Agent to the Stars. Five years ago I read another book by Scalzi, which impressed me as having a very original idea but also disappointed me by handling its characters as if they were pieces in a checkers game. So reading other titles by him has not been a priority since then. However, this one overcame my resistance because the idea behind the plot is just so delicious.
Friendly aliens have hired a publicist to help them make a good impression when they introduce themselves to Earthlings. Before proceeding, they need some help overcoming a negative: Briefly, they smell bad.
I identified with the aliens’ problem, since I am trying to present a book I wrote in the best possible light. No, you will not find me saying that my book stinks! Quite to the contrary, it’s the best and most important thing I have ever written. But who am I? The world doesn’t know, doesn’t particularly care, and that’s a major hurdle for anybody who has something to say.
OK, the idea is great, but what about the writing? I was pleasantly surprised. The dialog is extremely funny. The characters this time are three-dimensional. There’s a fair amount of underlying thought in terms of things like right and wrong. And (always a plus with me) there’s a benevolence on the part of the author that offers hope of redemption even to the creeps in the story.
A note at the beginning says the author wrote this just for fun, just to see if he could write a book, and that he never expected to see it published. To that, I say Wow! He needs to hang on to whatever frame of mind he brought to this early project.
I almost gave it five stars. Went with just four because most of the laughs are in the first third of the story, and after that things occasionally bog down while the characters deal with ethical questions before going ahead and doing what you know they’re going to do. It could have been a little better. But it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read. Check it out!
Stephen Gallup is the author of a memoir, What About the Boy: A Father’s Pledge to His Disabled Son. He has an eclectic interest in books and authors, and reviews books as part of his passion for the written word. He blogs at fatherspledge.com.