Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

Lowdown: A lone miner fights an interstellar corporation over cute alien creatures.
I bought Fuzzy Nation for my Kindle the day it came out but kept it aside since for a rainy day. After all, anything by John Scalzi can be trusted on a rainy day, can’t it?
Well, the rainy day did not arrive yet. Instead, following Scalzi’s own recommendation, I read Little Fuzzy, the book which Fuzzy Nation reboots. Yes, that’s one point worth spending a sentence or two on: Fuzzy Nation is not an original book, but rather a rewriting of an existing book (Little Fuzzy). Fearing the rereading of the same story yet again, I held Fuzzy Nation back. Then the Christmas holidays came along and I decided it’s stupid to wait for rainy days anymore and that I’ve waited long enough since Little Fuzzy.
Or did I? As I started reading Fuzzy Nation, deep worries crept up. I was reading Little Fuzzy all over again! Granted, it was a Scalzi story: between tales of cats and dogs (and later, bacon) I was able to read the Scalzi mind as I was reading through; indeed, I kept looking for Coke Zero to be mentioned (alas, it wasn’t). Yet I could not avoid the feeling that I’ve read this before, and with that feeling I could not avoid the notion that this might be it – this might just be the very first time I was to feel as if John Scalzi failed me as a writer. Indeed, if you want to know what Fuzzy Nation’s general plot is about, just go ahead and read what I have previously written about Little Fuzzy.
So – is that it? Did John Scalzi fail me? Did I feel disappointed after reading Fuzzy Nation? Was it a waste of time better spent reading the original once again?
The single word answer to that question is: No. And the more elaborate answer to that question is: I greatly enjoyed reading Fuzzy Nation. In fact, this has been the most enjoyable science fiction read I have had of a book published during 2011, which directly implies I will be nominating Fuzzy Nation for the upcoming Hugo awards (and, assuming I will end up eligible for voting as well, Fuzzy Nation will get my top vote).
How did that happen? How could Fuzzy Nation turn from a pending disaster into the best science fiction book I’ve bumped into during 2012?
The short answer is simple: I just continued reading the book. The longer answer will form the rest of this review.
To put things simply, Fuzzy Nation turned out to be an excellent book because it took the raw ingredients of Little Fuzzy and it improved on them. Improved on them greatly.
First there is the injection of that additional ingredient John Scalzi uses in his kitchen, the “Scalzi humor”. Fuzzy Nation is rife with Scalzi’s geeky sense of humor, that smart and subtle yet loud laughs generating thing that made previous books of his (like Agent to the Stars) and a large amount of his blog’s posts so entertaining to read.
Second, and more importantly, Scalzi addressed Little Fuzzy’s biggest problems and mended them perfectly. As I noted in my review of the original, Little Fuzzy suffers from lack of tension: we always know the goodies are going to win. That is not the case with Fuzzy Nation: I won’t bloop to tell you whether the goodies win or not, but I will say there is plenty of tension around. I will also add that for the majority of the book I was hard at work trying to figure out who the goodies were in the first place! It wasn’t my trademark daftness that prevented me from figuring this out: it was Scalzi gradually revealing additional layers of information to the reader as the plot thickened, expertly heightening the tension. Oh, and I need to report one other nice touch of Scalzi’s: he reduced the original's count of characters into something much more manageable by this daft reader.
With its added humor, mended thrills and ongoing anti corporate / pro environment spirit that wouldn’t shame the Occupy Wall Street movement, Fuzzy Nation takes what Little Fuzzy had to offer and delivers a significantly superior result. If you ask me, my best science fiction read of a 2011 published book.
One last comment: Fuzzy Nation is the first Scalzi book that was written while I was reading every word Scalzi was publishing on his blog. In retrospect, it feels as if I can trace specific pages to specific posts. In other words, the experience of reading Scalzi's blog has greatly enhanced my enjoyment of his book.
Overall: To quote the famous Aussie ad, “Oh Sclazi, you’ve done it again!” (as in, 4.5 out of 5 stars for Fuzzy Nation!)
Less than a year ago I reported thinking so highly of Scalzi that I couldn’t wait for Fuzzy Nation to come out. Now I will repeat the notion for his 2012 upcoming new release, Red Shirts. Given Red Shirts is a “proper” original title, there should be no reservations there – so yes, I can’t wait! This time around, I won't be waiting for the rain to come, either.

1 comment:

A Question Of ITIL said...

Great writer!
Here's a competition to win advance copies of his new book Redshirts!

John Scalzi Redshirts Competition