Friday, January 12, 2007

Agent to the Stars, by John Scalzi

Tom Stein is your average up and coming Hollywood agent. He has one client, a dim witted actress who is just hitting big, and a back list of other clients who are barely worth the effort to remember their names and he would be just as happy to be rid of them for various reasons specific to each client. Tom gets his wish when his boss invites Tom into his office for a rare opportunity: The boss of the agency would like Tom to dump the bulk of his clients in order to take on a new one. While that sounds wonderful, an agent really is only as good as his client list and dumping the list is a risky move for an agent who just had his big break. But then Carl, the boss, drops the bomb. The new client is not a person. The new client is an entire alien race just making first contact with humanity. The aliens know that the best way to be accepted by humanity is to be shown in the movies in a sympathetic way and it is an agent that can make this happen.

One more thing. The aliens do not look like lassie or ET or even like the bugs from Starship Troopers. The aliens more closely resemble a pile of jello which smells like a dog’s fart. But they are very friendly and wish to, well, come in peace. These aliens learned about humanity through the signals of Hollywood movies and television shows which beamed up into space. While this has caused a problem in separating fact from fiction, it has permitted several from the gelatinous mass of alien goo to learn to speak English and communicate on a level humans can understand and appreciate. Tom Stein simply needs to figure out how to best introduce the aliens, with a spokesalien named Joshua, to the world.

This may have been John Scalzi's first attempt at writing a novel, but it was clear even from this fun exercise that Scalzi is a skilled writer and put together a more than competent novel with his first effort. This explains why he was able to sell his first effort (though he sold it second. His second written novel, Old Man's War, sold first). Agent to the Stars is a funny romp through Hollywood, the world of agents, and even to an alien spacecraft. Agent to the Stars is filled with humor, sharp dialogue, fart jokes, and even some sadness. Mostly: Joy. Joy for the reader because Agent to the Stars is pure pleasure to read, but probably also Joy for the author. Scalzi had to have a blast writing this book and coming up with an alien race which communicates by rank odors.

Agent to the Stars is the third Scalzi novel I have read, after Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades, and while it is as different from those novels as is possible in science fiction, Agent to the Stars is a delightful novel and I mean that. I felt full of delight while reading it. You should, too.

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