Tom Stein just closed the biggest deal of his career and is becoming one of Hollywood’s hottest young agents, when he is pulled aside by his boss and asked to represent a very unusual client. An alien species called the Yherajk have been watching Earth and its transmissions for decades, especially our fear of aliens. They want to befriend our species, but since, by human standards, they are hideous blobs that smell like rotting dumpster, they hire Tom to introduce them to the world. Together with Joshua, the Yherajk emissary, Tom must learn to accept the Yherajk and market them to the human race.
Mostly light and funny, Agent to the Stars is a lively story with a few surprising moments of thoughtfulness. Scalzi’s straightforward, concise voice is evident even in this, his first novel, and together with a well paced and tightly plotted story, it’s a lot of fun. The protagonists are mostly smart, including the aliens and love interest, and I particularly enjoy the odd-couple relationship that develops between Tom and Joshua. Together they provide outrageous stories of (and well-deserved jabs at) actors, Hollywood, and the movie business, as well as great random observations and musings on humanity from an outsider’s perspective. About halfway through the book, the tone shifts to accommodate a serious film (an Oscar contender, of course), a human death, and the ethics of using that death to the aliens’ advantage.
As a first novel written to see if Scalzi could write, this is a great start. But next to his second book Old Man’s War, this feels ordinary. (Scalzi also used Agent to the Stars to decide if he wanted to write mystery or scifi, and I’m happy he fell into the scifi community!) For me, Scalzi’s largest improvement is the characterization of the protagonist himself. Tom Stein is a sleaze ball, and no amount of self-deprecation, humor, or other characters telling him what a good guy he is will convince me otherwise. But maybe that’s intentional.
Recommended as a cute summer read for fans of humor and aliens!
“That’s a distinction that’s going to make a lot of difference to the ninety percent of humanity that doesn’t know the difference between astrology and astronomy.”