Three Reviews, One Different From the Others

Oh, look, some more reviews of Fuzzy Nation!

SFSignal gives the book four and a half stars, noting: “At the end of the day, Fuzzy Nation is exactly what a book should deliver: entertainment, escapism, and some commentary. This book delivers all in good fashion, and it’s a world and story that I hope we’ll see again in the near future.”

GeekMom gives it a 9.5 out of 10: “Fuzzy Nation took me on both an emotional and mental journey. I laughed. I fought off tears. I became highly disturbed. I was agitated and angry. I cared about the outcome. It is making me think deeply. Engaging me on every possible level is not an easy task. Scalzi accomplished this flawlessly.”

Excellent, on both counts.

But, as leavening for such praise, let’s tune in to the dulcet tones of Fuzzy Nation’s first one star Amazon review: “This author is a carrion crow picking at the bones of his betters. If you must, read it in the library. Better yet, read original Piper to wash the foul taste of this trash from your mouth.”

Well, can’t please everyone. I do expect more reviews of this sort as time goes by. It comes with the “reboot” territory. But I certainly agree you should read Little Fuzzy.

Update, 9:54am: John Ottinger of Grasping for the Wind points me in the direction of his review as well: “Fuzzy Nation looks like it is nothing more than a corporate legal thriller set in space that has cute, cat-like creatures. And it is that. Yet, Scalzi pushes us to think more deeply about some of these notions without preaching, entertaining us with queries, clever plot twists, and a roguish hero so that the Socratic prodding of the tale is fun to consider.”

57 Comments on “Three Reviews, One Different From the Others”

  1. Just finished Fuzzy Nation on my IPad 10 minutes ago. SFSignal review is spot on to me. Fun, entertaining and a bit of thought without moralizing. It’s perfectly your trademark, and I for one hope you go on with it.
    FWIW, I don’t think you engage me as much as other writers with your books. But on the other hand, you entertain me more, in the good sense of “entertainment”. The right man to do his reboot, very certainly, if i may filch one of your lines …

  2. Looking through the one-star reviewer’s recent reviews, I notice that nearly all of them are either 1 star or 5, respectively the lowest and highest ratings.

    So, fine, they’re one of the “black-or-white” readers. I don’t know how common that tendency is among the reading public, but that particular audience is not one I’d be particularly concerned about disappointing. (And I suspect I’m a lot less secure about bad reviews than our host is.)

  3. John, if I’m planning to read Fuzzy Nation, do you recommend reading Little Fuzzy first? Or does FN stand on its own?

  4. Wow, that review was harsh. What do you bet the “reviewer” hasn’t even read the book?

    I have picked up Fuzzy Nation on my Kindle app and it’s the next in line to be read, I can’t wait. Little Fuzzy was one of the first sci-fi novels I read, it was one of a dozen my parents ordered from the old Science Fiction Bookclub as a 10th birthday present.

    I can’t WAIT to see what you’ve done in Fuzzy nation.

    The only debate I’m having right now is whether to re-read Little Fuzzy first or just go ahead and read Fuzzy Nation.

  5. Bearing: You don’t have to read Little Fuzzy first, no. But you don’t have to not read it first either, if you get what I’m saying.

  6. I wish i could buy it for my kindle app. it takes ages until they get the new books shipped here – even if you pre-order one.

  7. Hey John! When will the Kindle Edition be available to people outside of the US? Never understood why publishers do this, don’t they want my money?


  8. Frank @4 – Both books can certainly stand on their own, but I do recommend reading Little Fuzzy first. Fuzzy Nation ends up in much the same place (it really is very true to the spirit of Piper’s original) but it takes a different path to get there. There definitely are some dated concepts in Piper’s work that can take you out of the story (cameras using film, for example) – nonetheless, it’s a great read.

    John – I liked your take on Jack – he’s a more complicated and conflicted protagonist that Piper’s version which, for me, makes it a more interesting story. I’m very glad I picked it up (well, I ordered the e-book from BN for my Nook, but you know what I mean). :-)

  9. I definitely agree with the positive reviews. And perhaps I’m just being petty, but I strongly suspect that the negative review was from someone who hadn’t read it but just has strong
    objections to a reboot.

    Frankly, I’m generally dubious about this sort of thing as well. But hearing John’s take on it at his announcement made me cautiously optimistic, and actually reading the result was a pleasure. If someone asked me which one I’d recommend if I could only recommend one, I’d probably say go with the original, mostly because I’m a bit of a snob that way. But outside of that hypothetical, I highly recommend reading them both — Piper’s first, then Scalzi’s.

  10. Are there any other authors whose bones you intend to pick? Ooh, you could do yourself! I would totally buy Old Man’s War and Zombies.

