A stand-alone scifi book which is a re-imagining of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. I haven’t read Little Fuzzy but it’s part of the audio book so I will listend it soon.

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Running Time: 7 hrs and 19 minutes

Jack Holloway is an independent contractor for ZaraCorps. He and Carl are looking for valuable minerals to mine from a planet without natural intelligent life. The planet does, however, have a lot of various animals, some of them quite dangerous. Jack is a disbarred lawyer who enjoys working all by himself, with Carl. He tends to speak before thinking so he doesn’t really have any friends and has pretty much alienated everyone at ZaraCorps’ local base, even his ex-girlfriend.

Jack has trained Carl, his dog, to set off explosives against ZaraCorps’s regulations and when Carl blows up yet another site, the whole cliff wall collapses. This is against all environmental regulations which ZaraCorps has to follow. Chad Borne, a ZaraCorps’s representative, is furious and fires Jack. However, the collapsed cliff wall has a big stash of sunstones, one of the most highly prized luxury items in the universe. They come from fossilized jellyfish. Because Jack isn’t working for ZaraCorps anymore, technically he owns the find. Borne agrees to give Jack 0,4% of the profits instead of usual 0,05% as a contract prospector.

When Jack returns to his house, which is outside the base, he realizes that a cat like creature has somehow gotten into his house. Except that the cat thing walks on two legs. Jack dubs the creature a fuzzy. Soon, the fuzzy brings more of its kind with it to Jack’s house and Jack decides that they are a family and names them accordingly. The fuzzies seem to be very intelligent. Jack talks about them to his ex-girlfriend Isabelle who is a biologist for the company. She thinks that the fuzzies could be intelligent. If they are, they would be a huge problem for the company because it can mine the planet only so long as there’s no native intelligent life forms on it.

The story is written in a very humorous way in tight third POV. Jack is a witty main character which is a good thing because he isn’t very likable. He seems to enjoy irritating other people, he lies when it suits him, he has no problem undermining his ex’s career, and he’s greedy (well, okay, who wouldn’t be?). Yet because of the humor, this isn’t obvious.

Sometimes he does inexplicable acts of kindness such as feeding the first fuzzy and saving it from Carl. He himself doesn’t know why he did it. Later, we see that he has some morals and lines he doesn’t cross which makes him a bit more palatable.

Most of the secondary characters are corporate employers who want to protect their job or who bully other people because they can. Most of them are quite unlikable. Isabelle is a notable exception to this with her idealistic views of environment and treatment of other people. And Carl is of course a great character, loyal to his master and friendly with others.

Near the start of the book there are a few infodumps. However, they are entertaining to listen to, so they didn’t slow the book down much. We’re told about the human workers on the planet and about the various laws ZaraCorps has to obey. For example, ZaraCorps doesn’t do science as such, just exploitation of the various planets because scientific research doesn’t produce money.

We are told the humans have encountered a few alien species but only two of them have been proven to be intelligent. With both of them the key was that they could talk. I find this fascinating and possibly very human-centric because it’s possible for species to communicate in other ways than speech. Of course, it’s a completely different issue if humans want to give intelligent status to species which doesn’t communicate via speech or how effective such communication would be when building an (advanced) society.

One of the book’s themes is how humans would treat other planets (strip mining) or other species (badly). Then again, people also treat each other miserably. There are glimmers of hope but as a whole it give rather a pessimistic view of the human race as focused on themselves only and on the individual level, getting as much money as they can and the rest of the universe can go to hell.

I enjoyed Wheaton’s narration. He reads quicker than many of the other narrators I’ve listened to so far and sounds very enthusiastic. However, at time it was a bit surreal because I was reading Star Trek books at the same time. 🙂