Wil Wheaton, a Star Trek: The Next Generation alum, is a canny choice for narrator of this intersection of science fiction and Elmore Leonard-esque Hollywood farce. In addition to being a rather prominent footnote in sci-fi history, Wheaton’s also got a great voice sonorous, with an inflection similar to a late-night radio DJ who’s bemusedly sharing an anecdote on air between tracks. His voice also carries a hint of that lilt peculiar to many native Angelenos, which comes in handy when he exaggerates it to Valley Girl-proportions to portray starlet Michelle Beck, former cheerleader and current box office draw.
Hollywood agent Tom Stein is the book’s hero, and when the story begins, Michelle is his most important client. That is, until Tom meets Joshua, an extraterrestrial whose alien race hires Tom and his boss, superagent Carl Lupo, to represent them. The Yherajk have decided their best hope for a peaceful first contact between their race and all of humanity is to out themselves via the movies, and they know if they want to make it in Hollywood, they need good representation.
Wheaton’s voicing of Joshua, who has traveled to Earth as the Yherajk’s representative, is another highlight. Joshua, like his kinsmen, looks like a gelatinous blob, gives off a noxious odor, and slithers around amorphously. He’s also incredibly educated when it comes to human pop culture, having logged countless hours watching sitcoms. Wheaton delivers Joshua’s line, “We look like snot. And we smell like dead fish,” in a nasally deadpan that suits a one-liner-delivering alien to a T.
Even when Scalzi veers into semi-philosophical territory as when he explores why an alien race would choose a Hollywood debut over staging their premiere in Washington Wheaton keeps the narration moving with his just-right character voices. Look out for the both silly and spot-on sounding Quebecois accent he uses to portray Roland Lanois, an art-house film director with a critical role in the novel, and for his Buddha-like turn as Gwedif, a Yherajk storyteller. Maggie Frank
The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity's first interstellar friendship. There's just one problem: They're hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. So getting humanity's trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal. Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He's one of Hollywood's hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it's quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he's going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.
©2005 John Scalzi (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
“Narrator Wil Wheaton animates the slapstick text with a tone that is appropriate for the story of a young Tinsel Town agent whose other clients are either equally deranged or aren't making him much money.” (AudioFile)
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!
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
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 had read Old Mans War by the same author and while it was good, it was nothing like this book. This one has a new take on the idea that aliens want to make themselves known to us, and it has engaging characters, witty dialogue, and great pacing.
The naration is excellent, adding to the overall experience.
Having heard every book John Scalzi have released trough Audible, i expected as usual a good experience. What i didn't expect was that it was so much fun, entertaining and absolute ingenious view of how to introduce Friendly aliens to the humans.
Wil Wheatons narration was so good and enjoyable that i will from now on vertainly look for his name in future Audio-book releases.
What a treat!!
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.
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.
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!
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