the Little Red Reviewer

The Fuzzy Papers, by H. Beam Piper

Posted on: January 4, 2012

.. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Fuzzy Papers (includes Little Fuzzy and The Other Human Race) by H. Beam Piper

originally published in 1962 and 1964

where I got it: off the bookshelf

 

When my husband and I got our first apartment, one of our first purchases was a bookcase, for we both showed up with boxes and boxes of books. I had a lot of Heinlein and Herbert and Asimov and random chick lit, he had a lot of McCaffrey and Herbert and Heinlein and Tolkien, and lots and lots of H. Beam Piper, who at the time, I’d never heard of.

I’m embarrassed to say it’s taken me this long to pick up a Piper. The volume we own is called The Fuzzy Papers, and it includes the first two Fuzzy novels – Little Fuzzy (originally published 1962) and The Other Human Race (originally published  in 1964 and later titled Fuzzy Sapiens). No one should have to wait this long to read Little Fuzzy, one of the cutest books ever written. I suppose it should be considered Young Adult, as there is no overt violence or sex or danger.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock and never, and never go to the movies, you’re sure to recognize some themes here.

Little Fuzzy

Taking place on the planet Zarathustra, in a future where humanity has colonized the stars, Jack Holloway is a freelance sunstone miner.  The planet is fully owned by the Chartered Zarathustra Company, whose chief export is the highly valued sunstones – the fossilized remains of ancient bioluminescent sea creatures who went extinct eons ago.

Holloway gets the surprise of his life when he returns home to his cabin one day to find a small, fuzzy, golden creature sitting on his bed. Naming the creature Little Fuzzy, Holloway immediately adopts it, and treats it like a treasured pet.  It’s not long before Little Fuzzy brings his entire family to live with Holloway. It quickly becomes obvious that the fuzzies are more than just animals. They communicate with each other and build tools and hunt.  They know what foods they like, and what to avoid because it will make them sick. They might be adorable and cuddly and playful and have the mind of a child, but they are smarter than they look. Holloway introduces his Fuzzies to anyone he knows who might be interested in them – Ben Rainsford and Gerd van Riebeek, xenobiologists;  Ruth Ortheris a psychologist, and a handful of local constables.

And thus we get to the crux of the matter: are the Fuzzies sapient people, or just really smart animals?  Even more complicated, what is the definition of sapience? By the time Holloway and his mining friends realize what a native sapience race will do to the company’s charter (void it), the company has already started campaigning against the sapience of the Fuzzies.  During an altercation with The Company, a Fuzzy is killed.  The story culminates in a large trial to determine their sapience, and further, if killing one is considered murder.

Zarathustra is a frontier planet, so during the trial there is much in the way of frontier law, which mostly includes biased judges and bribery. Witnesses don’t even need to swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, as they are hooked up to a high tech lie detector test as they are questioned.

Like I said, this book is beyond cute.  I never for one moment thought it wouldn’t have a happy ending. And it does have quite the happy ending. The Fuzzies want to live with humans, they know humans may be the only people who can help them.

Like a lot of stories written at the time, Little Fuzzy is amusingly sexist. I say amusingly, because I know no harm was meant. Men are men, yet all women, from licenced doctors to secretaries are “girls” who are simply waiting for a man to propose marriage to them.  Totally sexist, but don’t be too mad, as Piper gets in a last laugh.

The Other Human Race (also published as Fuzzy Sapiens)

The Fuzzies have been determined sapient, helped by the fact that not only do they communicate with each other, but the military discovered they have a developed language, albeit spoken in a pitch too high for humans to hear. With the aid of specially created hearing aids, humans can understand and communicate with the Fuzzies.

The Zarathurstra company, now charterless, still operates as a mining company, just not one that has any control over the planet. The company’s owner, Victor Grego, has a change of heart, and after finding a Fuzzy in his apartment, becomes completely pro-Fuzzy.

Fuzzy reservations are set up, and as they do seem to want to live with humans, an adoption agency is also set up.  But as  more and more Fuzzies literally come out of the woodwork, for easy living and free food, Holloway and his friends discover something disconcerting – the birthrate among Fuzzies is dangerously low, and few infants survive more than 24 hours after birth.   It’s now a race against time to figure out Fuzzy physiology and what’s causing the low birth rates, and more importantly, how to cure it.

While Little Fuzzy is nearly pure light heartedness and fun, The Other Human Race is not only more scientifically based, but also more about the politics of Zarathustra.  It’s an easy read, but very different from Little Fuzzy.  I can see younger readers loving Little Fuzzy, but feeling a little lost in the second book.  There is also a third Fuzzy book, Fuzzies and Other People.

Stay tuned tomorrow, for a short bio of H. Beam Piper, and some information about his other works.

About these ads

13 Responses to "The Fuzzy Papers, by H. Beam Piper"

I’ve heard of this one, but never read it, although the plot sounds very familiar to me. So maybe I did read it at some point & have forgotten…

Like

plot sounds familiar. . . hmm, have you ever read The Word for World is Forest, by LeGuin, or seen a recent big budget movie staring 9 foot tall blue cat people? ;)

Like

I have never even HEARD of this author…

Like

Piper is very under the radar, which is too bad. i’ll be posting a short bio of him tomorrow.

Like

This is the same edition I have, the SFBC one. The two books are very enjoyable, and I also recommend them.

Like

Do you know if it was only this edition that the 2nd story was published as The Other Human Race, or if they changed it to Fuzzy Sapiens way way later?

I should really try to find a nicer copy, ours is falling apart. my other half got it like 20 years ago from a library discard sale. you can still see the library sticker on the spine.

Like

It was later, Piper originally published the book as OTHER HUMAN RACE but it was changed for later publication, after this omnibus edition was published.

Like

I sure an enjoying this Vintage Sci-Fi “Challege.” I am learn about author in which I have never heard about before than are lost in the scuffle of time.

Like

and just wait, there is tons more to come! :D

Like

I loved Little Fuzzy. One of the first Sci-Fi books I ever read (The first was Dragon riders of Pern…both were SFBC editions)

Like

Another good read. I like the cover on this edition. Piper has unfortunately fallen off the fans radar. Hopefully, Scalzi’s book help raise awareness of this author.

Like

Haven’t heard of this author, but I love the title…Fuzzy Papers. Love it.

Like

Although I haven’t read Piper’s book, from everything I’ve heard Scalzi’s reboot, which I have read (and loved) is a pretty faithful adaptation (leading some to question its necessity). I think it was something that one of the comments mention, his undeserved obscurity, that was a motivating factor for Scalzi.

At any rate, both stories do a really good job of examining some of the same things that Asimov’s robot stories, and indeed many other SF stories: the idea of what it means to be human coupled with the ideas surrounding respect for those who are different from ourselves. Like many of Asimov’s robot stories, I think Piper’s story and Scalzi’s reboot do a lovely job of this, telling a touching and engaging story while weaving in a nice message.

I’ve seen several posts over the last 6 months or so (since the release of Scalzi’s book) where folks are reading and/or talking about Piper and I think that is great.

Little Fuzzy is the kind of book you can share with young adults which is a plus in my mind. I think the ideas of the story remain relevant today and the story is interesting enough to capture the attention of young adults.

Like

join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,169 other followers

subscribe in a reader

Vintage SF

Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along

Local Friends

Categories

FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
%d bloggers like this: