A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{May 30, 2014}   Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

fuzzy-nationPlot: Jack Halloway is a prospector working on the planet Zarathustra for ZaraCorp when he discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels. Halloway and the company could make billions but there is one minor problem: he has also discovered a family of intelligent cat-like native creatures and at least one scientist suspects they might be sapient. A sapient – or worse sentient – native species would mean the end of the company’s exploitation of the planet and there are those who would do almost anything to keep this from happening.

This review is based on the audiobook read by Wil Wheaton.

In his intro, Scalzi explains that Fuzzy Nation was inspired by an earlier sci-fi novel, Little Fuzzy, which while being about the future was very much influenced by the time it was written. He wanted to take the same plot and characters but infuse it with the concerns and sensibilities of our age. A reboot if you will. I think it’s a brilliant experiment – science fiction is after all often as much about now as it is about the future – and wonderfully executed. I can’t wait to go back and read Little Fuzzy to find out how the two stories differ.

Fuzzy Nation is a novel that asks a lot of interesting questions about sentience and sapience and the responsibility we might have to other species that have the potential to become as advanced as us…. if we give them the chance. Scalzi has once again done an amazing job at describing and making us care for an alien species and civilization that is essentially different from our own. It is also interesting to read a novel in which we humans are the advanced, invading alien species. But it is also a novel about environmentalism – with a not too subtle rebuke about the damage we have done to our own planet – about corporate greed regardless of the consequences and, most surprisingly to me, about lawyers and the legal process. I’m always impressed by how many layers Scalzi manages to fit into his  novels.

Jake Halloway is, not to mince words, a jerk and he is hated by most everyone other than his dog. But he is a fascinating, fleshed out character and a great view point for such a novel. It is only because he’s not a good person that we can have such interesting reflections on capitalism vs environmentalism and on the rights of non-human species. Besides, who else would let his dog blow stuff up in such a spectacular manner?

I’ve really been enjoying Scalzi’s novels as read by Will Wheaton. I’m kind of marathoning them to be honest. But this one and Android’s Dream are definitely tied for my favorite.

2014 (#17)


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