Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi, is a reboot of the novel Little Fuzzy, by H. Beam Piper.

I have not yet read Piper’s book, but I just completed Fuzzy Nation. It is a surprising read. If you are one of the millions who frequent Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, you know that Scalzi is very smart, very quick, and an extremely entertaining and engaging writer.

But Fuzzy Nation is a surprise because he also demonstrates an incisive understanding of human motivation, not to mention the fact that he must have been a lawyer in another life.

The book follows Jack Holloway as he works as a contracted surveyor for ZaraCorp on Zarathustra, a planet rich in minerals and precious stones. Jack works with his dog, Carl, whom he has trained to blow things up. This seems, at the start, like a silly thing, but that is the other way that Scalzi surprises– nothing is a throwaway. Everything that the characters are and do have a great deal to do with the story.

Holloway finds a huge seam of precious sunstone, cannily stakes a claim on it when he realizes ZaraCorp is going to screw him on what he is due, and quickly becomes the enemy of the huge corporation. Add to that the emergence of what he dubs Fuzzies– bipedal critters who are very smart and very cute.

So smart, that they just might be sentient. And if they’re sentient, he and ZaraCorp are out a lot of money, because the Fuzzies would then have claim on their planet.

The book reads fast, mainly because Holloway has an honest, very funny voice. The character of Holloway is wonderfully fleshed out and… wait for it… he changes and becomes a better guy by the end of the book. Thus, the book provides what readers want.

Secondary characters are also quite excellent, with the antagonist satisfyingly blurry but evil. Who doesn’t like a big bad company as an antagonist anyway? The technical details are also excellent, although it is important to note that this was the first actual science fiction novel I had read in a long time. The science seems accurate, insofar as I can tell. The plotting is slick too.

The greatest strengths of Fuzzy Nation are the voice, the pacing and the excellent plotting. It reads in a few hours and you will feel good about spending those hours with John Holloway.

Cover blurb:

The secret to the magic of Fuzzy Nation is the simple fact that John Holloway is a guy we want as a friend. Smart, determined, and sometimes too snarky; he’s also got his priorities straight. Kudos to John Scalzi for creating honest voices, an intriguing world, and a thrilling science fiction novel with some legal drama thrown in.

4.5 out of 5 pens.