Sunday, March 10, 2013

dad: you've got to read this book

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, its quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, hes going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.
A few weeks ago I was at my parents' place watching television with my mom when my dad came down the stairs brandishing a paperback, which he'd clearly just finished reading.  The book in question was Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi.  He clarified his initial exclamation (see post title) by saying "all of you [which I took to mean Russell, my mom, and I] have got to read this book."  Rather than leave it at that, Dad expounded on the merits of Agent to the Stars and of Scalzi in general, who he classically referred to as having become famous for writing "science fiction for old people" (too true, see Old Man's War novels).

My mom called dibs on Agent to the Stars. She read the novel fairly quickly and when I asked her what she thought of it, she was decidedly less enthusiastic (the word "silly" was used). Now my mother is a woman who has absolutely no qualms about giving up on a book (even one enthusiastically recommended by her discriminating daughter) so the fact that she finished Agent to the Stars belies her damnation by faint praise.

I started Agent to the Stars last night and finished it this afternoon and I have to say that I loved it. Agent to the Stars is silly (which is apparent from the synopsis), but it is also smart and very approachable, definitely one I'd recommend for people who [think they] don't like science fiction. Parts were laugh-out-loud funny and I particularly liked the character of Joshua.

One other thing makes Agent to the Stars particularly noteworthy: it was Scalzi's first novel. I admit that I often skip right through books' frontmatter in my rush to get to the story, but Agent to the Stars' "Author's Note and Acknowledgments" (in my dad's 2008 Tor edition) is definitely worth a read as it describes the strange publication history of Scalzi's "practice novel."

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