What happens when one of today’s finest Sci-Fi writers decides to re-boot a classic story from the early 1960′s? In this case, what happened is that we lucky readers got one of the best new Sci-Fi books of the year! Scalzi has given the analogy of this re-boot to J.J. Abrams recent re-boot of the Star Trek franchise, “but hopefully, with better science.” The original novel, “Little Fuzzy” by H. Beam Piper was nominated for the Hugo Award and remains popular, despite the fact that the title is now in the public domain (which is good news for readers, as you can get an e-book version for free). I know that I’ve written about John Scalzi’s work two other times, but this books is so over-brimming with awesome-ness that I just had to share it with you!
Jack Holloway is not a purely good guy, but he’s not a bad guy, either – he just makes sure to look out for number one, first. He was once a lawyer in North Carolina, but after being disbarred he left the planet Earth for the life of a prospector for the Zarathustra Corporation on their planet Zara XXIII. Jack finds the mother load of one of the most valuable gemstones in the known galaxy, and even his tiny percentage (less than 1%) will make him incredibly wealthy. But, this isn’t the most important discovery that Jack makes. No, that would be the Fuzzies. As Jack returns to his home he and his dog Carl discover that someone has broken into their house. That someone turns out to be a small, fuzzy creature that somewhat resembles a bipedal cat. Curious, Jack records it while he offers it some food and soon realizes that this little creature is smart – really smart. Later, the fuzzy returns with his family and as they begin to hang out at Jack’s place, he contacts one of the company biologists, who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend, to study the fuzzy family. It seems that these little creatures might be sapient, in which case ZaraCorp would have to immediately pull out its entire operation of mining the planet’s abundant natural resources, losing out on untold trillions. Naturally, the company wishes that the fuzzies are not found sapient, and thus begins a plan involving deception, arson, and murder.
Scalzi does a fabulous job of bringing the reader with him to the planet Zara XXIII and making us feel like we are there with Jack as he finds himself in increasingly difficult circumstances. While the ZaraCorp uses its thugs to intimidate and / or eliminate Jack, he’s still a lawyer at heart and knows the law very well. So well, that he’s prepared to go up against a giant corporation’s legal department over the sapience of the little fuzzies, which brings us to the best part of a really great story – the courtroom drama. I won’t say much else about the book to let you enjoy discovering what happens for yourself. But, I will say this, it’s been a long time since a book brought tears to my eyes, and this novel did just that. I think the reason that this book appeals to me so much is not just that its by one of my new favorite authors, but that it transcends the genre of science fiction and is also a tale about corporate greed, about protecting the environment, and about the little guy standing up for what’s right.