8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Great Debut,
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This review is from: Agent to the Stars (Paperback)
Agent to the Stars was the unpublished debut novel of John Scalzi, author of the great Old Man's War, Ghost Brigades and Androids Dream. Like his other works Agent to the Stars has a sci-fi bent, but is a very different beast to the books that would follow it. This is not pure sci-fi like Old Man's War and nor is it a lightweight semi-comedic romp like Androids Dream. It is a strange hybrid of Hollywood-satire, critique of popular media and alien invasion B-movie. Remarkably, considering its disparate elements, it mostly works.
In a nutshell the plot involves a young Hollywood agent on the rise who get's given the biggest client of his career in the form of an entire alien race who want him to smooth their introduction to humans on earth. The aliens have reasoned that the fact they look like snot and smell terrible might lead to negative reactions from humans and that they need an agent to help sell them as the peace loving creatures they really are. What follows is a wild ride that satirises the obessions of Hollywood, the way the media treats celebrity and our preconceptions of what first contact with an alien race is likely to be like.
It all makes for a hugely enjoyable, often very funny tale that romps along at a fair old pace. Some of the ideas Scalzi would use in later novels to great affect can be seen in embryonic form; scuh as the aliens who use very human modes of speech rather than portenious tones, the lack of any sort of obsession with technological minutae, the avoidance of negative stereotypes and the humanising of even the most inhuman or foolish character. Scalzi also, wisely in my opinion, keeps things simple. He doesn't attempt any stylistic trickery that is beyond his skills as a writer. This is a very linear tale, told logically and straightforwardly and is all the better for that.
Of course there are some minor niggles here and there as you would expect with a debutant author, but the only major issue I had with the book was the ending. Without spoiling it for future readers I simply didn't buy into the way Scalzi resolved his tale. I simply couldn't accept that the plan the aliens and the agent come up with would ever work. I know this might sound stupid when you're talking about a book that deals with space aliens hiring a Hollywood agent to represent them, but up until the final quarter of the book I was able to suspend my disbelief and go along with events on the page, but the means by which the aliens are introduced to the world was just a step too far for me. That's not to criticise the quality of the writing but simply to say that personally I just couldn't go with the final turns the plot took.
Still that wasn't enough to stop me thorougly enjoying 80-85% of Agent to the Stars and for me not to recommend it. Whether you're a sci-fi fan or not there is much to enjoy here, and if you like this I can also wholeheartedly recommend trying Scalzi's other novels.