I read this book about 8-Jan-2006. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1962. This note was last modified Thursday, 29-Jan-2015 21:02:11 PST.
This is book 1 of the "Fuzzy" series.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
A classic of first contact. Jack Holloway, an old sunstone miner on Zarathustra, meets Little Fuzzy, and quickly concludes he's sapient (check which word is used in the book!). This is bad news for the Chartered Zarathustra Company, which pretty much owns the planet as a Class-III; when it becomes a Class-IV, they're scrod.
Lots of courtroom drama as the local judiciary tries to work things out. Somehow the CZC never got around to corrupting the judiciary (though, in fairness, they're not that bad as corporate owners of new planets go).
Some of the executives do seriously propose trapping the Fuzzies out for their fur before they can be declared sapient, and one of them goes so far as to stomp one to death (Fuzzies are small, a couple of feet high), though he regrets it later (and commits suicide in jail before he can be executed). This part is, I think, a study in how far people will go in pursuit of their goals, and how much intellect controls belief.
In the end of course everything comes out pretty well, with the military moving in and appointing a civillian governor, and revoking the Companie's charter.
There sure is a lot of smoking. Nobody seems to think it might be bad for you, either (and it was shortly before the Surgeon General's report, which was the last straw for anybody paying attention, not the first).