Date started/finished: Jan. 11/Jan. 12
Zarathustra is officially a Class-III planet – basically, it’s uninhabited. This makes it perfect fair game for the Zarathustra Company, which has a charter for just such a planet. They make the most of it on Zarathustra, with no interference from the Colonial Government.
This changes when Jack Holloway, a sunstone prospector with a land grant on Zarathustra, discovers and practically adopts a family of creatures he calls Fuzzies. Suddenly the Zarathustra Company find themselves in danger of having their so-very-profitable charter withdrawn, and as Holloway soon discovers, there is very little they won’t do to prevent that …
This book charmed me, and held my attention utterly from start to finish (which, as you can see from the above stats, was not a long period at all). Despite what I couldn’t help feeling (just a little bit, mind!) was a somewhat simplistic, perhaps even caricature-esque depiction of Plucky Heroes Vs. Dastardly Villains, the description of the Fuzzies’ social behaviour, from finding “Pappy Jack” to how they behave with one another – parents with their children – was intriguing and perfectly heartwarming. Dare I say it, it was adorable. Caricature aside, I couldn’t help rooting for the little guys through their ordeal, and for Jack through his as events take a more nail-biting turn. I worried when the Fuzzies got themselves into danger, and cheered when they got their own back.
A good chunk of the book focuses on what makes a being sapient, both from a scientific and philosophical standpoint, and while I felt that this feeding of information did slow the pace down a little, it thankfully managed to avoid lessening my enjoyment of the story as a whole. I still ate it up, though if I have one definite misgiving – and even that word seems too strong, somehow – it’s that the brief flashes of Fuzzy-POV that we get come late in the story, and are altogether too brief. I would have liked to see more of what went on through the eyes of the creatures discovering all of these Amazing New Things.
That said, this entry in my Vintage Science Fiction selection is another winner right up there with The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. I’ve since discovered that there’s a retelling out there by none other than John Scalzi (Eeeee!), and I shall have to get myself a copy and see how it compares. For a complete experience, of course. It certainly has nothing to do with how much I’ve become a shameless fan of Scalzi’s books and who am I kidding, I’M A SHAMELESS FAN.
So! Read this book, if you haven’t already, and if you have then SHAME ON YOU FOR NOT TELLING ME OF IT SOONER.