RogerBW's Blog

Fuzzies and Other People, H. Beam Piper 10 February 2020

1984 science fiction, re-read. For the Fuzzies to be able to testify against the people who kidnapped and enslaved them, they need to be veridicated… which means they need to be able to lie. But that's not a thing that Fuzzies do…

Well, eventually we get to that. Much of the first part of the book is just slice-of-life, with nothing particularly happening but seemingly endless recaps of what has gone before, mixed with chapters devoted to a band of un-contacted Fuzzies as they interact with the edges of the human footprint on the planet Zarathustra. Finally these strands merge, and all is made perfect.

This is famously the novel that was discovered nearly twenty years after Piper's death. There seems to be a bit more to the story than that: it appears that the book was in the process of being shopped around to publishers when Piper's agent died, and Piper killed himself shortly thereafter. Which means that this book didn't get an editorial pass (unless someone at Ace did it in the 1980s); certainly it never went back to the author for revisions. And, alas, that shows. There's repetition and sloppiness, and the story lurches at times while the earlier books glide. (In particular, when Little Fuzzy has become lost in the wilderness, then meets and travels with the un-contacted band, there's far too much emphasis on compass directions, when Piper can't even be consistent about whether the big river is flowing north or south.)

There's good stuff here, but the book as a whole is regrettably weak, with all the paternalistic problems of Fuzzy Sapiens continued (and that "permanent minor child" legal status gets increasingly creepy as it's being written with a less sure hand). There are no female characters (except for a few of the Fuzzies). The theft plot that was a major part of the second book is "revealed" actually to have happened entirely differently from what was described then, with the Fuzzy involvement merely a pointless and expensive blind, in a paragraph that makes no sense and which I'm sure would have been modified had the book been made properly ready for publication.

Bah. There is some good stuff, particularly looking at the life of Fuzzies in the wild. And as a completionist I'd have re-finished the series anyway. But it's a pity this couldn't have had the same normal polishing treatment that the other books got.

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Previous in series: Fuzzy Sapiens | Series: The Fuzzy Papers

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