Tag: John Scalzi

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

Now that I have an extended commute I am always on the lookout for good audiobooks. Fuzzy Nation came up on Audible at a steep discount and so I grabbed it.

In John Scalzi’s re-imagining of H. Beam Piper’s 1962 sci-fi classic Little Fuzzy, written with the full cooperation of the Piper Estate, Jack Holloway works alone for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. On the distant planet Zarathustra, Jack is content as an independent contractor for ZaraCorp, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that’s not up for discussion.

Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.

But there’s another wrinkle to ZaraCorp’s relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species. Then a small furry biped – trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute – shows up at Jack’s outback home. Followed by its family.

As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to a planet’s worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the fuzzys before their existence becomes more widely known.

It turned out to be an entertaining listen. It took me a while to get used to a protagonist who is a first class jerk. But the futuristic set-up, supporting characters, and numerous plot twists kept me listening and held my interest.

I know nothing of the book this is based on and/or an update to but this is the third audiobook from Scalzi that I have enjoyed. Will Wheaton does a nice job with the narration which may or may not add to the fun depending on your opinions and/or interests.

The politics seems to me a little too easy in some ways, giant greedy corporation that doesn’t care about the environment or anyone who gets in the way of profits, lawyers as soulless tools of that corporation, wealthy jerk about to become head of said corporation, etc.

But that doesn’t really get in the way of enjoying the story. As I say, he sets up the futuristic scenario in a believable and entertaining way and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. The lead character may be a serious jerk but he is an interesting one.

Scalzi may bring me back to science fiction.

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

I have followed John Scalzi online in various forms for quite some time but I have never actually “read” any of his books (I am not a big reader of science fiction).  My only other interaction with his fiction is The God Engines, an audio-book and longish novella I picked up at Half Price Books.

Interestingly enough, The Dispatcher is also an audio-book (which is available for free on Audible during the month of October).  This novella, however was developed in collaboration with Audible, with Zachary Quinto as the narrator,  and was released before the print book (coming out in 2017).

One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone – 999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don’t know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life.

Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher – a licensed, bonded professional whose job is to humanely dispatch those whose circumstances put them in death’s crosshairs, so they can have a second chance to avoid the reaper. But when a fellow Dispatcher and former friend is apparently kidnapped, Tony learns that there are some things that are worse than death and that some people are ready to do almost anything to avenge a supposed wrong.

It’s a race against time for Valdez to find his friend before it’s too late…before not even a Dispatcher can save him.

Once I downloaded it, I put in the rotation right away as it iwas just a couple of hours of listening. It was an entertaining and well done novella. Scalzi/Quinto drop you into the story and keep you interested from the start. It has an interesting hook and some well done twists. For such a short story, the characters were developed and seemed quite believable in their actions and motivations.  Quinto brings this cast of characters to life.

Part urban fantasy, part police procedural, part mystery.  Definitely worth a listen.  And if you hurry you can get it for free!

The God Engines by John Scalzi

The God Engines by John Scalzi is not my normal read, or listen, as I rarely tackle science fiction or fantasy of this sort. But the audio was for sale at Half Price Books for a couple of bucks so I grabbed it for the commute. Plus, I am always interested in fiction that explores faith.

Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this—and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given.

Tephe knows from the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It’s what he doesn’t know that matters: to what ends his faith and his ship will ultimately be put—and that the tests he will face will come not only from his god and the Bishopry Militant, but from another, more malevolent source entirely…

Recently, it took its turn as my entertainment for the drive to and from work. It turned out to be interesting and enjoyable but, as so many reviewers have noted, felt a little too short and underdeveloped.

I started out wondering what I had purchased because it was so different than anything I had read recently. And the voices and personalities as they come through on audio heightened that strangeness. But the story picked up and I started getting into it.

Just trying to conceptualizer and envision such a strange and different world was challenging and interesting. Trying to figure out what the different “angles” being played (the bishops, the gods, the captain, etc.) and to what ends keeps you intrigued. And of course, you can’t help but think what philosophical point Scalzi might be making in telling such a story about gods and faith and choice.

But then just as the tension builds and the complexity begins to intrigue the story ends. You are left thinking: “Huh, that was interesting but is that it?”

Still, it is creative and thought provoking and has some well done characters. Have to wonder what it could have been at standard novel length though … Or perhaps I am just not a connoisseur of fantasy novellas.


Love the illustration that accompanies this review.  It is a portion of the cover art from The Human Division by John Scalzi.  And the review is pretty interesting too.  Paul Di Filippo on :

Entertainingly exemplifying the maxim that “All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means,” The Human Division is the type of intelligently crafted and inventive military-political science fiction that reminds us that though we might be able to pinpoint a genre’s takeoff point, nobody can predict how far it will fly.