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Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi

Totally digging your jacket, protagonist dude.

Totally digging your jacket, protagonist dude.

This one’s a little unfair of me.  Fuzzy Nation is John Scalzi’s “reboot” of a 1962 novel by H. Beam Piper:  Little Fuzzy.  I haven’t read the original or any of its sequels, so I’m coming to it fresh and without context.  I suppose in many ways, I’m probably Scalzi’s desired audience, here — a potential new audience for an old favorite.  And if that was his goal, he’s probably succeeded.  I give good odds that I’ll go back and read the original at some point, but we’re here about the 2011 version.

A friend lent me this one because the basic premise involves some entertaining legal acrobatics he thought I might enjoy.  Our occasionally-lovable antihero, Jack Holloway, is a contractor on a faraway planet, looking for minerals and other resources on behalf of Huge Evil Corporation (“ZaraCorp”) when he encounters a set of clever and adorable fuzzy creatures.  If the creatures turn out to be deemed sentient, ZaraCorp loses all ability to exploit the planet further, and so, zillions of dollars.  Hilarity, snappy comebacks, thrilling adventure, and ludicrous courtroom drama ensues.  It’s certainly a rollicking ride of a page turner, though it’s far over to the cotton candy side of the cotton candy to steak dinner continuum.

Scalzi’s got a Heinleinesque voice for his answers-to-nobody, always-sarcastic cowboy of a protagonist.  It’s mostly charming and fun, but a little one-note, and starts to grate hard after about halfway through.  The supporting characters make me want to hand the book back to Scalzi for another revision, saying, “Come now.  I know you got more in you that this.”  There’s a lot of uncomplicated archetypes here: the evil corporate goon and evil corporate boss/heir/scion, the passionate environmental biologist.  Aside from Holloway (and he’s a point highly debatable) nobody fundamentally changes, nobody really has much of an arc, and nobody really surprises us by being something different than we thought.

Scalzi’s most fun when he’s least self-satisfied.  The triumphant courtroom scenes made me roll my eyes as climax after climax and reveal after reveal strained credulity in the long denouement. But, but but, the more casual, slice of life bits in the earlier half of the book, such as where Holloway starts to meet the fuzzies and build a relationship with them, really sing, and certainly made this hard-hearted lawyer crack a grin more than once.

It’s a fun light read, and probably a good one to sling in the beach bag this summer.

Recommended Tea for This Book:

mangogreen For this jungle-set light read, I had to go green (and I’d probably recommend going iced, especially if you take up my beach reading suggestion!).  The tropical setting and the whimsical, sassy humor made me think of one of my favorite fruits: mango.  So try a mango-flavored green tea!  Alas, my favorite is from the long-closed Tea Zone, but consider as an alternative this well-rated Adagio blend.

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