Little Fuzzy by Henry Beam Piper

Little FuzzySummary: Classic Science Fiction look at what it means to be sentient.

Several weeks ago I had never heard of H Beam Piper or his book Little Fuzzy.  Instead I was looking for books by John Scalzi.  Scalzi is a contemporary Science Fiction author and over the past several months I have read two of his books (both narrated by Will Wheaton).

I picked up Fuzzy Nation, which happens to be a retelling of H Beam Piper’s classic Little Fuzzy.

The audiobook of Fuzzy Nation included both the new and the original.  I have already reviewed the new, so this is the review of the original.

As I said in the review of Fuzzy Nation, I like remakes.  I like to see what different authors emphasize and change.  It is always amazing to me how a story can be so similar and so different.

Little Fuzzy is the story of an old prospector on the world Zarathustra. He has bounced around from world to world trying his hand at different jobs, living the frontier life.  After living in Zarathustra for more than 15 years he finds a family of ‘fuzzys’ that move into his home and his heart.

Little Fuzzy is a look at what it means to be sentient (or what it means to be human).  It was written 1962 just two years before Piper committed suicide.  In many ways the themes of the two books are similar but the method highlights the differences over the past 50 years.  Both Piper and Scalzi highlight the rule of law as protecting the innocent.  But Piper is primarily protecting them from prejudice and Scalzi is protecting them from out of control corporate exploitation.  In both cases there are Fuzzys murdered.  But Piper has a scientist that just can’t believe they are sentient murder one and Scalzi has corporate goon kill them.

(Spoiler alert for both books)

In general, Piper’s book is a bit campy.  Jack Halloway, the main human character, is over 70 and keeps referring to himself as ‘Pappy Jack’.  There is a romance, but it is between two side characters.  There is an intervention that saves everyone but it is external.  And the end solution is a colonial style rule.  The Fuzzys are sentient, but not really all that intelligent.  They are playful and naïve.

In Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation, Jack Halloway is a mid to late 40s former corporate lawyer.  There is a former romantic partner that is important to the story.  And it is the intelligence of Jack, his scientist ex-girlfriend and a powerful court that saves the Fuzzys.  The bad guys are corporate or corporate stooges.  Here the Fuzzys really played Jack.  They were far more intelligent than they let on and they were already fluent in English and could read.  It is a much more ironic humor.

If I had to pick a favorite I would pick Scalzi’s version.  But I enjoyed Piper’s version, more in spite of the campy-ness than because of it.  It is interesting to me that in both the rule of law really is what saves the weak.  That is not a theme that I would have thought would have carried through both books.

Little Fuzzy Purchase Links: Kindle Edition (free Kindle Version), Paperback, Standalone Audiobook, combo Audiobook with Fuzzy Nation

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