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Fuzzy Nation - John Scalzi Warning: I am not spoiler-tagging the whole review, but the quote at the bottom could be considered a slight spoiler, bearing in mind that this is a retelling of a 50-year-old sci-fi classic.

So, I finally got around to reading my signed copy of John Scalzi's rewrite of Little Fuzzy. Go read that review. I'll wait.

In the Author's Note, Scalzi says:


Fuzzy Nation is a reimagining of the story and events in Little Fuzzy, the 1962 Hugo-nominated novel by H. Beam Piper. Specifically, Fuzzy Nation appropriates the general story arc of Little Fuzzy, as well as character names and plot elements, and weds them to entirely new elements, characters, and events. Think of it as a "reboot" of the Fuzzy universe, not unlike the recent J.J. Abrams "reboot" of the Star Trek film series (but hopefully with better science).


"Reimagining." "Appropriates." "Reboot." Come on, John. You can say it. Fan fiction.

John Scalzi got approval from the Piper estate to publish this "reimagining" of Piper's original Fuzzy novel, though technically he didn't have to since it's now in the public domain. (Copyright laws are strange — I am not sure how a 1962 sci-fi novel fell out of copyright while Gone With the Wind is still protected, but there you go.)

Yes, this book is a no-bones fanfic rewrite of Little Fuzzy. And it is a very straightforward rewrite. Same plot, same characters in broad strokes, same basic events. If you have read either book, then nothing in the other book will surprise you. And yet they are different experiences, different in the retelling, and both worth reading in their own right.

Scalzi's "reboot" updates the Piper version somewhat, with women actually doing things, and character names that suggest a universe that is not Whitelandia. Still, it's the same essential middle-class corporatocracy in space. All of this I think pretty aptly describes John Scalzi: very prominently an advocate of diversity and social justice, in real life and in his fiction, but oh so very safely middle-class White Dude in everything he does and writes. (I mock because that totally describes me as well.)

Still, I note with a certain amount of bemusement how much I enjoyed this book (in fact, it may be my favorite John Scalzi novel to date), and how very proudly derivative it is. I mean, I like the guy, but his writing is like Kraft Mac and Cheese for me. Tasty and filling but kind of empty and I never want it twice in a row.

The main things differentiating John Scalzi's version of the Little Fuzzy story are: (1) Jack Holloway is a slightly more complex character, and a bit of an asshole. (2) The Fuzzies are treated in a less patronizing fashion (i.e., not as precious adorable children who would make good talking pets). (3) Carl the dog.

Scalzi relies a lot on clever-witty banter (sometimes to the point where it begins to feel forced), whereas Piper's version was more story-driven. Both versions are resolved in a courtroom, but I did like Scalzi's climax better, which was more meticulously plotted, and the final one-liner, delivered by a Fuzzy, ranks up there with Inigo Montoya's "You killed my father. Prepare to die." speech:


“Jack Holloway told me he would get the son of a bitch who killed my child and the mate of my child," Papa continued. "Jack Holloway did get that son of a bitch. Jack Holloway got you. You are the man who killed my child. Get off my planet, you son of a bitch.”


4 stars for Papa Fuzzy's "Get off my planet" speech alone. And a fractional star for managing to work an Ewok joke in. Should you read H. Beam Piper's version or John Scalzi's? Read both. They're both good, and neither takes away from the other.