Agent to the Stars – John Scalzi

I put great emphasis on readability when I’m looking for a book to read. So Agent to the Stars ain’t exactly Dickens, but then on the other hand, it ain’t exactly Dickens. Don’t get me wrong – I love Charles Dickens, and he was the popular literature at the time, but popular literature has to evolve, and Agent to the Stars is pretty well the high water mark for modern popular lit.

This was John Scalzi’s debut novel, the first one he published, albeit by uploading it to his personal website, and asking readers to chip in if they enjoyed it. He wouldn’t start gaining critical acclaim until Old Man’s War was published five years later. And for a debut novel? It isn’t bad.

Scalzi’s prose is characterized by long dialogue sequences, mostly revealing the plot through conversations rather than dumps of explanatory text. It’s nearly a hundred-thousand words, yet I was able to read it in just a few hours. It’s fast-paced, easy to read, and accessible. You don’t have to know the history of Science Fiction to get this book. The plot plays out pretty much how you expect it to, and the plot isn’t overbearing. You’re not going in for big philosophical views, but I’m sure that if you looked hard enough, you’d be able to find them.

The plot centres around a Hollywood agent, trying to figure out how to introduce a monstrous-looking, but good-hearted species of aliens. Enamored by our culture, they strapped themselves to an asteroid, and spent years traveling from their home planet to Earth. How does an elderly dog, and a rather dumb young actress play into it? That’s where the fun comes in.

And that’s what I mean by “popular literature”. His dialogue is natural – for the most part – and flows like a real conversation should. He doesn’t overburden with complicated, flowery descriptions that serve no purpose other than to show off his chops. Agent is accessible to the general public, a good jumping off point for readers looking to expand their literary tastes.

If you’re looking for something light to read over the holidays, or an introduction to Sci-Fi, I think this one will be for you. Enjoyable, not too taxing, and a quick read.

Agent to the Stars was published first in 2005, and is available from Tor

I enjoyed it | I thought this book was fairly written | I would recommend it