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REVIEW: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

REVIEW SUMMARY: A humorous romp through the trials and tribulations of human’s first contact with aliens.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A first contact story like no other — aliens finally come to Earth, but because their forms are distasteful, need an image makeover and hire a Hollywood agent to introduce them to humanity.

PROS: Scalzi’s prose is very readable and kept me engaged to the end.
CONS: I suspected the ending halfway through.
BOTTOM LINE: A humorous read and, because of it’s personable writing style, a book I’d recommend to someone usually intimidated by reading Science Fiction.

What stood out for me most with Agent to the Stars is the more humorous writing style and upbeat tone than what I’ve encountered in a few of John Scalzi’s other books. While I enjoyed those other books, Agent to the Stars reads very easily, much like Scalzi’s Whatever blog. Because the storytelling is never bogged down in techspeak, I’ll likely recommend this book to a few friends who normally steer clear of Science Fiction.

Often first contact stories depict good guy aliens as humanoid and bad guy aliens as hideous. Scalzi turned this trope on its head and created good guy aliens with many of the traits humans find distressing, not the least of which is their gelatinous appearance and lack of anything resembling a face. The only plus for the Yherajk is that they don’t look like arachnids, but they are indeed really, really stinky.

Scalzi uses humor to deal with provocative issues such as mind control and the presence or lack of one’s soul. The story is written in first person, so I stumbled briefly over a point of view switch, but in hindsight understand why Scalzi made the choice to tell the story this particular way. By far my favorite character was Miranda, the protagonist’s quirky and forthright assistant. I can only hope that at some point humans teach the Yherajk some nice smells to expand their odiferous repertoire.

Overall, Agent to the Stars is a pleasurable read and I hope one day Scalzi decides to write another Science Fiction comedy.

8 Comments on REVIEW: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

  1. John Scalzi has posted Agent to the Stars on his website.  It’s wonderful when authors post free stuff like that. Regardless of how many times I read that his work was great, I wasn’t going to search out his miltary scifi series.  Then I enjoyed Agent to the Stars so much I read it in one afternoon, and two more books of his in the next week!

  2. I received this as a Christmas gift and it is really close to the top of my to-be-read pile.  I’ve heard really good things from many about it, glad to see that you concur.  I really enjoyed John Scalzi’s brand of humor in Android’s Dream (in all his books really).

  3. madscientistnz: This book has a very different, humorous tone from Scalzi’s military series. I liked those too, but was definitely pleasantly surprised.

    Carl V.: I haven’t read Android’s Dream yet, but have heard that it’s very similar in tone to Agent to the Stars, so I’ll definitely be reading it at some point.

  4. I like Scalzi a lot because he’s so fun to read. All of his sci-fi is really readable even if you’re not a huge sci-fi fan.

  5. Whenever you get around to it I hope to see your review.  It was great fun and my hopes are that Agent, though a different story, will have that same feel. 

  6. If you liked Agent you might like The Androids Dream. It was also a Scifi Comedy. It has, basically, a full chapter Fart joke in a scent. Er so to speak … Had me Laughing out load at times.

  7. I enjoyed “Old Man’s War” a lot, but I thought “Agent to the Stars” was disappointing for two reasons.  First of all, like the reviewer above, I thought the resolution was way too predictable.  More importantly, the one thing that annoyed me in “Old Man’s War” – otherwise a great novel – was that every single character seemed to have the same speech pattern, with the same snarky sense of humor and glib jokes.  Imagine my surprise when the agent in this book has the exact same speech pattern – as did his boss, and his assistant, AND the 2 aliens who communicate with the earthlings.  It’s fun and entertaining to read, but really, I’d expect more than one character from an author.  So I didn’t like “Agent to the Stars”, but I do plan to eventually read the sequels to “Old Man’s War”.  (By the way, “Agent to the Stars” will be the SF Book of the Month at Beyond Reality in March.)

  8. Great review! If HBO made this into a series I’d love to see Ari Gold as the agent–holy guacamole that’d be awesome.

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