Agent to the Stars

Did you ever watch Monsters vs. Aliens, the animated film starring Reese Witherspoon as gigantic Susan?  The adorable Seth Rogen provided the voice to B.O.B.–an indeterminate, indestructible, blue blob who digested any substance he chose to ingest.  

In my head, that is what John Scalzi’s alien character, the aptly named Joshua, looks and sounds like.

In Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars, Thomas Stein is a rising Hollywood agent who has been given the Herculean task of introducing Joshua, the representative of the alien race Yherajk, to the human race. Because, you see, Scalzi’s aliens are smart (not to mention peaceful) and media savvy.  They don’t want a hostile takeover, they want a positive public persona, and who else but Hollywood to spin that story?  This novel is only sci-fi in the sense that there are aliens. But quite frankly, the aliens have learned and absorbed so much about being human that, besides an offensive odor, Joshua is very human.  Oh, and I suppose there are several alien abductions, although you can hardly call them abductions if the passengers are willing travelers to the mothership.  So can Stein successfully introduce blobby, smelly aliens to the human race AND make us adore them–or is it a full-on nuclear attack at the first blip of the spaceship?  I’ll leave it up to you to find out.

Agent to the Stars also has the distinction of being John Scalzi’s first novel, even though it was published after his very famous Old Man’s War, and he had originally posted it in 1999 on his personal website as shareware for people to download as they please.  All told, Scalzi estimates he earned ~$4,000 from this book that way.  In 2005, it was picked up by a small publisher, who printed several thousand copies (which are now selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay), and finally in 2008, Agent to the Stars was released in mass market paperback format.  Now if that’s not every aspiring writer’s dream, I don’t know what is.