My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Personal Enthusiasm: Loads of Fun
I really should know better than to underestimate John Scalzi. After all, I still think Old Man’s War was one of the best books I’ve read in the past 7 years. But, I did. I didn’t expect Fuzzy Nation to be all that good.
I had my reasons too. Fuzzy Nation is a remake of H. Beam Piper’s book Little Fuzzy. Movies are remade all of the time in Hollywood. And most of those remakes are poor imitations of the original. How often are books remade? Never? I should have taken a clue from Tyler Cowen and realized if something is done that’s never done, that’s likely to mean it’s of higher than average quality. And, boy, is that ever true here.
Scalzi took a good but dated 1950’s story and updated it into a very good, and fresh, story for the 2010’s. The broad, general, structure of the original is still here. Jack Holloway is a prospector working on Zarathustra XXXIII, looking for sunstone gems. He discovers an immense cache of them, enough to make his fortune several times over. Then he meets a small, fuzzy (of course), cute creature. Then he meets the creature’s family. Soon, he’s involved in determining whether these cute creatures are super smart animals or sentient people.
Scalzi modifies the story a good bit too. His book is every bit as much of a page turner as the original was, just in different ways. He manages to make a series of court cases far more interesting than the original did. But I find the most interesting changes to be the way that the story revolves around Jack Holloway.
Scalzi’s version of Little Fuzzy is really about Holloway. The fuzzys are there and central to that story, but Holloway is the focus. He’s a complex character and Scalzi progressively reveals him to us. Is he merely the galaxy’s biggest jerk? Or is there more to him than that? Scalzi continually gives us more insight into him as the story moves along, but still manages to keep his character ambiguous until the end. It’s not character development, exactly, but it’s character revelation, which I find just as interesting.
After reading this book, I’ve very definitely moved from “I’ll read it because it’s from Scalzi” to “I’d definitely recommend this book”. If you’re looking for an entertaining read, pick this up. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.