Monday, 13 July 2015

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

This is fun, but slight. It's apparently the first novel John Scalzi wrote, available for free on his website for a long time, and then finally published after he'd become a prominent science fiction writer. Then again, I read his books for fun, with interesting ideas scattered lightly over the top, like a seasoning. This book is long on the fun, with the thoughts only coming in at the end - but for a first novel, it read well, went down easy, and was enjoyable.

Wow, I am bad at retaining character names. Even when I read the book less than a week ago. Details of the story, sure, but names? Mmmm...Tom? Aha! Thomas Stein! (I looked it up.) Tom is a hotshot agent in Hollywood. Well, actually, he's a beginning agent with one major client who hit it big after he took them on. He's about to get her millions and millions for the sequel to the film that made her a star. She wants to get serious, and thinks that her blonde young good looks would be perfect for a movie about the Holocaust. As the old Jewish woman.

He has other clients, which are amusing interludes, but the book is really about the hot new property his boss gives him to represent. An alien species that looks like a giant pile of snot and communicates with flatulence. Hard sell! Tom must figure out a way to compatibly introduce our species. He's helped by the fact that the aliens are pretty media savvy and talk like they've watched A LOT of TV and movies. Not in an over the top way, but they actually came to Earth more or less understanding what humans are, which is helpful.

Joshua, the alien who has physically come down to Earth, hangs out with Tom, adopts a dog, and does some thinking about how his morality is different from human morality. Joshua could take over a body, but not if it's sentient. The dog doesn't quite count.

But really, Tom doesn't do a lot for the aliens except worry over the impact that concentrating on this is doing to his career. It languishes on the backburner, which is odd, given that that's the main plot of the book. In this way, it does feel like a first novel. Then one of Tom's other clients gets into trouble in a way that might give him an opening with introducing the aliens to Earth, if he can negotiate moral minefields.

The final dilemma is interesting, but a little bit surface. Again, first novel, and I'm not too bothered by it. The book does a very nice job of skewering the hell out of Hollywood and celebrity culture, with a handy dog for me to love, and aliens that are less strange and ununderstandable than almost entirely able to pass for human, if it weren't for the snot/fart thing. That's very different from most science fiction, and it's entertaining.

Overall, this is a light read, and in some ways a slight read, but it's fun, and in the middle of a stressful summer, it was a welcome relief.

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