Completed 7/31/2018, Reviewed 8/1/2018
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.