RogerBW's Blog

Little Fuzzy, H. Beam Piper 17 November 2019

1962 science fiction, re-read. Zarathustra was an uninhabited planet when humanity arrived, so the Company owns it and everyone's happy. Until Jack Holloway the old sunstone prospector comes along with some crazy story about the animals he's found being intelligent natives…

As usual, it's the most up-to-date stuff that now feels most dated, with data transfers on tape, movie film that needs to be developed, and even occasional typewriters. Cocktail hour had really only got started in the 1920s, but Piper clearly felt that it was here to stay. (But for people who are easily terrified by adults drinking and smoking in moderation, John Scalzi has rewritten this book into a sanitised modern version.)

And yes, all right, there's only one significant female character, and she's a psychologist; still, she does several things important to the plot (by being a psychologist, not by being female), and so are several significant male characters.

But the rest of the book is much closer to timeless. What is a sapient being, and how can you define that? And when an awful lot of money and power rests on the planet having no sapient natives, who's going to want a hand in that definition and what will they do to make it go their way?

This is a book popular with libertarians, who presumably haven't noticed that the company is entirely capable of walking all over the good-guy rugged individualists, having bought the local government, and the only thing that prevents it from doing so is an independent judiciary backed up by a higher level of government.

Also helped, of course, by the book's one blatant impossibility, the reliable lie detector ("polyencephalographic veridicator") – and that's another angle, because like any good SF author Piper doesn't just say "oh, they have this", he works out that you'll still need courts and their formalities even when you can be quite certain of whether someone is telling the truth.

All right, the good guys are all unambiguously good and the bad guys are all bumbling idiots (except the company chief, who vanishes from the story at about the two-thirds mark). And the idea of a sapient race having a formal status that's secondary relative to good old humanity is, hmm, less than ideal. But the book works, from frontier idyll to courtroom drama, and stands up to modern eyes a great deal better than much other SF from this era and later.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

Add A Comment

Your Name
Your Email
Your Comment

Your submission will be ignored if any field is left blank, but your email address will not be displayed. Comments will be processed through markdown.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 existential risk falklands war fandom fantasy film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gin gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo-nebula reread humour in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux mecha men with beards museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life real life ranting restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1