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Fuzzy nation

What if, on an otherwise ordinary day, something happened on your job that could make you rich beyond your wildest dreams?  And what if, a few days after this event, you encountered an alien life form that may be sentient?  But if it is sentient, you would not be able to successfully collect your recently acquired wealth.    Would you put your efforts behind the discovery of these creatures and the protection of their planet?  Or would you try to hide them and protect your own interests?  These are the questions explored by John Scalzi in Fuzzy Nation.

Jack Holloway is an independent contractor surveying the surface of Zarathustra XXIII.  He lives and works alone, except for his dog Carl, and has a reputation for being somewhat difficult to manage.  So, when Jack accidentally causes a cliff face to collapse, Chad Bourne, his ZaraCorp contractor Rep, cancels his contract due to the ecological impact of the disaster on the local environment.  But within moments, Jack notices that beneath the cliff, now exposed, is a seam of sunstones, incredibly valuable gemstones found only on ZaraXXIII.  When Jack claims the seam as his own, because he no longer works for Zarathustra Corporation, it results in a short, but intense period of legal wrangling that results in his sharing the seam with ZaraCorp, but also becoming almost unimaginably wealthy.

A few days later, Jack receives a notice from his home’s security system that there has been an unauthorized entry.  When he arrives, he doesn’t find a burglar in the traditional sense, but a small furry, or Fuzzy, creature that is similar to a very large cat that walks on two legs and has opposable thumbs.  In a short period of time, Jack has no doubt that the “Fuzzy”, as he calls it, is smart.  The question is how smart?  Because if this new species, that no one has ever seen before, is found to be sentient, all mining and extraction activities on ZaraXXIII must cease immediately.  And that would mean Jack’s claim to the sunstone seam was no longer valid.

Fuzzy Nation is a reimagining, or “reboot” (in the tradition of 2004’s Battlestar Galactica and 2009’s Star Trek) of H. Beam Piper’s novels about “the Fuzzys” from the early 1960s by Hugo award winning author John Scalzi.  Scalzi has taken the basic structure of Little Fuzzy, the first of Piper’s Fuzzy novels, and reworked the story and updated the science.  The result is an entertaining novel that retains the charm of Piper’s original, but also incorporates more contemporary themes of corporate greed, ecological devastation and the rights of native people to their homes and resources.   While Fuzzy Nation will never take the place of the original Piper novels, it does effectively introduce these charming creatures to a whole new group of readers and remind those already familiar with them why the Fuzzies have been a science classics for almost 50 years!