Agent to the Stars
|Cover artist||Irene Gallo|
|Published||August 2005 Subterranean Press|
|Media type||Print (paperback)|
Agent to the Stars is a science fiction novel by american writer John Scalzi. It tells the story of Tom Stein, a young Hollywood agent who is hired by an alien race to handle the revelation of their presence to humanity.
Scalzi started Agent to the Stars in 1997 as his "practice" novel, to see if he could write a novel. He published it as a shareware novel on his web site in 1999, requesting that readers send him $1 if they liked the story. After five years, during which he reports he made about $4,000, he stopped asking for further donations.
After the publication of Scalzi's second book, Old Man's War, by Tor Books, a limited edition of Agent to the Stars was published in 2005 by Subterranean Press, with a cover by Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade fame. Tor later released a trade paperback edition in November 2008, and a mass market edition in December 2010. An audiobook version narrated by Wil Wheaton was released on December 7, 2010.
Tom Stein is a celebrity agent, representing a handful of Hollywood actors, the most famous of which is Michelle Beck, an earnest but brainless blonde who wants to break into serious acting despite having very limited talent. Carl Lupo, Tom's boss, tells him to drop all his clients in order to take on Joshua. Joshua, as it turns out, is a Yherjak, an amorphous ameboid species that communicate through olfactory transmission, and smell horrifically awful, that have traveled to Earth in an asteroid to make first contact. Realizing they fit the Hollywood movie description of an alien monster, the aliens contacted Carl surreptitiously and created Joshua through an amalgam of Yherjak and Carl's thoughts.
Joshua hides at Tom's house, and fuses with Ralph, an elderly dog that Tom had been caring for, after Ralph suffered a heart attack. In order to give Joshua something to do, he begins hiring Joshua the dog out for roles, and he instantly becomes the most wanted canine actor in Hollywood, given his apparent abilities.
Later, after a disastrous reading for a part in a Holocaust drama movie, Michelle is accidentally smothered while making a special effect mask for a sci-fi movie. Realizing that the Yherjak could heal her by bonding, similar to how Joshua bonded with Ralph the dog, he conspires to take her to the ship. This causes an uproar, as bonding with a sentient member of a species is the most atrocious act among the Yherjak, and also that Michelle committed suicide. Upon further inspection, and learning that Michelle had suffocated by accident, the Yherjak agree and Michelle reemerges, now a mental amalgam of Michelle, Joshua, Carl, and Ralph the dog.
Tom stumbles on the idea of casting Michelle in the Holocaust film Hard Memories. After meeting Tom's grandmother Sarah Rosenthal, a Holocaust survivor, Michelle absorbs her memories and delivers a blistering audition. The movie is an unparalleled success, and Michelle wins an Academy Award for Best Actress. During her acceptance speech, she gradually asserts her normal, clear gelatinous shape, while making a call for acceptance regardless of appearance or form. The Yherjak, revealed at last, are widely accepted.
Publishers Weekly considered it to be "slick" and "lightweight", with a "predictable plot" that was nonetheless "entertaining". Amazing Stories described it as "disposable, cynical fun with a big heart" and "rather low-key for a first contact story", with a "knowingly silly set-up", "reasonably sharp" characters and dialogue, and a realistic-feeling portrayal of life in a talent agency. The SF Site compared it to the work of Spider Robinson and Robert Heinlein, calling it "(t)hought-provoking and entertaining", and praising Scalzi for exploring the human tendency to couple morality with esthetics.
- "Agent to the Stars -- An Online Novel". Retrieved 2011-12-22.
- Scalzi, John (December 2010). Agent to the Stars. Tor Books. ISBN 978-0-7653-5700-7.
- Agent to the Stars, reviewed at Publishers Weekly; published June 20, 205; retrieved October 4, 2017
- Review – Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi Archived 2017-10-05 at the Wayback Machine, reviewed by Gary Dalkin; in Amazing Stories; published April 3, 2014; retrieved October 4, 2017
- Agent to the Stars, reviewed by Michael M. Jones, at the SF Site; published 2009; retrieved October 4, 2017