The first book about little aliens the humans call the Fuzzies.

Publication year: 1962
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Peter Ganim
Running Time: 6 hrs and 28 minute

Jack Holloway is an old prospector looking for valuable sunstones on the alien planet Zarathustra. The sunstones are fossilized jellyfish and the arid planet also has land prawns which Jack detests. One day when he returns to his shack, he finds a small, hairy, and cute being in his house. Jack calls it “Little Fuzzy” and feeds it. The Fuzzy has taken Jack’s chisel and uses it as a tool. The Fuzzy also brings his family to meet “Pappy Jack”. Jack tells about them to his friends and the local xenobiologist who are fascinated by the little creatures. They seem to be very intelligent and so the humans are trying to prove that they are sapient.

Unfortunately, the company can exploit the planet only as long as the planet doesn’t have any native sapient people. So Victor Gregor, the owner of the company, wants to keep the fuzzies classification as animals.

The book centers around the question of if the Fuzzies are sapient or not. The humans don’t have an official definition of sapience but many think that being able to use fire and communicate with speech should be the main requirements. Interestingly (because it’s in a book and not real), there’s been a case where a woman who killed her baby had tried to prove that the infant hadn’t been sapient yet, but that didn’t work.

Jack Halloway is a paternal figure to the fuzzies and he’s very protective of them. He’s got loyal friends who are also very concerned about the fuzzies’ future. All of these people seem to be kind and benevolent. They are curious about the creatures but don’t want to harm them or even annoy them. They just want to at first to study the fuzzies and then to prove them sapient. In contrast, the company people are only interested in the fuzzies’ possible impact to their bottom line and are willing to do anything, including murder, to prevent the fuzzies being found sapient.

The humans have a way to know when a person is telling the truth. The device is called a veridicator and is used in courts instead of swearing an oath. It’s, of course, very convenient but was used interestingly with witnesses who have to first be honest with themselves before being able to be honest to the court.

Unfortunately, for me some of the things near the ending were very convenient. Otherwise, this is a charming and thoughtful, if simplistic, short book and I might look up the sequels.