John Scalzi is definitely one of my favorite sci-fi authors. While I enjoy books that leaving me thinking, head-scratching, pondering serious questions and sometimes collapsing all of those mental states around a quantum mechanics problem centered in the harder sci-fi, Scalzi’s books are uniquely hopeful. I wouldn’t go so far as to call his writing happy because I think that makes potential readers somehow discount his ability to tell a thought-provoking story.
Fuzzy Nation pits man versus The Man in a money or morality mining pit story. An independent prospector on a remote planet discovers a vein of gemstones that will make him wealthier than several corporations. He also discovers the “fuzzys” – cat-like aboriginal creatures who appear to be sentient. If the fuzzys are people, his claim is worthless; if the fuzzies are merely animals then he only has to maintain his (fighting) arm’s length relationship with the mining company that controls the planet. Scalzi’s story unfolds in a way that makes you question every slippery moral slope, and the value you place on selling your moral judgements about people, places and things.
As I read, I found myself thinking about aggression diamonds, conflict-free tantalum, and the early days of South Africa’s precious metals mines — all cases where the human costs were not nearly as precious as the materials extracted. I’m not the only one fascinated by Scalzi’s latest, as the book has hit the NY Times bestseller list. Reading it was the best two nights of this week.