Fuzzy Nation

John Scalzi
Fuzzy Nation Cover

A bit cliche-ridden, but still entertaining and thought-provoking


Fuzy Nation is Scalzi's 2011 reboot of the SF series that began with H. Beam Piper's 1962 novel Little Fuzzy, which was nominated for the 1963 Hugo. The story concerns Jack Holloway, contract surveyor for Zarathustra Corp. and born smart-ass, who hits the mother load while looking for minerals on the planet Zara 23. Jack stands to reap a fortune in commissions from the find, and he will apply his skills as a former lawyer to make sure Zara Corp doesn't cheat him out of a dime (and to generally make a nuisance of himself while he's at it). The rub lies in the intelligent, cat-like creatures that pay Holloway's isolated treetop cabin a visit. If these "Fuzzies," as Jack calls them, are found to be sentient, then Zara Corp is legally required to cease its exploitation of the planet to reserve the resources for the creatures' future use, thereby robbing Holloway of his fortune. Holloway, who seems to be equal parts sympathetic underdog and self-interested jackass, has some important decisions to make. Aside from being a first-contact story, Scalzi's book could almost be classified as legal-SF, considering how Holloway's claim to the minerals he discovered and the sentience of the Fuzzies is fought in both the legal court and the court of public opinion. There's nothing too new in this book, and it does generally follow a simple environmentalist cliché (nature & natives good, corporations bad). What saves it from total cliché is Holloway's development, and it took some time revealing him and developing him from opportunistic jackass to the point that I found him to be more complex than I thought, but Scalzi surprised me a time or two and got me genuinely interested and eager to see what he would do next and why: is he simply a self-interested prick through-and-through, or just a sardonic prick with a heart of gold? The dialogue sometimes read like the characters were competing to be the planet's most sarcastic prick, and even though the stakes seemed high for the big corporation, I never felt like the gloves really came off. Also, we never really see how this debacle for the planet affects the common workers. Still found Fuzzy Nation to be a fun, light-read that touches on a serious theme that we can easily import into a discussion of today's discussions on the environment. While the law that enabled Holloway's jackassery and the Fuzzies' chance at enfranchisement as sapiens did seem questionable at times (in terms of just how and why it was so rigidly followed on what seemed like a corporate-run planet with minimal governmental presence) the legal element was nevertheless engaging and entertaining. It's not big on technology or big action scenes, but it works as a well-paced, character-driven drama with enough humor injected to keep it from feeling grim. See my website for a more in-depth review.