Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fuzzy Nation -- John Scalzi

How to deal with this one? It's a "reboot" of H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy, and while there are movie reboots all the time, it seldom happens to novels, unless of course sea monsters or vampires are involved. There are those who'll think John Scalzi should have left Piper's book alone and that he's at worst a plagiarist and at best someone who had no ideas of his own and has turned fanfic into a published book.

Here's the thing with me. I can't criticize anybody for writing fanfic, having written and published six or seven Sherlock Holmes stories, myself. And while I have avoided all the sea monster reboots, I like Scalzi's work and thought I'd give this one a try. I read the Piper original when it appeared back in 1962, but I've also read Ardath Mayhar's Golden Dream: A Fuzzy Odyssey, which I suppose some might label fanfic as well.

But look at it this way: Most of the people who read this book won't have read Little Fuzzy. The vast majority of them weren't born when H. Beam Piper was writing, and I suspect they've never heard of him. If they read this book, maybe they'll be curious enough to read the original or even Space Viking or A Planet for Texans.

As I said above, I like Scalzi's work. I've reviewed his books on the blog, and very favorably. I like his writing style, which doesn't call attention to itself, and I like his pacing and his characters. And I liked Fuzzy Nation.

Jack Holloway, the protagonist, isn't a nice guy, but, like a Heinlein character, he's a competent man, good at just about everything. If you don't count human relationships, that is. He's terrible at those. He's happy to help the big bad corporation rape a planet if it fills his pockets, too (there's a little Avatar in here, I guess). But then the fuzzys move in. Literally. They move into his house. Are the sentient beings? If they are, Jack will lose the huge fortune he's just discovered, but it falls on him to prove that they are.

Humor, rousing courtroom drama, despicable villains, action, and a great dog. All good stuff. If you revere Piper and his memory, not to mention his fine novels, you might want to skip this just because. If you want to read an entertaining SF novel, then by all means give it a try.

1 comment:

Marsdon said...

Interesting that they used the same fuzzy in the cover illustration as the ACE reprints. I much prefer the original Avon cover.

I have this in my library queue, but probably be a month or two before I get it. At least Scalzi doesn't name every one of his spear carriers - or hasn't in previous books. I read the Piper bio, and according to that the reason that Campbell would not buy some of his stories for Astounding is that he thought they had too many characters.