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A book review by Steven Wu
March 11, 2009
|Rating: 8 (of 10)|
Agent to the Stars, like The Android's Dream, is a straight-up farce. Tom Stein is a Hollywood agent with one big-time client and an unruly zoo of Z-listers. One unassuming morning, his boss calls him in and drops a bombshell: aliens have contacted Earth, and they want to be represented. It turns out that the aliens, though benevolent, look like huge lumps of Jell-O ("We have seen The Blob, and it is us," one of them says), and so they figure that they need a Hollywood spin doctor to massage their introduction to the population at large. And guess who has some free time at work?
It's a completely ridiculous premise, and Scalzi runs with it in a predictably entertaining manner. The story features plenty of unlikely and amusing twists, and ends with smiles and high-fives all around. There are no bad guys, only future friends, for whom all is inevitably forgiven. In short, Agent to the Stars is hilarious, clever, and brisk -- and as insubstantial as whipped cream.
There are some misfires. Several of Scalzi's jokes fall flat. And (no joke) the story has an unfortunate Holocaust angle that seems out of place from the beginning but then alarmingly expands into an ever larger narrative and thematic role.
My biggest criticism, though, is really external to the book. From this first novel to his more recent works, Scalzi has written in a remarkably consistent voice that seems to support only one type of narrative (madcap) and one type of character (smart aleck). Maybe he can spend a lifetime writing in that voice -- I, for one, have yet to grow tired of it. But I wonder if there's more to Scalzi than what we've seen so far.
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