by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Fuzzy Conundrum, by John F. Carr & Wolfgang Diehr.
Boalsburg, PA, Pequod Press, May 2016, hardcover $32.00 (421 pages), Kindle $7.99.
The Fuzzies’ story goes on! For the record, this is the sixth approved novel in the series. They are: Little Fuzzy (1962), Fuzzy Sapiens (1964), and Fuzzies and Other People (1984), by H. Beam Piper; Fuzzy Ergo Sum (2011), and Caveat Fuzzy (2012), by Wolfgang Dietr; and The Fuzzy Conundrum (2016), by John F. Carr & Wolfgang Diehr. For the full history, read “The Fuzzy Story” by yours truly. Yes, we know about Fuzzy Nation (2011) by John Scalzi, but that is a tribute to Piper’s original novel and not a part of the series.
The copyright on Little Fuzzy has lapsed and the whole novel can be read for free on Project Gutenberg. I must’ve read it a dozen times over the years; it’s one of my favorite s-f novels.
The first three novels tell of the discovery of the Fuzzies on the colony planet Zarathustra, a member of the Terran Federation, by sunstone prospector Jack Holloway; the legal establishment of their childlike human sapience; and their protection by the Zarathustran government. The next two novels, written by a Fuzzy fan with the approval of Piper’s estate administered by John F. Carr, create backstories for Jack Holloway and other established characters, add some new human characters (including strong women; one of Piper’s weaknesses), and expand on the Fuzzy-human relationship.
The Fuzzy Conundrum begins by establishing that the events of the previous two years, including the attempt by the Zarathustran underworld to train kidnapped Fuzzies for crime, were high-profile news throughout the Terran Federation. The Fuzzies have been shown on galaxywide news as so cute and cuddly that, even though their intelligence is emphasized, millions of people just have to have one as a status symbol. Those who study the Fuzzies’ official status, which is as a protected species for their human childlike mental level, apply to adopt one as a legal child. Those who just want to own one and have more money than smarts buy one illegally as a pet. The Zarathustra planetary government finds hundreds of spaceships landing at the Mallorysport terminal filled with applicants to adopt a Fuzzy. At the same time, it becomes aware that new criminals are seeking to kidnap wild Fuzzies from the Beta continent reservation, not to train them for crime but to sell them to those who do not know or care that this is illegal.