  11. @2: The Amazon reviewer (not-so-cleverly self-identified as “noman”) not only seems to stick to the extremes, but his the ratio is at least 4:1 one-star reviews to five-star reviews. This tendency makes me wonder if he likes anything, really.

    It was interesting to read Little Fuzzy and Fuzzy Nation back-to-back. I enjoyed both of them quite a bit, and see them as very different stories, despite some similar plot devices and themes. I think this is mostly because Jack Holloway is a completely different person. Where the original seems to be both an environmental commentary and discussion of the nature of sapience, the reboot adds a redemption story.

    I find that I am mulling the different terms the two authors used. Piper uses sapience (wisdom) where our esteemed host uses sentience (awareness or consciousness), yet both authors seem to mean the same thing within the context of the story.

    In any case, both books are fun and captivating.

  12. I just finished Fuzzy Nation last night (and posted my review on Amazon, this morning)
    I liked it and go into more detail there- I just wanted to say thanks for clueing us in to Piper’s works – he’s truly a forgotten gem of a writer and I voraciously read everything of his I could find on Gutenberg as well as purchasing a few used books-

  13. MikeT @ #12:

    There are (sorta) zombies in the original OMW, including the main character.

  14. My only quibble, 6 chapters in, is that the characters feel too much like the quick-witted sarcastic characters that populate The Android’s Dream & Agent to the Stars as well. (What this does for my mental images of the Scalzi family and circle of friends needs not said.) Some of it is author’s voice, some of it is reader’s voice (I have Wil speaking sweet nothings over my iPod). But the book is still good, “entertainment, escapism, and some commentary.”

  15. Negative reviews are one thing, but I wish people would criticize for not liking the story or writing and not because they have this preconceived idea that this is a story originally started by their favorite author and therefore anybody trying to carry the torch must be a hack and committing some form of sacrilege. I haven’t read Fuzzy Nation, haven’t even purchased it yet – sorry – but after reading the Old Man’s War series and how much I liked them, I imagine I will read it sooner rather then later. So having said that, I may be speaking out of turn, but give feedback based on the story and who wrote it and not the history of the story and what came before.

    That’s how I feel about the Amazon reviewer, anyways.

  16. I for one actual like the reviews on Amazon. If anything, I ignore the first several 5 star reviews because I tend to view them as fanboys, family members or pyschopaths. Same goes for the first several 1 star reviews in which I tend to think of them as being enemy of the author or having some type of axe to grind. After than I find the reviews informative and realistic.

  17. hmmmmmm, by now, I thought that everyone would know that insulting John Scalzi requires an opening line about the reproductive habits of invertebrates, or at least unhealthy appearing mammals… Can’t you get these fools to pay attention John???

  18. if this was a contest to get a free book or something – “noman” might be in contention with his carrion crow reference – but looking at his other reviews – he doesn’t post anything positive (about fiction) so, whatever

    my review – I guess I’m a fanboy but I support my opinion

  19. “This author is a carrion crow picking at the bones of his betters.”
    I believe you have found your cover blurb for the next one!

  20. On the internet, someone is always going to hate you.

    Think I’ll buy this for the kindle today. I’m fresh out of stuff to read and not ready for Kingkiller Book 2 yet.

  21. I just finished Fuzzy Nation last night and I read Little Fuzzy about a week ago. I thought Fuzzy Nation was a very respectful update of the original, with a little more humor and a less predictable plot. That said, I also really enjoyed Little Fuzzy, and I’m glad Scalzi decided to write his reboot, because I otherwise might never have discovered the original.

  22. I finished Fuzzy Nation last night, and was blown away. Just fantastic. The plot twists and the modern updates to the story made it extremely satisfying, even better than I expected. I’m not going to say more because there would be spoilers. But WOW, it was great! Can’t wait to have a hard copy signed on Sunday! Hmm, could we have a thread for people who have already read it, where spoilers are OK?

  23. Once again, you hit one out of the park. Thanks.

    2012 doesn’t come soon enough.

  24. It’s hard to believe that reviewer and I read the same book. I probably would’ve given it 5 stars on amazon but the character of Jack Halloway irritated me so much it was sometimes jarring.

  25. Great book; has the same “feel” as Piper’s originals while being distinctly Scalzian. Read it in one sitting as I couldn’t put it down. Yet another winner!

  26. Negative reviews are one thing, but I wish people would criticize for not liking the story or writing and not because they have this preconceived idea that this is a story originally started by their favorite author and therefore anybody trying to carry the torch must be a hack and committing some form of sacrilege.

    I think this is a part of this urge to culturally embalm our favorites and not let anything change; it ignores the richness of authors reinterpreting past works, often in a superior form, like Shakespeare did (I see a parallel to corporate lawyers trying to extend copyright further and further after an author’s death).

