because there are fewer of them.  We get to spend much more time with them, particularly Jack.   We also spend more time with the bad guys, which makes them much more interesting as well. 

The majority of the second half of the book is mostly courtroom drama.  It’s not quite as formal as in the original.  There’s definitely the influence of television courtroom procedurals in this book.  The judge is an impatient woman, a la Judge Judy.  Nobody gets away with bullshit in her courtroom.  I could see her being played by someone like Jane Kaczmarek, the mom from Malcom in the Middle. 

The book isn’t nearly as cute as the original.  The Fuzzies are still adorable, but the tone of the book is much more geared towards mature situations.  You still want to see more of the Fuzzies, but the human situations are also just as riveting. 

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I wanted to note that Scalzi does an interesting twist with the Deus ex machina at the end.  This time it’s really from “the machine” though I won’t say what machine.  Just know that it’s quite good and surprising. 

I have to give this book five stars.  I was riveted to the end.  As I said before, I probably should also have given the originals higher ratings as well.  I highly recommend this book as well as the originals, though you don’t have to read the originals to appreciate this one.  You just have to be aware that the original is over fifty years old.  It comes from a different time and place in science fiction and literature.  Fuzzy Nation is much more a contemporary novel.  It might also not age well, but it’s certainly extremely entertaining now.