John Scalzi’s SciFi comedy, Agent to the Stars, simultaneously pokes some fun at and shows regard for the Hollywood agent system, alien movies and conspiracy theories. OK, I think he just pokes fun at the conspiracy theories; if he holds them in high regard, he does so secretly. I’m thinking he knew he would be up for a TV deal at some point and didn’t want to go too far. :)
This book is great, light-hearted fun with a bit a thinking thrown in because it is, after, John Scalzi (even if one of his earlier books).
So you’re a seriously smelly, ugly race from outer space; you know this because you seen our TV and movies. You also know from said body of work that humans will not naturally take to you. Yet you’re a peaceful and curious lot who want to get to know us better. What to do? You, of course, hire an agent to help you with PR. Where else would you go to influence people and win over friends than dear, old Hollywood?
One of the things I love about the protagonist, Thomas Stein and, indeed, the aliens (the Yherajk), Carl (Thomas Stein’s boss) and his admin, Miranda is that they remain relatively reasonable in their responses to the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. Even when things go deeply awry, reasonableness ensues. OK, there’s a punch to a nose that wasn’t the most staid activity on the planet as well as a deep desire to use a golf club on something other than a golf ball, but overall, a pretty reasonable bunch. For anyone who has followed Mr. Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, knows that tendency in the blog as well. While Mr. Scalzi will clearly, starkly and sometimes with sizzle express his views, he does so with civility. Decorum’s out but civility is definitely in (with the occasional exception of dealing with the uncivil.)
One of the interesting parts of this is that it makes it sound somewhat dull; not so much. First, you have a procacious alien with the best straight-man in the form of our protagonist. Second, it allows the focus on the storyline and less on the reactions. Finally, it lends itself to that fine SciFi tradition of incorporating discussion of serious issues within the relatively safe confines of aliens. Agent to the Stars does this with about as smooth a build up as I’ve seen; wanting to avoid any spoilers I’ll leave it at that.
I actually listened to the audiobook version with Wil Wheaton (probably best know as Wesley Crusher) narrating. Anytime Messrs Wheaton and Scalzi join together on a project, fun will be had. Mr. Wheaton does a great job bringing out the various characters and is particularly good at playing the saucy, somewhat snarky alien Joshua and the smooth Roland Lanois. I believe snarkiness is his forte, but smoothness closely follows.
So, without spoilers, I’ll simply say that for a light, enjoyable bit of fun humor, Agent to the Stars is great. It helps if you’re clued into current pop culture, but is not a prerequisite. You may not learn to love the bomb, but you will learn to love Joshua, the Yherajk and the gang.