    My favorite example of cultural embalmers is when a friend of mine did a revision of a somewhat classic musical theatre piece; he got tons of grief from people decrying “How DARE he profane THEIR beloved musical! Why doesn’t he get his own vehicle?!” Which was amusing, since he went to the original author for permission to re-adapt and got it, with multiple blessings.

  27. Hoo boy. Fun reading in the Amazon thread. Some folks really have their sacred cows. (Says the girl who wanted to shove a 70 mm camera up Peter Jackson’s ass after seeing how he interpreted Faramir. Hah. Nobody’s immune, I guess.)

    I found two Amazon comments to be particularly laughable. One was by a gentleman insisting that there was absolutely no Venn Diagram overlap between Beam fans and Scalzi fans and that the Beam fans were horrified at the plundering of their beloved universe, while the Scalzi fans seemed to be mindlessly lapping up whatever Scalzi tosses our way. (paraphrased, but I don’t think I’m that far off from what he was saying.) There was apparently no room to be a Scalzi-and-Beam fan, a Scalzi fan who thought he misstepped, or a Beam fan new to Scalzi that thought the novel was fine. (I also laughed at the notion that Scalzi needs Beam’s name to sell books….since I, raised as a libravore in a science fiction reading household, had never been exposed to Beam before. I realise that’s anecdotal, but there’s a lot of people my age who haven’t heard of him before. Scalzi digging him up can only be a service to his estate, methinks, obscurity being a greater danger than “rip-offs”, to paraphrase Cory Doctorow.)

    Another comment praised Beam for his ideas and creative juices, and said Scalzi was merely an editor. And I have to say as a newbie writer, the ideas are nice, but the hard work is realising those with the words. Otherwise, it’s like trying to work in a cloud of gnats. I was reminded of the Gaiman story in Sandman, where Dream afflicts a writer (who has imprisoned a real live muse) with all the ideas he could ever want….and the writer goes mad. Yeah.

    I think I’ll read Little Fuzzy first–I can get it for my Nook! (Whereas I’ll probably buy Fuzzy Nation in hard copy so I can get a ticket to the Seattle talk and so I can get it signed.)

  28. When are we going to get a velvet painting of carrion crow Scalzi picking at Little Fuzzy’s bones? That would be priceless.

  29. Guangung @ 31:

    Not to mention the endless reinterpretation *of* Shakespeare’s works, without which we would miss out on countless creative theatre and film productions, some barely recognizable. (Forbidden Planet? Throne of Blood?)

    That said, I’ve been known to be sarcastically dismissive whenever certain remake rumors fly — a Casablanca remake, for instance.

  30. At least noman was negatively commenting on the content of the book. The one-star reviews I find most annoying are those that are only bitching about Amazon’s customer service, the shipping, or the formatting/price/availability of the Kindle version.

    From what I can tell, noman is a Piper fanboy and a math geek who doesn’t like the idea of anyone else playing in Piper’s sandbox. Since noman is id’d as being from Seattle, maybe you should cancel your appearance there. (Just KIDDING, Seattle!!)

    I haven’t read Fuzzy Nation yet (I did get a signed copy the other night in Dayton), but it’s next on my list to read, after I finish GRRM’s A Game of Thrones, which I’m reading concurrently with the HBO series. (80% finished, according to a neat little feature on my Nook Color).

  31. sorry, all the needless swearing in the first two chapters really turned me off. i am a huge Piper fan, i’ll pass on this book.

  32. @36 But needless swearing is awesome. If I didn’t have it preordered already (Why does Canada get the UK release date? There’s no ocean between us and the States :() needless swearing would be just one more reason to get it.

    There is at least one series (Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap Cycle) that I would not consider up to the author’s standard of awesome if not for the excessive profanity.

    Onward, champions of swearing everywhere!

  33. Just finished reading Fuzzy Nation and think that John found (H. Beam) Piper’s horn, laid down some very smooth Scalzi riffs, that left mellow memories in my mind.

  34. First read “LIttle Fuzzy” decades ago, have read almost all of both author’s works, and am eagerly awaiting my copy of “Fuzzy Nation”.

  35. Grand summary of swearing in the first chapter: 2 craps, 1 shit. All of which occurred in contexts in which a loner prospector would likely have used language that was *at least* that colloquially expressive.

    I didn’t bother continuing with a similar naughty-language survey of the second chapter because, well, Jesus Christ, why the fucking hell should I?

  36. and then 3 s-words more in chapter 2. sorry, there are better ways for a writer to express him or herself than expletives. piper never used that language.

    it is not what ‘keeps it real’ nor is it ‘colloquially expressive’ nor is it ‘awesome’. it is redundant and amateurish writing. you all are welcome to your opinions as i am to mine. i am sad that john decided to put these words in this book which is an homage to a writer he likes as well as one i like. i had been looking forward to this book. i no longer am. there are better things to read out there.

