Agent to the Stars

( 42 )


The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity?s first interstellar friendship. There?s just one problem: They?re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish.

So getting humanity?s trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal.

Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He?s one of Hollywood?s hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded ...

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The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity’s first interstellar friendship. There’s just one problem: They’re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish.

So getting humanity’s trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal.

Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He’s one of Hollywood’s hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it’s quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he’s going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this slick, lightweight SF yarn from Scalzi (Old Man's War), Thomas Stein, a hot young Hollywood agent, has just negotiated a multimillion-dollar deal for his friend, starlet Michelle Beck, when his boss, Carl Lupo, foists a space alien called Joshua on him. Joshua and his people, the Yherajk, are intelligent, gelatinous, shape-shifting blobs that communicate telepathically and by sharing odors. They've been monitoring Earth's TV broadcasts and realize that before they can make first contact, they'll have to deal with their image problem. Tom takes on the job of making the friendly, odiferous creatures palatable to humanity, while keeping Michelle and the rest of his other acting clients happy. Several entertaining trips to the aliens' spaceship enliven the predictable plot. Agent, Ethan Ellenberg. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

“With a plot that starts out as the rough life of a young agent in Hollywood and rapidly metamorphoses into B-movie territory as a remarkably intelligent first-contact yarn, this book is absurd, funny, and satirically perceptive.”
--Booklist on Agent to the Stars

“If Stephen King were to try his hand at science fiction, he’d be lucky to be half as entertaining as John Scalzi.”
--Dallas Morning News on The Ghost Brigades

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765317711
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 10/28/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 489,160
  • Product dimensions: 8.28 (w) x 5.34 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

John Scalzi
John Scalzi is the author of several SF novels including the bestselling Old Man’s War sequence, comprising Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, and the New York Times-bestselling The Last Colony. He is a winner of science fiction’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and he won the Hugo Award for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, a collection of essays from his popular blog Whatever. His latest novel, Fuzzy Nation, hit the New York Times bestseller list in its first week on sale. He lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter.
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Read an Excerpt

Agent to the Stars

"Fourteen million and fifteen percent of the gross? For Michelle Beck? You're out of your fucking mind, Tom."
Headsets are a godsend; they allow you to speak on the phone while leaving your hands free for the truly important things. My hands were currently occupied with a blue rubber racquetball, which I was lightly bouncing off the pane of my office window. Each quiet thock left a tiny imprint on the glass. It looked like a litter of poodles had levitated six feet off the ground and schmooged their noses against the window. Someone would eventually have to wipe them all off.
"I've had my medication for today, Brad," I said. "Believe me, fourteen million and fifteen points is a perfectly sane fig-- ure, from my client's point of view."
"She's not worth anywhere near that much," Brad said."A year ago she was paid $375,000, flat. I know. I wrote the check."
"A year ago, Summertime Blues hadn't hit the theaters, Brad. It's now $220 million later. Not to mention your own Murdered Earth--$85 million for perhaps the worst film in recent history. And that's before foreign, where no one will notice that there's no plot. I'd say you got your one cheap taste. Now you've gotta pay."
"Murdered Earth wasn't that bad. And she wasn't the star."
"I quote Variety," I said, catching the ball left-handed for the briefest of seconds before hurling it back against the glass, "'Murdered Earth is the sort of film you hope never makes it to network television, because nearby aliens might pick up its broadcast signal and use it as an excuse to annihilate us all.' That was one of the nicer comments. And if she wasn't the star, why did you plaster her all over the posters and give her second billing?"
"What are you all about?" Brad said. "I remember you practically doing me for that artwork and billing."
"So you're saying you'll do anything I say? Great! Fourteen million and fifteen percent of the gross. Gee, that was easy."
The door opened. I turned away from the window to face my desk. Miranda Escalon, my administrative assistant, entered my office and slipped me a note. Michelle just called, it read. Remember that you have to get them to pay for her hairdresser and makeup artist, it read.
"Look, Tom," Brad said. "You know we want Michelle. But you're asking too much. Allen is getting $20 million and twenty percent of the gross. If we give Michelle what she wants, that's $35 million and a third of the gross right there. Where do you suggest we might make a profit?"
$14 million, she can pay for her own damn hair, I wrote on the pad. Miranda read it and raised her eyebrows. She left the room. The odds of her actually giving that message to Michelle were unimaginably remote. She's not paid to do everything I say--she's paid to do everything I should say. There's a difference.
"I have two points to make here," I said, turning my attention back to Brad. "First: Allen Green isn't my client. If he were, I'd be endlessly fascinated by the amount of money you're throwing to him. But he is not. Therefore, I could not possibly give two shits about what you're handing him. My responsibility is to my client and getting a fair deal for her. Second: $20 million for Allen Green? You're an idiot."
"Allen Green is a major star."
"Allen Green was a major star," I said, "When I was in high school. I'm about to go back for my tenth-year reunion. He's been out in the wilderness for a long time, Brad. Michelle, on the other hand, is a major star. Right now. $300 million in her last two films. Fourteen million is a bargain."
The door opened. Miranda popped her head in. She's back, she mouthed.
"Tom," Brad began.
"Hold on a second, Brad. The woman herself is on the other line." I cut him off before he could say anything. "What?" I said to Miranda.
"Miss Thing says she has to talk to you right now about something very important that can't wait."
"Tell her I'm already working on the hairdresser."
"No, it's even more important than that," Miranda said. "From the sound of it, it may be the most important thing ever in the history of mankind. Even more important than the invention of liposuction."
"Don't be mocking liposuction, Miranda. It has extended the career of many an actress, thus benefiting their agents, allowing them to pay your salary. Liposuction is your friend."
"Line two," Miranda said. "Let me know if fat-sucking is toppled."
I punched the button for line two. Ambient street noise filled my earphones. Michelle was undoubtedly careening along Santa Monica Boulevard.
"Michelle," I said. "I'm trying to make you very rich. Whatever it is, make it quick."
"Ellen Merlow got Hard Memories." Michelle said. "I thought I was in the running for that. I thought I had it."
"Don't feel too bad about it, Michelle," I said. "Everyone was up for that one. If you didn't get it, that puts you in there with Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep. You're in good company. Besides, the pay wasn't that good."
I heard a short brake squeal, followed by a horn and some muffled yelling. Michelle had cut someone off. "Tom, I need roles like that, you know? I don't want to be doing Summertime Blues for the next ten years. This role would have helped me stretch. I want to work on my craft."
At the word craft, I mimed stabbing myself in the eye. "Michelle, right now you're the biggest female star in Hollywood. Let's work with that for a couple of movies, okay? Get a nice nest egg. Your craft will still be there later."
"I'm right for this role, Tom."
"The role is a fortyish Jewish woman victimized in the Warsaw ghetto and Treblinka, who then fights racism in the United States," I said. "You're twenty-five. And you're blonde." And you think Treblinka is a shop on Melrose. I kept that last thought in my head. No point confusing her.
"Cate Blanchett is blonde."
"Cate Blanchett also has an Oscar," I said. "So does Ellen, for that matter. One in each acting category. And she's also not twenty-five, or blonde. Michelle, let it go. If you want to work on your craft, we can get you into some live theater. That's craft. Craft up the wazoo. They're doing Doll's House over at the Geffen. You'll love it."
"Tom, I want that part."
"We'll talk about it later, Michelle. I've got to get back to Brad. Gotta go. We'll talk soon."
"Remember to tell him about the hair--" I clicked her off and switched Brad back on. "Sorry, Brad."
"I hope she was telling you not to blow this offer by asking for too much," Brad said.
"Actually, she was telling me about another project she's really passionate about," I said. "Hard Memories."
"Oh, come on," Brad said. "She's a little young and blonde to be playing Yentl, isn't she? Anyway, Ellen Merlow just got that part. Read it in the Times today."
"Since when does the Times get anything right? Michelle's a little young for the part, yes, but that's what makeup is for. She's a draw. Could get a whole other audience for serious drama."
Brad snorted. "She won't be getting fourteen million for that," he said. "That's their entire budget."
"No, but she'll be working on her craft," I said. I popped the ball up and down on my desk. "The academy eats that stuff up. It's a nomination, easy. Like Charlize Theron in Monster." Sometimes I can't believe what comes out of my own mouth.
But it was working. I could hear Brad weighing the options in his mind. The project at hand was the sequel to MurderedEarth--called, in a burst of true creativity, Earth Resurrected. They had a problem: they killed off the hero in the first film. Which was just as well, since Mark Glavin, who played him, was a loser who was well on his way to replicating the career arc of Mickey Rourke.
So when it came to the sequel, they had to build it around Michelle, whose character managed to survive. The script had been written, the casting completed, and the preproduction was rolling along under a full head of steam. Stopping now to recast or rewrite was not an option. They were over a barrel--they knew it and I knew it. What we were arguing about now was the size of the barrel.
Miranda's head popped through the door again. I glared at her. She shook her head. Not her, she mouthed. Carl.
I set the ball down. When? I mouthed.
Three minutes, she mouthed.
"Brad, listen," I said. "I've got to get--I've just been told I have a meeting with Carl. He's going to want to know where we stand on this. Hard Memories has about wrapped up its casting. We have to tell them one thing or another. I have to tell Carl one thing or another."
I could hear Brad counting in his head. "Fuck," he said, finally. "Ten million and ten percent."
I glanced down at my watch "Brad, it's been a pleasure talking to you. I hope that my client can work with you again at some point in the future. In the meantime, I wish you and the other Murdered Earth producers the best of success. We're going to miss being a part of that family."
"You bastard," Brad said. "Twelve five, salary and percentage. That's it. Take it or don't."
"And you hire her hair and makeup people."
Brad sighed. "Fine. Why the hell not. Allen's bringing his people. It'll be one big party. We'll all put on pancake together and then get a weave."
"Well, then, we have a deal. Courier over the contract and we'll start picking at it. And remember we still need to wrangle about merchandising."
"You know, Tom," Brad said, "I remember when you were a nice kid."
"I'm still a nice kid, Brad," I said. "It's just now I've got clients that you need. Chat with you soon." I hit the phone button and looked at my watch.
I just closed the biggest deal of the year to date, earned one and a quarter million for my company and myself, and still had ninety seconds before the meeting with Carl. More than enough time to pee.
When you're good, you're good.
Copyright © 2005 by John Scalzi

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 42 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 42 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2008

    lighthearted first contact satire

    Although relatively young compared to his envious peers, Hollywood agent Tom Stein is the top gun in his vocation at this moment. His confidence is extremely high that he can sell anyone. His newest star literally comes from the stars. He will represent the sentient alien Yherajk as they make their first appearance on the earth stage. --- However selling the Yherajk to xenophobics will be difficult as the Yherajk are not what humans would call centerfold material. Instead they are gelatin gels with a distinct odor that makes a spraying skunk smell nice. However Tom is confident he can sell his new client to humans though he understands the issues he and Yherajk face. --- Although he leaves the military science fiction sector (see THE ANDROID'S DREAM and the OLD MAN'S WAR), John Scalzi continues his specialty of lampooning icons this time Hollywood and spin doctors. The story line is amusing as Tom adheres to the Barnum-Bush capitalist theory that you can sell to the American people anything. Fans who enjoy a lighthearted first contact satire will relish the selling of a species that smell worse than fish rotting. --- Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Terrific Story from Master Sci Fi Author

    It's hard to imagine that this book started as an experiment by John Scalzi to see if he could write a novel. He ended up creating a wonderful story of alien first contact built upon the base of all of Scalzi's novels - creative plot and story-telling mixed with amazing dialogue.

    "Agent to the Stars" is a story of first contact, where space produces alien good guys and Hollywood produces human bad guys. The premise is terrific...Joshua is an alien representing his race who were drawn to Earth by our 70+ years of TV and Radio signals. The aliens want help with their introduction to the planet. And so naturally, they've reached out to a talent agent - Tom Stein. As Joshua says, "We look like snot. And we smell like dead fish. We have seen "The Blob" and it is us. We need an agent to get us the role of the friendly aliens."

    Fans of John Scalzi will recognize a few things. First, snappy and witty dialogue keeps the story moving at a fantastic pace. One can't help but compare the character interactions across several of Scalzi's books, but I was particularly struck by how similar the interplay was between Stein and his assistant Miranda, and Scalzi's "Last Colony"/"Zoe's Tale" characters John Perry and his assistant Savitri.

    The aliens have loads of personality, but like the Obin in the world of Scalzi's "Old Man's War", they have the ability to share consciousness across their entire race. These aliens also have the ability move consciousness from one living vessel to another. I won't give away too much of the fun plot line, but in the context of what Scalzi would go on to write, it's a lot of fun to see him start playing with and crafting this premise. There's a little bit of a deus ex machina in this vein, but Scalzi is a deft writer and carries it off.

    In his introduction, Scalzi states that he made minimal updates to the book in its current iteration. He spent a little time updating some of the pop culture references which fall from the page like candy from a machine. As usual, Scalzi's characters are well-shaped and interesting.

    It was such a fantastic read that I was saddened by coming to the end.
    The book is light and only serious in parts. But make no mistake, the book is seriously good.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Fun Read from Scalzi...again!

    AGENT TO THE STARS could've been a one-joke novel, with some success. And, for the first hundred pages, it certainly plays like one. However, those hundred pages are deceptive, and when the plot heats up, you realize that those pages were essential to setting up the rest of the book. Which, of course, is a lot of fun, but surprisingly humane, and actually rather touching. Even though it's recently published, it was Scalzi's first attempt at a novel, and he really pulls it off well. It's not as flat-out entertaining and wonderful as his "Old Man's War" novels, but still, it's not bad at all.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2012

    Better than movie night!

    I'm interested in other books by John Scalzi after reading this. It has great character and some fun easy feeling!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2011

    Great book

    One of the most enjoyable books I have ever read. Scalzi has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I usually read fantasy, but he has become a writer I will read just about anything he puts out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    Ever wonder how an alien race would introduce themselves to Earth? Why through a Hollywood agent of course. That is the basic plot to this must read by John Scalzi, but don't let it's apparent cheesiness fool you. This is a well thought out storyline that makes you think about prejudices. How important are appearances? What makes us human? So take an adventure with Thomas Stein, Hollywood agent, and an alien named Joshua and see what happens when aliens hire agents!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2010

    Hollywood & Aliens. Love it.

    This was the story of how aliens with a bit of savvy might go about initiating first contact... Not by speaking with governments, but by speaking to Hollywood. It's a fascinating and original idea, and Scalzi does a great job of making a wonderful, tongue-in-cheek tale of alien contact.

    A highly-researched novel with all the I's dotted and the T's crossed this is *not*. There are plenty of places where I found myself asking, "But what if?" and other places where I thought that Scalzi's depiction of the "common man's" response was a bit more optimistic (in service to his story) than was strictly believable.

    But in the introduction, Scalzi himself notes that he'd never actually intended to publish this: it was his first practice novel. And if you read it to enjoy the wonderful characterizations of humans and aliens, setting aside the logic flaws, the book truly shines. I had a wonderful time with it.

    5 of 5 stars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2014

    Invasion of the reluctant aliens

    Take the body snatchers, pod people, replicants, puppet master, and other aliens invasions involving taking over humanity. Add morality, friendship, and charm befitting a talk show host. Now have them guided by hollywood, and youve got these aliens.

    Story line is not all that different from the Thing or other such b-rated scifi movie, but with a whole new and fresh perspective that flips the story. Very funny and entertaining, like a retelling of a myth or childhood story where yhe wolf or witch are the god guys.

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  • Posted May 18, 2013

    My brother, who is a sci=fi freak, put this book in my hand and

    My brother, who is a sci=fi freak, put this book in my hand and said to read it. Reluctantly I started with no intent on finishing but I found I really liked it. It's funny, light and keeps you going. I highly recommend it. I don't think anyone has ever written something quite as unique as this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2013

    Fun Read

    Enjoyed the book greatly. Characters were easy to like, and any story with benign alien encounters couched in humor is great.

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    Posted October 20, 2010

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    Posted July 6, 2010

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    Posted January 12, 2011

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    Posted January 23, 2011

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    Posted June 7, 2011

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    Posted November 2, 2010

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    Posted September 3, 2010

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    Posted April 26, 2010

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    Posted December 22, 2009

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    Posted May 31, 2010

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