Review: Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper (1962)

Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper
Avon, 1962

Rating: B

It is only natural that, after having so enthusiastically enjoyed the recent John Scalzi reboot Fuzzy Nation, we would immediately seek out the original source material and compare it to the newer versions. H. Beam Piper isn’t a very widely known name in science fiction, but Litte Fuzzy is essentially his biggest legacy; it received a nomination for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1962, but lost out to Philip K. Dick’s absolutely outstanding The Man in the High Castle. Little Fuzzy may not be The Man in the High Castle, but it is a fun story with lots of warmth and heart that make it worthwhile.

The basic plot is the same as the later Scalzi version: a surveyor named Jack Holloway on a remote planet discovers a sentient species of fuzzy cat-like creatures that threaten Zarathustra Corporation’s right to mine the planets resources and essentially entirely destroy its environment. Holloway takes some convincing in Fuzzy Nation, but in Little Fuzzy he is the first person to get behind supporting the Fuzzies and their rights. While the modern Holloway is a thirty-something scruffy smartass, the original Jack Holloway here is a midde-aged man with gray hair that exudes pure gentleness; the only things they really have in common are the name and career choice.

Although the major plot points are the same, the journey between major points is entirely different. Little Fuzzy doesn’t have quite the same level of drama that Fuzzy Nation does, nor does it quite manage to be as horribly soul-wrenching. That being said, it is absolutely notable for its originality and the general feel of the novel. Piper is a very good writer who knows how to write adorable little fuzzy things without making it ever verge on cheese.

One might be tempted to listen to the audio book of Little Fuzzy if you received it for free with Fuzzy Nation, but we would recommend skipping it and reading it in print. The reading packaged with Fuzzy Nation (brilliantly read by Wil Wheaton) is read by someone else entirely and is frankly painful to listen to at times. It is possible that a better reading is out there, but we would suggest seeking it in print instead. Fuzzy Nation is a superior novel but Little Fuzzy is the original and is so full of heart that it is difficult not to recommend.

Review: Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (2011)

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
Tor Books, 2011

Rating: A

In the not-too-distant future, an independent contractor named Jack Holloway working for megacorporation ZaraCorp finds a vein of rare sunstone that is worth billions. Shortly thereafter, he finds an adorable race of bipedal cat-like creatures that may be sentient, which would void ZaraCorp’s contract to strip the planet of resources and thus cause a lot of very wealthy people to miss out on becoming exponentially moreso. Although Holloway has no problem with manipulating people around him to fuel his own selfish needs, the little creatures he calls fuzzies start to warm this very Han Solo-like character’s heart.

Fuzzy Nation is basically an environmentalist novel. It is a “reboot” of a science fiction novel from the sixties by H. Beam Piper entitled Little Fuzzy, and takes the spirit and basic idea of discovering of a borderline sentient group of adorable little creatures and makes a basically entirely new story from it. Most of the characters are different, and only Holloway’s name is the same, but the important part is in tact. Enormous corporations like ZaraCorp have one obligation: make a lot of money. When a race like the fuzzies are discovered, their only¬†course of action¬†is to try to disprove their sentience so that it doesn’t affect their bottom line. It isn’t all that far off from the spin given to the general population on reasoning why oil companies should be allowed to drill in nature reserves.

Jack Holloway is a likable character from the start. Although he is definitely a jerk, he’s a pretty funny jerk and it is clear early on that, despite his flaws, he actually isn’t that bad of a guy. He is an accomplished lawyer who was unfortuantely disbarred because of an incident that had nothing to do with his knowledge of the law, and he generally seems like the sort of guy who is a good man, but who definitely believes that the ends justify the means. The supporting cast are all strong, but Holloway is a pretty much perfectly developed character. Scalzi’s sense of humor is reflected clearly in Holloway’s demanor, and it suits the character perfectly.

It is hard to find any individual aspects of this novel to criticize. The writing is strong; the dialogue is perfect and hilarious. The novel has moments that have the tendency to evoke strong emotional response (I cried FOUR times reading this novel) and the general issue of corporate tendency to have completely inhumane business practices is an important issue that is addressed perfectly and succintly in Fuzzy Nation. While this novel has moments that are so hard to read because they are so sad, it is generally a hopeful novel and a really hard to write about other than to say that it is just beautiful and perfect and is worth reading and reading again.