  37. “That language” as you put it is just that – language. They’re words. They’re appropriate to use in places where characters would use those words. Frankly, I find not using any expletives at all to be distractingly unrealistic when reading dialogue of people who plainly would swear. Likewise, while truly creative swearing is an art from, it’s use is a pretty strong character trait in and of itself (Think Captain Haddocks “Billions of blistering, blue barnacles.”), and not necessarily one an author is going to care to give to every character who talks extensively, any more than he would make them all hypochondriacs.

    There are very few words I find offensive. Working customer service, I found the customers who swore at me to be people I could deal with better than the one who called me a dumb cow, and other extensive insults without a swear word in the list.

    Or to quote from a completely different book – if you want swear words to be forbidden, then sprink on your spronk.

  38. “piper never used that language.”

    Well, Piper wasn’t allowed to use such language, is rather more to the point. Welcome to the 21st Century, Todd, where writers are allowed to do shit like that.

    Beyond that, this isn’t Piper’s book, it’s mine. If bad language gets you in a twist, I suggest you skip most of the rest of my books as well.

  39. Oh – and I hadn’t heard of Beam or Little Fuzzy, but I am intending to pick up Fuzzy Nation with my next book order, and to read Little Fuzzy at the next opportunity. The opening chapters of Fuzzy Nation were great, and both look like the kind of book I generally enjoy.

  40. Complaining about swearing? How quaint. That reminds me. I think Chaucer used the word quaint too. Not in its modern context either. I don’t think you could accuse him of being an amateur.

    Powering through Little Fuzzy now and sweating on the arrival of Fuzzy Nation.

  41. Got about 1/4 of the way through Little Fuzzy last night; it does seem like it’s going to be a bit predictable but very enjoyable reading nonetheless. Might pick up Fuzzy Nation this weekend.

  42. I dont mind the cussing however I do see it as not needed to advance most stories. In most instances I see it as an attempt to appear relevant or to reach a certain audience. Sort of like a movie that has a flash of tits and ass.

  43. Todd @ 42:

    Yes, yes, you are just as welcome to your opinion as anyone else. Which nobody questioned, so thanks for the non-sequitur.

    My opinion about your opinion regarding naughty words in Scalzi’s writing is that your opinion is silly. Now, just to be clear, you are now welcome to express an opinion — silly or not — on my opinion about your opinion. And so on and on and on, until one of us stops caring enough to bother. (Or until and unless our host shuts us down.)

  44. and then 3 s-words more in chapter 2. sorry, there are better ways for a writer to express him or herself than expletives.

    This is objectively wrong.


  45. “This author is a carrion crow picking at the bones of his betters. If you must, read it in the library. Better yet, read original Piper to wash the foul taste of this trash from your mouth.”

    No that wasn’t me, although the message is remarkably similar to my opinions of the “April Fool’s” novel with the unpronounceable title. I’ve enjoyed the excerpts of Fuzzy Nation that have appeared online so far and look forward to ownership. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the change in tone after reading the original umpteen times, but I’ll give it a chance.

  46. We should point out that Piper got around the censors in Fuzzies and Other People and used quite a few recognizable epithets by putting the words into Little Fuzzy’s mouth (coming out garbled), him having overheard the Big Ones using the crude language… I would say that had Piper been allowed to use the crude language, he would have… as he does in the third Fuzzy novel. Of course, he did use simple substitutes in all three novels, such as Nifflheim, a Norse mythic placename similar to hell. Not sure about the extra “f.”

  47. Oh now, you can’t omit the one-star reviews from the guys who thought you didn’t wave the right political flags in your book. I especially like the guy who sorrowfully said that he gave you another chance after your last book failed to present its story in a sufficiently Ringo-esque fashion.

  48. Piper has been a long-time favorite of mine, and I enjoyed the other tributes to him by Tuning, etc. So I am looking forward to this as well (saving it for a camping trip next week). I was really impressed with the physical copy of the book (nice end papers, like you would find on a small-press edition) and I love the Ralph McQuarrie-esque cover art. (I’m sure the writing will be just as good… ;) )

  49. For the record, on a quick scan of the Gutenberg text, it looks like the original _Little Fuzzy_ had one “crap” (in the scatological sense; there’s also one in the card-playing sense), 15 “hell”s, and lots of “damn”s and variations on that word (including one creature called a “damnthing”).

    So, in fact, it does look like Piper *did* use “that kind of language” in his book. Scalzi may use a somewhat different mixture of words in his, but from what I can tell in this thread, seems to be following much the same linguistic trail as Piper did.

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