An acclaimed modern sci-fi writer adds depth and unexpected poignancy to a “reboot” of H. Beam Piper’s classic 1962 novel Little Fuzzy.
In a future, when corporations strip-mine entire planets if the Colonial Authority doesn’t stop them first, disbarred-lawyer-turned-prospector Jack Holloway discovers an unbelievably rich seam of sunstones on Zara XXIII, exquisite jewels found only on that planet. His claim on the seam puts serious stress on his already shaky relationship with ZaraCorp, the company that runs Zara XXIII. And that’s before Holloway discovers a race of native creatures whose potential sapience could nullify ZaraCorp’s right to the planet. In his original novel, Piper tackled issues that would go on to be the plot of many a Star Trek episode, including the meaning of sentience and the brutal fallout of colonialism. Scalzi (Agent to the Stars, 2010, etc.) adds more emotional capital to the debate by replacing Piper’s stock characters with richly rendered, real-seeming people (and aliens). Piper’s Jack Holloway is a crotchety prospector with a heart of gold; Scalzi’s Holloway is a brilliant, ruthless jerk who makes the occasional moral choice as a way of scoring points against the universe. Scalzi also updates and expands upon the cynicism of the original to be more familiar to a contemporary audience: Piper’s corporation attempts to hide its frequent environmental depredations from notice; Scalzi’s actively papers it over with a public “eco-friendly” campaign. In an author’s note, Scalzi claims that he does not intend to “supplant or improve upon” the Piper novel. However, he may have done just that. In a genre flooded with bloated epics, it’s a real pleasure to read a story like this, as compactly and directly told as a punch to the stomach.
A totally unnecessary endeavor, but an enjoyable and powerful one nonetheless.