Fuzzy Nation

Published in 1962, H. Beam Piper’s LITTLE FUZZY is an easy-to-like, somewhat forgotten, Hugo-nominated, science-fiction book that is very much rooted in its time. John Scalzi is a prolific, easy-to-read, Hugo-winning novelist whom I think of as the spiritual successor to the authors of science fiction’s golden age. So if Scalzi decides he wants to “reboot” LITTLE FUZZY, let him, for L. Ron’s sake!

Yes, it’s a “reboot,” not a sequel. FUZZY NATION takes the characters and general theme of the original, and remixes, updates and revitalizes them into a novel that’s hard to not read cover-to-cover in a single sitting (a long one, with bathroom breaks, of course). It’s also sort of like AVATAR and, at the same time, awesomely superior to AVATAR.

There’s a plot, too, if that’s something you’re interested in: Jack Holloway is an independent contractor on the planet Zarathustra, which is sort of like the company town in the song “16 Tons,” except the company controls an entire planet, and is able to exploit all of its natural resources, so long as there isn’t a sapient species already there to claim ownership.

Holloway hits upon the prospecting score of a lifetime, and upon returning home, finds a previously unknown, fuzzy little animal at his house. From then on, he has to deal with his ex-girlfriend and their tribulations, his shrouded personal history, and a bunch of company thugs who not only want Jack out of the way, but don’t like the possibility that his fuzzy new friends could be anything but dumb animals. 

That little teaser is sort of pathetic to read right after reading the book, because Scalzi has a way of writing that makes it seem like writing a great novel is effortless: His prose is straightforward, and he isn’t inclined to throw in text that advertises the depths of research he conducted in writing this work. He makes it seem so easy that it’s inspiring, even if you’re less than satisfied with the results (see the above paragraph).

Another awesome aspect of FUZZY NATION is Scalzi’s refusal to turn it into a big-guns/big-ships, dystopian shoot-’em-up. To put FUZZY NATION in terms of Kevin Bacon movies, it’s more A FEW GOOD MEN than X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and that both keeps with LITTLE FUZZY’s tone and once again reminds us that there used to be scores of science-fiction books out there that didn’t rely on lasers or cyborg assassins to clean up dangling plot threads. 

This is a reboot that works, and it works in such a way that should make people revisit Piper’s original FUZZY books and draw old-school science-fiction fans to Scalzi’s work (my favorite is THE ANDROID’S DREAM). It’s easy to read, accessible, moving and ultimately great. —Ryun Patterson

Buy it at Amazon.

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Comment by Randy Johnson
2011-06-20 10:42:42

In my little corner of the internet, some folks have seemed perturbed that Scalzi would dare rewrite Piper and my efforts to convince them that his admiration for the original, his efforts to point people to LITTLE FUZZY have largely been ignored. Can’t seem to convince too many just how good is this book.

Ah well…

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Comment by Alan
2011-06-20 10:57:06

As much as I enjoy Scalzi, my issue isn’t with his rebooting of Piper’s work. Its the general amount of rebooting going on in fiction in all media. Whether its X-Men, Spider-Man, DC Comics, Planet of the Apes, etc. I’m so tired of reboots, and creators to do something new. To be fair from the creators side, I guess the reboots are an easier sell to editors and producers.

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Comment by RP
2011-06-20 11:36:49

If Piper’s estate has no problems with the reboot, I don’t see why anybody should get worked up about the sanctity of LITTLE FUZZY–FUZZY NATION can do nothing but bring attention to the original, and it’s well done, to boot.

And I don’t have too much criticism of the general reboot phenomenon, other than that you should deal with them on a case-by-case basis. Haven’t theater troupes been rebooting “Macbeth” since forever? I think I saw a version once that was ostensibly set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future, and it was praised for being a creative interpretation of Shakespeare’s work. Reinterpretation of older works is a valid art form, but, that said, there is good, bad, and mediocre out there, to be sure. FUZZY NATION falls into the “good” category.

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Comment by Gal @ Equally Happy
2011-06-20 17:27:26

I think it’s the bad reboots that people get upset at. The unnecessary American remake to a foreign movie that came out 3 years ago (hello Grudge!) or the awful “reimagining” of an old Sci Fi favorite (I’m looking at you Starship Troopers!) or just the plain stupid “we can’t come up with an original idea so we’ll just reshoot this one (Arthur…).

A good reboot can draw interest back to the original but also stand on its own. Knowing Scalzi’s other work, I would suspect that his work falls into this later category, but I can’t attest to this personally since I have no read this new version.

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Comment by RP
2011-06-20 20:56:55

I totally agree. And I think that, at least with books, author selection is seriously important. FUZZY NATION would not have been any good if Richard K. Morgan, for example, had populated it with noir antiheroes.

Comment by Allan
2011-06-21 09:25:34

How to tell a SF geek from a regular person: Ask them about STARSHIP TROOPERS.

SF Geek: “That movie made a complete joke out of Heinlein’s book!”

Regular Person: “That movie was effin’ awesome.”

For the record, I’m a regular person.

Comment by R
2011-06-21 14:04:45

No, you can be a regular person, not care anything about Heinlein, and still think Starship Troopers was horrible. I like some of the parody in it, like the commercials, and I’m a sci-fi geek, but still didn’t think the movie was good.

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