Fuzzy Nation

I enjoyed John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series. So, when I heard he had a new book out, I suggested that AJM buy it for me for my birthday as a “Homer buys Marge a bowling ball” type gift. Something we both can enjoy. We went all out to support John Scalzi and local business and plunked down the full $24.99 list price for the hardback at BookPeople. As it turns out, Fuzzy Nation is really a book suited more to the iPad/Kindle market. It’s a light, fun read but it doesn’t have enough meat for a reread. After AJM finishes it, it will just take up precious shelf space.

Spoiler Alert!

Had Fuzzy Nation been my introduction to John Scalzi, I probably would have never explored further. The story is predictable and the character development nil. I admire foreshadowing but Scalzi telegraphs plot developments awkwardly. Is there any question where this is going when at the beginning of chapter 2 he halts the action to throw in this paragraph.

“Zara XXIII was in most respects an unremarkable Class III planet…It lacked sentient life, but most Class III planets did, otherwise they’d be Class IIIa and ZaraCorp’s E & E charter would be void, the planet and its resources held in trust for the thinking creatures who lived on it.”

Explanation and backstory continue on for a page and a half–inserted right in the middle of a conversation. I hate when an author interrupts the rhythm of a conversation like that. The same thing happens 100 pages later right in the middle of a tense situation when our hero is being attacked by things that want to get in and eat him. Let’s backtrack suddenly so we can spend two pages explaining why our hero just happens to have the tool on hand to save him.

The book moves along at a good clip. The last third of it takes place in a courtroom. The banter is fun and amusing. But no great things are decided. The explorations of sentience–what it is and what it means and how you can prove it exists–happened earlier and elsewhere in this universe. All these characters have to do is apply already accepted standards to this case. There’s nothing here to challenge readers’ assumptions, or to make us look at ourselves and our place in the universe differently. We learn nothing about the creatures in question. They are just noble savages whose world is about to be destroyed by evil corporation Z, unless our hero comes to the rescue.

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