Home > Clement's Game > Science Fiction Round 35: Fuzzy Nation

Science Fiction Round 35: Fuzzy Nation


They are, in fact, fuzzy.

Fuzzy Nation is another book by John Scalzi (who also wrote Redshirts), and it revolves around the corporate exploitation of planetary resources.

Of course, there are complications.

The cover isn't bad, although that's not how the Fuzzies looked in my head.

The cover isn’t bad, although that’s not how the Fuzzies looked in my head.

Be A Better Biologist

Dr. Wantai, I am greatly disappointed in you.

She’s supposed to be a biologist, and good enough to be employed on the planet that the big corporation is mining, to make sure that they’re complying with all the assorted environmental regulations, catalog local life, and so forth.

But, until she is told, she doesn’t realize that the local intelligent life can speak.

Because their speech is so high-pitched that it falls outside of the human auditory range.

I spotted this the instant I read about the first group of critters, as soon as the point-of-view character mentioned that he saw them “wheezing” or not making much noise when doing things that scream communication.

And that was even before the discussion of how the local life can be frightened away by inaudible-to-humans, high-pitched noise.  And I’m not even a biologist.

I’m sorry, but this makes your biologist look extremely incompetent.  Yes, I realize that it’s been mentioned that this character jumps to conclusions too easily, to make it more believable for her to make this second, critical mistake.  But someone who makes mistakes like that… so easily… it boggles the mind.

Noise for Nosebleed?

Does this actually happen?

As mentioned above, high-pitched noise can be heard by most of the animals on the planet.  This is used by the company prospectors and miners, who play inaudible but loud, annoying noises to scare away all the nasty animals.

The point-of-view character gets into a bind, and ends up using this noise to defend himself while not wearing hearing protection.  He gets a nasty headache and a nosebleed from a couple of hours of exposure to the high-pitched noise that he can’t hear.

Now, loud noise certainly can cause hearing damage, but despite scouring the Internet, I’m having trouble finding examples of noise-related nosebleeds.  Acute damage (such as that which can be caused by standing too close to explosives) can cause ruptured eardrums, and maybe bleeding from the ears in severe cases, but I couldn’t find anything about nosebleeds.

Plus, a sudden exposure to an extremely loud sound is pretty different from longer-term exposure to a less-loud noise.  Worse, the character’s hearing seems to be fine pretty shortly afterwards, when that generally isn’t the case with noise-induced damage.  I don’t think I can buy this part of the story.

The Corruption

Whoa.  The CEO’s son (who is expected to be the fifth in a line of executives) is visiting the planet, with his lawyer, checking everything out and trying to make sure the company gets a lot of money out of it.

But, there are rules about planets that have sentient natives, as the Fuzzies turn out to be.  Extraction and exploitation has to stop immediately, and Zaracorp (the corporation) would no longer be able to make money hand-over-fist.

Our executive wannabe doesn’t like that idea, and does everything he can to get the case proving the Fuzzies’ sentience thrown out of court, the witnesses dead, intimidated, or off-planet, and the Fuzzies all killed.

And the (apparently deliberate) extinction of a sentient species just to make sure you can claim all the resources on their world without interference?

Sadly… that’s completely believable.  In this setting, it happened once on another world (with the species going extinct before enough study could be done to confirm sentience or communicate with them).  In our world… well.  Poaching certainly happens a good deal — and in some cases, it’s because of a threat (real or otherwise) posed by the wild animals to domesticated livestock or farms.

Where Would You Like Your Oversized Lampshade?

This is one point where Scalzi excels.

The corrupt executive’s son, and presumed heir, of the company, would, in most stories, leave the planet while swearing some kind of economic vengeance, lawsuit, etc., at our protagonists.

But he’s not going to get away with that this time.  He was actually sent on a trip to this planet as a trial run — to see if he would perform any better than his father, the perpetually drunk CEO whom the other executives constantly cover for.

Given that the answer is “no,” between his ineptitude and unethical behavior, the lawyer who came with him indicates that he will never inherit the company or control of it.

The scene at the end where the lawyer explains this to the CEO-wannabe is hilarious.

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