Fuzzy Sapiens

By H. Beam Piper

Rating: 3 stars

This book takes up pretty much immediately after its predecessor, Little Fuzzy, finishes and continues the story of the (now legally protected as) sapient species Fuzzy Fuzzy Holloway on the colony world Zarathustra. The jacket blurb on my edition was actually misleading, hinting at an existential threat to the species that didn’t turn up until pretty late in the book, and was then resolved pretty quickly and without much drama.

I was somewhat bemused throughout the book by the treatment of the Fuzzies by the Humans. Despite repeatedly stating that they were sentient, they were often treated like pets, although I’m not sure if this is was deliberately done by the author to show confusion in the colonists’ minds or was an issue that Piper had.

One thing that I found quite quaint was the very mid-twentieth century attitudes on display, partially in the treatment of courting and women (not as bad as some, since it actually allowed women to work in serious jobs) and very much in the fact that everyone seemed to stop in the early evening for a cocktail hour. It somehow felt quite colonial, in the British Empire sense, and not really like a frontier colony world at all, but it was charming, in its own way.

Charming is a good word to describe the book as a whole, really. There’s little sense of threat and the whole thing just feels like an extended footnote to the previous volume. I still found it enjoyable though and one thing that I did like was how it rehabilitated the villains from the previous book. In that, the Company that ran the planet had a vested interest in proving the Fuzzies non-sapient, since otherwise they would lose their claim to the planet, but now that that has happened, the company brass shrug and just get on with dealing with the aftermath, and are portrayed much more sympathetically than before.

In summary, the book was enjoyable and fun, but by no means essential reading for fans of Little Fuzzy.

Book details

ISBN: 044126192x
Publisher: Ace
Year of publication: 1964

The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays

By Oscar Wilde

Rating: 4 stars

Containing five of Wilde’s most famous plays, this collection is a great introduction to his work. While I was somewhat familiar with The Importance of Being Ernest I’ve not seen or read any other of Wilde’s plays until now.

I quite enjoyed both Lady Windermere’s Fan and A Woman of No Importance but was left a little cold by An Ideal Husband which, while having some flashes of humour, felt much more (melo)dramatic than the others. Reading these three plays in fairly quick succession revealed some common themes between them, specifically the idolisation of men by their wives and how they go to pieces when said husbands are revealed to be less than perfect.

Ernest is, I think, by far the best play in the book with laugh out loud moments, ever-present wit and humour and just the right amount of farce to be fun. The collection was rounded off by the short one-act play Salomé, about how Herod’s step-daughter tricks him into killing John the Baptist (although I had to look up on Wikipedia who “Jokanaan” was. This was very dramatic without the humour of Wilde’s other work, and much more poetic with some stunning imagery. I think coming to it immediately after the others I was expecting something else and was somewhat disconcerted with what I got, but once I got over that, I enjoyed the language and images of the play.

The major impression that I’m left with at the end of this collection is how big the difference between reading and watching a play really is. Although An Ideal Husband contained some stage notes about characters, the text is still fairly nondescript. I’d love to see some of these plays actually performed and see what sort of interpretations are made of them.

I’m certainly glad to have read these now and will look out for productions of them in future.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140482096
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year of publication: 1898

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