Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp’s headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation’s headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that’s not up for discussion.
Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.
But there’s another wrinkle to ZaraCorp’s relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species.
Then a small furry biped—trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute—shows up at Jack’s outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to a planet’s worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed…and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the “fuzzys” before their existence becomes more widely known.
I’ve been on a roll with John Scalzi audiobooks lately, and I’m happy to report that Fuzzy Nation is another A+ hit. Fast-moving plot, great dialogue, intricate world-building, and a wickedly sharp sense of humor — Fuzzy Nation has everything I look for when I’m in the mood for a lighter but no less engaging audiobook.
Main character Jack Holloway fits the lovable rogue profile of the leads in other Scalzi books. He’s a loner, has no regard for authority, is seemingly out only for himself, but he’s a rascal with a heart of gold. He may as well be wearing an “I Aim To Misbehave” t-shirt. Yeah, he’s that kind of hero.
As for the plot, take one resource-rich planet, add in some exploitative, money-hungry corporate 1%-ers, and mix in the aforementioned lovable rogue, and you’ve got conflict galore. Jack’s initial goal was to score a billion-dollar payday for himself through the discovery of an incredibly rich mining seam, but once he gets to know the Fuzzies, and then involves his biologist ex-girlfriend in studying them, things get a whole lot more complicated.
Scalzi’s characters are full-blown people with vivid personalities, and narrator extraordinaire Wil Wheaton makes them glow. Wheaton is fantastic with both the rapid-fire wise-cracking and super quick courtroom confrontations. His portrayal of Jack lets us see all sides of him — the compassionate companion to Carl the dog (an important character in his own right), the disillusioned mining contractor looking for a huge find, and the outraged friend of a group of fuzzies who need his help if they’re going to survive.
Fuzzy Nation is a reimagining of the classic sci-fi story Little Fuzzy, written by H. Beam Piper and published in 1962. I’ve never read the original, but it’s not necessary in order to enjoy Fuzzy Nation, although I’m curious enough now to want to check it out.
Fuzzy Nation was a truly enjoyable way to spend my commutes this past week. The story is lots of fun, and while the good guys/bad guys dynamic has shades of grey, it definitely gives us people to cheer for, and even tugged at my heartstrings a time or two. Between terrific writing and excellent narration, the audiobook is a perfect way to experience this story.
Like I said, I’ve been on a Scalzi roll lately. To see more of my reviews of works by this author, check out these links:
Title: Fuzzy Nation
Author: John Scalzi
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: 2011
Audiobook length: 7 hours, 18 minutes
Printed book length: 303 pages
Genre: Science fiction