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.