I just finished listening to the Audio Realms audio edition of H Beam Piper's classic science fiction novel Little Fuzzy and fell in love with the book all over again. Little Fuzzy was the first book I ever bought for myself: it was on my first trip to Bakka, the world's oldest surviving science fiction bookstore, at the age of nine or ten. Tanya Huff — now a bestselling writer in her own right — was working that day and I asked her for some recommendations. She marched me back to the used section of the store and took down a copy of Little Fuzzy, promising that I'd love it.
Little Fuzzy is Piper's masterpiece, a tight, neat science fiction story that epitomizes the golden age of sf. It concerns a prospector on a distant world who discovers a potentially sentient aboriginal race (the "Fuzzies), and his ensuing fight — fists, lawyers and even guns — to get them recognized as sentient beings. Along the way, Piper explores the nature of colonial economies, the deepest questions of consciousness and intelligence, paternalism and self-determination, and the nature of the rule of law. All in a package that a nine-year-old will find riveting and delightful.
The Audio Realms 5-CD unabridged recording just won Publishers Weekly's annual Fantasy Audiobook of the Year award (why "fantasy" I'm not sure), and it's easy to see why. Brian Holsopple's reading brings the characters — warm, human, flawed and passionate — to life. The editing is not exactly perfect (there's a couple of pickup lines that Holsopple recorded that are left in, which is a little distracting), but the story is every bit as wonderful as I remember it, and the reading is a great match.
Little Fuzzy is in the public domain, so there's both a free ebook and a free recording available of the text. And for the record, I got Tanya Huff's job at Bakka when she retired to write full time.