Although quite short, the fast-paced, truly moving, and often very comedic "Little Fuzzy" is one of my choices for science fiction literature's truly great novels. The wit, the charm, and the brilliant characters will all stay with the reader long after the final page of this first of H. Beam Piper's Fuzzy Sapiens series.
Zarathustra is a planet classed as uninhabited, which means the entire planet can be owned by a corporation, which it is, by the Zarathustra Company, which enjoys a high profit by mining the resources-rich planet. One day gem prospector Jack Holloway comes across a member of a previously undocumented species - a tiny, golden-furred little biped who he dubs 'Little Fuzzy', and shortly thereafter encounters Little Fuzzy's family. The fuzzies are cute, adorable, and often hilarious, and they're also quite socially advanced, including in the use of tools they themselves make. Holloway is convinced, and soon some of his human friends are too, that the Fuzzies are fully sentient and entitled to all the rights of any other sentient species.
Which means the Fuzzies would be the owners of their own planet, and the Zarathustra Company's deed would be automatically null and void.
The unscrupulous Zarathustra Company is determined not to see that happen, at any costs.
And thus we enter into a meeting of the science fiction novel, the legal courtroom drama, and an indepth examination of ethics. The book skillfully tackles these subjects seriously without forsaking the fun, playful side of its other main facet, represented so well by the gregarious Fuzzies themselves. I would say that there's heavy corporate satire at work in much of the book, but I belive satire is supposed to be an exxageration of the 'real' world, and sadly, I can see a corporation behaving this way if this kind of thing were to happen some day off in the future. Although the book is often a ride of wonder and fun, things can get very heavy and dark at times, including a plot thread dealing with the death of a Fuzzy. The courtroom scenes are a pinnacle of their type, not just for science fiction but for any novel.
An excellent tale; extremely recommended.