"They don't even know that lying is possible. They don't have anything to lie about naturally. Their problems are all environmental, and you can't lie to your environment; if you try to lie to yourself about it, it kills you. I wish their social structure was a little more complicated; lying is a social custom. I wish they'd invented politics!"
- Leslie Coombes, chief counsel for the Charterless Zarathustra Company (CZC), in this book
This 3rd Fuzzy novel was first published in 1984 - twenty years after Piper's death, which left his estate in such a mess that the manuscript had been lost for most of that time. Consequently, the two farmed-out Fuzzy novels of the early 1980s - Tuning's FUZZY BONES and Mayhar's GOLDEN DREAM - were written to be consistent only with Piper's first two Fuzzy novels, not with this one, although they don't overlap in time.
The first chapter serves as a refresher for those who've had a long separation from Fuzzy fuzzy holloway - the species now recognized as Fuzzy sapiens zarathustra, the two-foot-tall golden-furred people only just discovered on Zarathustra, 25 years after the planet's discovery, much to the chagrin of the Chartered (now Charterless) Zarathustra Company. The Pendarvis Decisions of the murder trial forming the heart of the first book, LITTLE FUZZY, established not only that Fuzzies are people too, but that legally they have the status of minor children - being super-sane and generally very decent people, they're considered too innocent to cope with the complex snares of human society. Neither side of the human/Fuzzy communication problem understands the other's language and mindset well enough to explain/understand things like ownership of land and so forth. (Fuzzies fortunately live on only one continent, the least explored and most lightly settled.)
However, the Fuzzies' minor-child status is based a reversible judicial opinion, lacking the force of law unless and until it can be enshrined in Zarathustra's soon-to-be-written constitution, although it's been the foundation for all Fuzzy-related policy on Zarathustra in the 6 months since the ruling. It's the reason why the Native Affairs Commission could finance its Fuzzy health and education programs by leasing the Yellowsand sunstone deposits on the Fuzzy reservation back to the CZC.
What were the odds that with so much money at stake, the minor-child status would go unchallenged? Hugo Ingermann, the sleazeball mob lawyer defending the Thaxter/Evins/Novaes attempted robbery from FUZZY SAPIENS, hasn't got a prayer of winning on the burglary and larceny charges, but he hopes to cop a plea to drop the faginy and enslavement charges (they kidnapped a small group of Fuzzies from the wild and forced them to sneak through a security system). He plans to attack the minor-child status by arguing that adult Fuzzies are adult aborigines, and the enslavement charge by claiming that Fuzzies can't legally testify in court, since no Fuzzy test-witness can be found to red-light a veridicator (something much more sophisticated than a polygraph).
For Fuzzies to be proven to be truthful witnesses, their human protectors must first find one Fuzzy that can understand - or be taught - lying. If Fuzzies can't testify under veridication, their testimony's inadmissible - and if they're treated as adults, they can't even appoint a power-of-attorney, since that has to be done under veridication.
Unlike LITTLE FUZZY, here the trial itself - in the new Native Cases court rather than Pendarvis' supreme court - takes up only part of two chapters at the book's end; the issue of veridication has to be figured out one way or the other *before* anybody gets to court, since no competent lawyer would wait until trial to find out about something as important as that, and *all* the lawyers involved, including Ingermann, are *very* competent.
The main action of the book changes viewpoint between several different players. Little Fuzzy himself, the first Fuzzy ever to meet a human, becomes the first to test the Fuzzy education program in the field, when he's caught in a rockslide at Yellowsand and swept downriver into uncharted territory. He links up with an unusually large band of Fuzzies - eight - who've seen signs of humans' presence in the area but disagree on whether to seek out these strange Big People. (Fuzzies are quite intelligent, but have low-paleolithic technology and consequently a limited vocabulary for artifacts; Piper handles the difference between languages in a way that preserves the alien viewpoint.)
On the human side, Ingermann hopes at worst to plea-bargain the capital charges off the table, while Jack Holloway wants to ensure that the precedents set now will get human/Fuzzy relations off to a good start: he wants Ingermann's clients convicted not so much for their own sake as to clearly establish that Fuzzies can't be maltreated with impunity. The various scientific Fuzzyologists get frightening results when they try to explain lying to their two test subjects, since a veridicator doesn't exactly detect truth versus lying as such. (Kraft and Ebbing, named by the psychologists after von Kraft-Ebbing, author of PSYCHOPATHIA SEXUALIS, are a typical example of how humans name Fuzzies, whose own names tend to be Big She, Other She, and so on; since they live in very small hunter-gatherer groups, they tend to be 'hey, you' in practice until they meet the much larger Fuzzy group at Holloway's Camp.)
The Fuzzy-viewpoint scenes have the same tone, complete with a mix of pidgin Lingua Terra and Lingua Fuzzy, as those in Piper's earlier works; Mayhar's GOLDEN DREAM took a completely different approach. The problems of this story - complex criminal trial issues but simple constitutional convention issues - are the reverse of those in Tuning's FUZZY BONES, making it very interesting to read them back-to-back.