Title: Agent to the Stars
Author: John Scalzi
Skiffy, especially self-aware skiffy, is one of my favorite genres, and John Scalzi does it well with Agent to the Stars. Unfortunately, there's a point where the humor's charm wears off. Up until then, it's a fantastic book. It's the last bit that drags it down.
As some of you might know, one of my favorite series is parody skiffy. Agent to the Stars has a lot of the same feel: not taking itself seriously, having things a bit over-the-top, and a bit of an underwhelming plot. One of the major differences between the Stainless Steel Rat books and Agent to the Stars, though, is that the former is short and the latter went on a bit too long.
The premise is pretty simple: an agent in Southern California is approached by his boss about an all new client: an alien named Joshua. These aliens are afraid that if they just announce themselves via the "normal" methods (what you see in media) no one will trust their good intentions. So where's the real power? In Hollywood, of course! So they need an agent to make sure that their reception is good...
The plot wasn't entirely underwhelming, but somehow it managed to have an abrupt ending whilst still going on too long. And there was little to no denouement. It's hard to have an emotional reaction to the resolution of the plot because there are literally five pages left to the book once you get there.
And it's not like I didn't see the end coming. It was pretty clear from where I was sitting for a good portion of the book. Granted, when you know the end must be coming soon because the book is running out, it probably helps these kinds of predictions.
But that's not to say Agent to the Stars isn't a good book. There's a lot of really funny shit that goes down in it. I was honestly laughing out loud during many parts of it, and it certainly didn't feel like a waste of my time. It has all of Scalzi's charm, but without any refinement... which makes sense. As he explains before the story starts, this was the novel he wrote to figure out whether or not he could write a novel.
In other words, this is the first thing he ever wrote. And it's pretty darn good for that. It's actually really neat to read it after some of his other works, simply because you can see how far his craft has come.