[eBook] Fuzzy Nation

Years ago while I wandered around the library as a teenager I stumbled upon a little book called Little Fuzzy. It was probably one of the books that made me love reading and still holds a place of endearment along side books such as Dune and Magician. Having never read any of Mr Scalzi’s work I was extremely nervous heading into this one. The original is quite a book and manages to be many things all at once: a science fiction story, a story of a man finding himself and a purpose, and a piece on the importance of protecting the environment. Could this one live up to the original?

Yes in some ways, no in others. The author did a great job putting his own mark on another author’s IP, but this one did not venture into the deep mental processes of what was happening on the planet nor what could happen to the fuzzies. Sort of glosses over the issue of environment devastation in just a few short passages. The original, least to me the young reader, seem to have more weight and depth.

The blurb:

Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp’s headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation’s headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that’s not up for discussion.

Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.

But there’s another wrinkle to ZaraCorp’s relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species.

Then a small furry biped—trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute—shows up at Jack’s outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to a planet’s worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed…and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the “fuzzys” before their existence becomes more widely known.

This retelling of the tale takes some departures from the original. Having not read the original in about twenty years my memory of that story is a little blurry but most notably thinking that Holloway was a bit of a turd. When I think about him these days, I am reminded of the character Bruce Willis played in the film The Last Boy Scout, a total burnt out and washed up waste of a man. Someone you did not know and did want to waste your time getting to know him. I remember that tale being one of redemption as Holloway does battle with the giant and powerful ZaraCorp to save his new friends. In the end he moves from the dark side to become their champion.

This books does the same thing but Holloway I thought was a bit softened. Scalzi’s writing is excellent and any thought I had of putting this book down was impossible. The interaction between Holloway and his dog Carl is a sheer joy to read and reminds me of my own dog. The life he breaths into these ‘voiceless’ characters, the dog and later the fuzzies themselves, is simply put, damn good writing. I am sure my neighbor heard me laugh out loud more than a few times at the hilarious interactions between Holloway, the dog, and the fuzzies.

As the story unfolds and pressures mount, Holloway turns into a bit of a master planer and organizer and outwit and out maneuvers the giant corporation almost to the point of unbelievably. This is only saved by Scalzi’s masterful writing ability. As the novel progresses it turns surprisingly into a very good page turning court room lawyering book. I tend to not like books that cover court room drama, but this one is just done so well that I hardly noticed I was reading about court room actions. Though the book is a familiar one, Scalzi still manages to put his own twists on situations and still have guessing what will happen next.

I did feel the book was a little short. The ending seemed a little rushed, but that could have just been my hands frantically trying to keep up flipping the pages as I tore through the book over two sittings. The very ending was a bit of a shock for me (and I would probably have left it out of the novel) and seemed a tad bit too much Walt Disney for me, but given the rest of the book was top notch, I will give it a pass.

For those looking for serious science fiction, this one is not that. It does have some elements of science fiction but Scaliz, wisely in my opinion, steers clear of the mumbo-jumbo of hard sci-fi and rather focuses on telling a compelling story. This book would be suitable for young readers, though a young teenager could probably better understand the morals of the story and protecting the fuzzies from those trying to rape their planet.


Risus: The World of Ardus


I finished reading John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation last night and I was truly inspired (review being written). I had approached the book with a bit of trepidation because I LOVED the original when I read it twenty-five years ago. Would this one live up to the original, I will happily tell you yes! In any case,  I was in an unusually happy mood and with me that transpires to me in equal portions of creative juices.

I wanted to play Fuzzy Nation. However, no game exists. I spent 30 seconds thinking about it and then emailed my buddies. “I want to play sci-fi. Let’s use Risus or Rogue Space!”

A little back story.

I love Risus. I hate Risus. I have long loved the system, so easily adaptable and a perfect no prep game. It hits all the sweet spots for me minus one. I hate the ‘health/hit-point system’ is utilizes. Commonly referred to among those in the know as The Spiral of Death. Every time I have looked at Risus I see this as a huge stop light blinking at me with a massively blinding red spotlight.

I have been toying with the idea of a scifi game since my maps were selected to be included in Brave Halfling Publishing’s X-Plorers reboot, but I am an impatient lot. Waiting for it to come out has taken its toll and the thoughts havd fled my brain until I read this book.

We didn’t have all of our players so I wanted to do something else tonight at the game table. I spent about two hours writing up a quick seven page (on half sheets) primer on a world called Ardus. I liberally stole ideas from the novel and some basic TV Tropes ideas, most namely the evil mega-corporation. I posted it here for anyone to read. A note of caution however, this was written in one shot, late in the evening with zero editing.

Toying with the idea of fleshing this out some, providing a map, some art and publishing this as a ‘8 Page Setting’ much as Brent has done.

Needless to say, I spent a little too much time tonight talking about the world I made up for the game and then the players had a little trouble switching gears from a fantasy setting (we have been playing OSH lately) to a sci-fi setting. One player I believe passed out form too much laughter and too much wine. Then we were off, it took a bit and we only did one encounter, but I think it went well.

I can honestly say this was the first session of Risus, albeit a short one, that I have ever felt comfortable running and ended up having a great time with the system. I will post more about some on the fly decisions I made about Risus and the aforementioned SoD and how I think I may have solved it, for me at least.

So, yeah, FINALLY!

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