First edition cover
|Media type||Print (paperback)|
Scalzi's novel, authorized by the estate of H. Beam Piper, was not intended to be a sequel, unlike the books by authors such as William Tuning and Ardath Mayhar. It was originally written as an exercise following negotiations regarding another Scalzi novel and, when completed, Scalzi's agent approached the Piper estate for permission to publish the novel. It uses the original plot and characters to tell an original story in a different continuity. Scalzi, a fan of Piper's work, said that he aimed to make the story approachable to readers unfamiliar with the original while directing fans to Piper's books.
On the human colony planet Zara XXIII, pain-in-the-ass contract surveyor Jack Holloway is fired for letting his dog set off explosives (again) just before the explosives uncover a massive trove of tremendously valuable sunstones. He knows the law from his former career as a lawyer (before he punched a client who he believed deserved it) to persuade the contracting firm Zaracorp's manager that the sunstones are now by rights his and the manager agrees to a rider to his contract to grant him a greater share of the spoils. Shortly thereafter, Holloway meets clever creatures he calls the fuzzies and calls his ex-girlfriend Isabel, Zaracorp's biologist, to meet them. Isabel comes to believe the fuzzies sapient, which would require Zaracorp to leave the planet. Holloway eventually comes to agree with her contrary to his financial interests when he sees a fuzzy instructing his dog to do tricks and then deliberately taunting a malevolent Zaracorp guard when the company's executives come to try to persuade him to testify against Isabel, and then he realizes independently that the fuzzies are in fact speaking English that they've learned from a literacy program on a tablet lost by a surveyor who crashed in the jungle years earlier only at too high a pitch for humans to hear. In the court proceedings that ensue, Holloway reveals the fuzzies' speech and behavior to persuade the Colonial Authority judge to recognize their sapience and also embarrasses the corporation by persuading his line manager to testify that Holloway's contract was never reactivated after the rider was approved, giving him outright control of the seam he found. Zaracorp loses its exploration and extraction license for trying to deceive the judge and Holloway, Isabel, the line manager, and other helpers become the human guardians of the fuzzies.
The novel received positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. Kirkus Reviews said that while a literary reboot of the original may be, strictly speaking, unnecessary, Scalzi's novel adds depth and poignancy to the original story.
- "The Super Secret Thing That I Cannot Tell You About, Revealed: Introducing Fuzzy Nation", post on Scalzi's blog "Whatever", April 7, 2010
- Kirkus Reviews on Fuzzy Nation