I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at FanLit.
Tom Stein is a young Hollywood agent who used to think that his clients were hard to handle. That was before Tom’s boss assigned him to represent the most important client any agent has ever had to deal with — the first aliens to contact the human race.
These aliens — the Yherajk — have been watching our TV broadcasts for years, so they know a lot about humans. They are peaceful and want to make a good impression, but they know it’ll be a hard sell. That’s because they look like The Blob, smell like sweaty sneakers, and have some powers that humans are going to find very disturbing. In other words, they seem more like fodder for our horror movies than friends. That’s why they’ve asked Tom Stein’s agency to represent them. So Tom gets to dump his difficult clients off on a junior agent so he can concentrate on figuring out how to give the aliens an image makeover before they’re marketed to the human public.
If you’re already a fan of John Scalzi’s writing, whether it’s his novels or his blog, you’re sure to enjoy Agent to the Stars. It’s non-stop entertainment that’s crackling with that snide humor he’s famous for. The whole Hollywood culture falls victim to his pen as Tom Stein and his competent assistant deal with divas, Hollywood has-beens, the mother of a pampered child star, nosey reporters, rabid fans, and a dumb blonde who wants to move up from playing beach bunny roles to playing a holocaust victim.
Yet even as Scalzi delights in poking fun at Hollywood, at the same time he illustrates its cultural significance and shows us how film can be a powerful tool for education, understanding, and social change. Specifically here he highlights the atrocities that were committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. A few of these scenes were beautifully poignant.
Agent to the Stars, published in 2005, was John Scalzi’s first novel and it succeeds in every way. Audible Frontiers put it on audio in 2010 and Brilliance Audio released it in CD format last month. Wil Wheaton, who narrates some of Scalzi’s other work, is absolutely perfect here. Scalzi + Wheaton is a terrific combination. If you’re going to read Agent of the Stars, which you should, please please try the audio version!
So what would happen if the aliens came, but instead of nice sleek greys like Close Encounters they stank like the worst thing you could ever imagine? Well, John Scalzi - who has obviously had some experience dealing with Hollywood agents - puts together a wonderful story of how this might unfold.
He has wonderful characters that cover a wide range of possibilities. This is a wonderfully comic romp that pokes fun at many a sacred cow. It also has its very, very somber moments - especially concerning the Holocaust - but is a wonderfully engaging story that you will not want to stop until its completely done.
The narration by Wil Wheaton - best known as Wesley Crusher from Star Trek the Next Generation - is well done. He voices the characters, especially the snarky alien, perfectly.
You will want to explore all the John Scalzi books after hearing this one
This author was new to me, as was the narrator,(though of course I remember his roles in Star Trek etc with fondness). Hope it won't be the last. The reading was clear and well punctuated with only minimal thespian over-indulgence. I only tend to write reviews if I have something to complain about or something to praise, happily, this is the latter. The book had me almost rolling on the floor in stiches, a rare event for a Science Fiction book, Audible Frontiers has come up trumps again, well done!
This is a wonderfully funny mash up of the Hollywood insider story and a first contact tale. Not only is this imaginative but well executed and oddly genuine.
Wil Wheaton is a phenomenal reader and I hope he does more.
John Scalzi's unique voice in SciFi reminds me of Spider Robinson's intro decades ago, just something totally different. He brings a lot to the table with this fairly short story, but with the intelligence and humor you'd expect from Scalzi. The concept he puts forward is crazy, but you gradually start to come around to the idea that it is not only a worthwhile story, but kind of a good idea that you can't believe you haven't thought of before... Aliens really could use representation.
John, Wil - Congratulations to both of you. The audiobook version of Agent to the Stars is one of the best audiobooks I've ever had the pleasure to listen to, out of several hundred, including the Hunger Games & the Harry Potter series. Agent is a fun, breezy tale that's entirely plausible in its non-threatening first contact, and Wil nails the protagonist and other voices in the book.
Somewhere in Iowa.
I've listened to just about every John Scalzi novel available on Audible and I've never been disappointed. While this is billed as science fiction, it had two story lines, one decidedly sci fi and the other modern fiction. Surprisingly, I found both equally intriguing - the tale of a young Hollywood agent and a budding, superstar actress and then there's an alien race looking for representation in how to best introduce itself, politely, to Earth. It just worked!
The kids (Teenagers) and I had a lot of fun "reading" this book on a long car trip. Wil's reading was perfect and all of us had a good giggle (or 100's) along the way! Highly recommend!
My favorite genres are absurdist humor, Sci-fi & modern fantasy, but, as you can see, I'll read just about anything. Don't mind the typos.
Imagine that you are an Alien race trying to make first contact with earth but are a little worried about the bad wrap you’ve been getting in the movies. What do you do? You get yourself a Hollywood agent. John Scalzi does a wonderful job in this absurdly funny caper. Original, well narrated and a lot of fun.
I LOVE books. And dogs & quilting & beading & volunteering.
Sometimes its entertaining to listen to a fun novel-a story that makes you laugh because the author has written a book with tongue firmly in cheek and the narrator gets this and performs the novel in just the right way.
The John Scalzi/Wil Wheaton duo doesn't seem to be able to go wrong with this. Scalzi's books frequently are LOL funny Science Fiction-a real rarity-and Wil Wheaton seems to be able to translate this attitude so well.
Agent to the Stars has a "First Encounter" plot, but it's sure not one you've ever read before. These aliens know they have a problem with their appearance and hire a famous Hollywood agent to represent them to the world.
The various incarnations that "Joshua", the alien protagonist goes thru are truly funny--I found some similarity with the Iron Druid novels by Kevin Hearne, especially Oberon his talking dog-Joshua the alien absorbs the dying body and personality of a dog.....amongst others.
It's crazy, complicated at times and just plain funny. Not a shoot 'em up Si Fi if thats what you look for in Si Fi you'll be disappointed, and even though it's very humorous, there is a serious plot underlying the whole slapstick comedy.
Have some fun, download this and "Fuzzy Nation" too, another Scalzi/Wheaton co-op effort...both are well worth your time at the beach or by the pool. And allow yourself to laugh out loud.