Thursday, June 9, 2011

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

When Tom Stein, a junior Hollywood agent, is called into a meeting with his boss about a new client, he has no idea that the future of interstellar relations is about to be dumped in his lap. The Yherajk, an alien race with super-advanced technology, have been listening to our TV and radio broadcasts for years. Now they want to meet us--but they have an image problem (namely, that they resemble blobs of snot and they smell like garbage). Tom's job is to find a way to introduce the Yherajk to humans with as much positive spin as possible.

I've read John Scalzi's blog for years but had never read any of his fiction until now. He's a solid writer, his prose clean and low-key, and he's very funny. Agent to the Stars was his first book (originally published online in 1999, then picked up and republished in 2005 by Subterranean as a limited edition, then republished by Tor in 2008) and it shows, but it's still a lot of fun.

The book went in a much different direction than I expected. Instead of focusing on Tom's attempts to improve the Yherajks' public image, it's more about Tom's other problems and how they relate to the Yherajk.

Unfortunately, the plot depends almost entirely on coincidence. Tom doesn't come up with any ideas except as a reaction to events. All the characters act and speak alike--but they're funny, clever characters so I didn't mind. What I did mind was the ending, which wasn't a bit plausible. In fact, I had a huge problem with the entire last quarter of the book, where the plot just seemed to derail.

But the book is fast-paced, funny, and very readable. The aliens are interesting too. Just don't expect the world's best plot.

Powell's link

No comments: