From New York Times bestseller and Hugo Award-winner, John Scalzi, a gleeful mash-up of science fiction and Hollywood satire
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.
Other Tor Books
The Android’s Dream
Agent to the Stars
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
1. Lock In
2. Head On
The Interdepency Sequence
1. The Collapsing Empire
2. The Consuming Fire
Old Man's War Series
1. Old Man’s War
2. The Ghost Brigades
3. The Last Colony
4. Zoe’s Tale
5. The Human Division
6. The End of All Things
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
John Scalzi won the 2006 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and his debut novel Old Man's War was a finalist for science fiction's Hugo Award. His other books include The Ghost Brigades, The Android's Dream and The Last Colony. He has won the Hugo Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for science-fiction, the Seiun, The Kurd Lasswitz and the Geffen awards. His weblog, Whatever, is one of the most widely-read web sites in modern SF. Born and raised in California, Scalzi studied at the University of Chicago. He lives in southern Ohio with his wife and daughter.
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 sayshe'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 MurderedEarthcalled, 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 barrelthey 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 getI'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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
This was a cute and amusing book. For free on his blog first aparently. Light and funny.
I really enjoyed this. It's rollicking good fun and just plain silly, but also manages to touch on "issues." I cried twice, which is pretty good for a comedy. My only issue with it was a plot issue which will only bother a few people. There's a plot point revolving around making a latex life-mask, but no one in the industry does this. Everyone uses alginate. Even though I had to manually engage that bit of willing suspension of disbelief, I still enjoyed this very much.
Fun and engaging story, but it didn't blow me away or anything. That said, I *highly* recommend Wil Wheaton's narration of the audiobook version.
One of the best books I've read in quite awhile, and possibly one of the funniest non-Terry-Pratchett books I've read in even longer.The aliens are refreshingly original AND plausible, and the entire scenario is...well, it's hard to say that a case of aliens coming to Earth and wanting to make introductions is either completely unrealistic OR completely possible, but it's certainly more believable in this case than in the case of your standard "aliens arrive and everything's peachy" or "aliens arrive and destroy the White House" scenarios - both of which are spoofed/referenced in the book.The Hollywood environment and the world of agenting and movies was incredibly realistic, too - in fact, I'd be hard-pressed to say what was more plausible...the shark-tank environment of casting and negotiations, or the way everyone handles the appearance of gelatinous aliens who communicate through smell. The action moves along swiftly, the characters make you want to go out to lunch with them, and the larger scenario - again, those aliens, and why they're here, and what they think of us, and why they're doing what they're doing in Hollywood - is incredibly detailed, well-conceived, and gripping. That right there is the best part of the book - couched in humour, it presents a really intriguing study of human nature, the possibilities of first contact, and how we react to the unknown and the known alike. But really, you don't notice all those lessons until the book is over, because it's just that damn entertaining.My only quibble is that I would've liked to see more of the rookie agent who was called in at the beginning, out of convenience, and then handily shunted aside. Poor little Maguffin; she could've been quite interesting, from what we saw of her.Aside from that tiny detail? Almost a perfect book if you like your aliens intriguingly unique and realistic, and leavened with a hefty dose of humour.
A little slow to start but very glad I stuck with it. Great book.
My sister recommended this novella, mostly because I hadn't read it yet. It was a bit hard to get into, but once I did I fell in love. It was hilarious and lovely, while also being utterly ridiculous. I'm a fan of Scalzi's writing (blog posts and book) and this is no exception. I was also quite amused at the multiple meanings of the title. Scalzi's play on words is reflected in the novella as well. Who knew aliens could be quite this much fun? No me, that's for sure.
This is a very funny book but I listened to the audio version of it and it just didn't hold my interest. I needed to be in a better mindset to enjoy it more. I think others would appreciate it more than I did.
Aliens have arrived at Earth and want to make friendly contact with us. However, being basically smelly blobs of goo, they anticipate having something of a PR problem. So they hire a Hollywood agent to manage their image.It's a silly story, really. There's not much pretense at realism, the plot is fairly thin, and I saw the ending coming a light year away. And yet, it's very entertaining, in a fun, breezy, occasionally quite funny sort of way, and it managed to bring a smile to my face during a mildly stressful week. Also, the aliens are actually interesting, and rather less cliche than you'd expect.According to the introduction, this was Scalzi's first novel, written solely for practice and not something he ever expected to be published. Which makes me think that I really need to read more of his stuff. Lightweight as it is, this is still better writing than some SF writers ever manage, so I'll be interested to see what he can do when he's actually trying.
Humanity has made first contact with an alien race. Unfortunately, they don't yet know that the Yherajk have been sitting in orbit watching TV for decades. If they had, they might not have put on quite so many reruns.The Yherajk, on the other hand, have got it all figured out. They don't need to land their spaceship on the White House lawn and say, "Take me to your leader." For one thing, they're grey and gelatinous and they smell like rotting fish. What they need is an agent.Enter Tom Stein, a twentysomething newly minted agent in Hollywood, his hard-as-nails assistant Miranda, his boss, Carl (who alone of the human race has had first contact happen in his pool) and Joshua. An alien. Called Joshua. The great thing about this novel is that all of the characters are archetypes - except Scalzi is no good at archetypes, and they all swiftly develop complexities and motivation. And there's snappy dialogue. And plot twists. And people who smell like rotting fish. A lovely, ridiculous, light-as-air book, that lives up handsomely to the delight of the initial premise. I recommend it.
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.
Another very enjoyable and funny book from Mr. Scalzi. If that's really his original first book: kudos! (spoiler) The only portion I have a problem with is the taking over of the human at the end: to me that would not be a positive when people learn about it... But overall a good story.
A fun book, great characters, an interesting alien. Great story. The ending was a bit abrupt though.
Great book from beginning to end. Now it seems so obvious that aliens would choose Hollywood to make their first human contact.
In the preface, Scalzi talks about his being his "tester" novel--the one he wrote to see if he could do it. It's the story of an alien race that decides to come to Earth after intercepting our broadcast signals. They've decided not to invade but instead hire a Hollywood talent agent to help them make their big debut. There's just one small problem--the aliens are gelatinous and smell pretty foul. The story takes off from there, alternating between the alien (whose name is Joshua) trying to find a way to live among humanity and Scalzi's narrator taking funny shots at various Hollywood celebrities and films. The tone is very much like his "The Android's Dream" at times with a more Pratchett-like tone to some of the segments. Thankfully, unlike a lot of imitators, Sclazi can pull off being witty without it feeling forced or overstaying its welcome. Had I not known this was a first novel for Scalzi, I might not have necessarily guessed.
Considering I don't like farce at all, this is surprisingly enjoyable, and did actually have me laughing a few times.Tom Stein is an agent acting on the part of various C-list stars in Holywood. he manages to negotiate a $12mil fee for his best star 'Michelle Beck' which brings him to the attention of his firm's boss Carl. Carl has a very novel client for him: the Yherajk! Yes aliens have arrived at earth and despite their somewhat unappealing apperance and abilities, they are peaceful and interested in friendly relations with humankinds. However having watched human TV for many years, they are also aware of humanities inclination to believe the worst about aliens. Hence they have hired and agent to represent them and stage manage their appearance on Earth. Tom finds this a bit hard ot deal with - but starts by having Joshua live with him for a while so that both can learn more about each other.It's silly. It self acknowledged silly, and as it doesn't take itself too seriously all the way through, it works. Just. It manages the sillyness of Holywood, and unfortunetly has Holywood aliens too. The characters are also pure Holywood, thin and one dimensional, girls who swoon for heros etc. However there are several good one liners - mostly from the aliens who quote appropriately from anything that's appeared on TV. This is somewhat spoilt by the physics - the author insists on sub-light flight, but there are no habitable planets with 70 lightyears (TV transmission) of us. Oh well. If it was accurate it wouldn't be farcical.Readable, especially if you like space farce. An interesting insight into the early writing of one of the more famous SF authors.
The basic premise of "Agent to the Stars" is that aliens exist ... and after watching how we show them in Hollywood and elsewhere, decide they have an image problem and get an agent to introduce them to humanity. Told from the perspective of said agent, it's as light and fluffy as you would expect from that premise. The bits of the resolution that need to be handled seriously have enough grounding to work, though, and Scalzi keeps the humor flowing otherwise. It's a fun read that doesn't lag and sometimes that's enough.
As a big fan of Scalzi's other works (Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony), it was with a bit of trepidation into reading his attempt at comedy, while also being his first attempt at writing. I shouldn't have been worried.I found "Agent to the Stars" to be funny, but at the same time insightful. Not only to how the whole sausage making process actually works in Hollywood, but of a potential first contact for humanity with an alien species.
How can a spaceship full of friendly aliens introduce themselves to the people of Earth without causing a worldwide panic? Enter Tom Stein, hotshot Hollywood agent., Carl, Tom's boss, has given him the full-time job of representing Joshua, who looks a lot like a pile of green slime. Carl was "involved" in Joshua's birth (it's complicated) so Joshua speaks fluent contemporary American English. Joshua also has the ability to enter, and take over, another being, like a neighbor's dog. Tom needs to hand off his present clients to other agents, which raises some eyebrows in Hollywood. Among his clients is Michelle Beck, your stereotypical twenty-something blond bimbo actress. Michelle is good for low-budget sci-fi pictures or beach pictures, but not for an ultra-serious film about the life of a Holocaust survivor. Michelle really wants the lead role, but the audition does not go well. On the set of another low-budget sci-fi film, Michelle suffers a freak accident, which puts her in a deep coma. Can Joshua and his alien friends do anything about it? Is there enough of Michelle left to save? Do the aliens come up with a way to say Greetings to mankind without causing a planet-wide freak out? I totally enjoyed this book. It's an excellent mashup of Hollywood and a really intelligent first sontact story. It's also very easy to read, and is very much recommended.
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.
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.