Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Moderator
paulgoatallen
Posts: 7,327
Registered: ‎08-16-2007
0 Kudos

NOVEMBER FEATURE #1: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

[ Edited ]

In just a few short years, John Scalzi has gone from being a relatively unknown author to one of the most popular writers in the genre. His Old Man's War novels – Old Man's War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony and Zoe's Tale – have all been critically acclaimed: in fact, Old Man's War was nominated for the Hugo in '06 (it lost out to Robert Charles Wilson's Spin).

 

For all of you who have read Scalzi, you are no doubt familar with with off-the-wall sense of humor. Our feature this month, Agent to the Stars, is a standalone novel that Scalzi posted on his website in 1997 as a "practice novel" and was then later released by Subterranean Press in 2005 as a limited edition hardcover.

 

Booklist descriobes it: "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."

 

So, with that said, I bring you Agent to the Stars...

Paul

 

 http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Agent-to-the-Stars/John-Scalzi/e/9780765317711/?itm=1

Message Edited by paulgoatallen on 11-02-2008 10:16 AM
"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
Inspired Bibliophile
Nelsmom
Posts: 2,628
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: NOVEMBER FEATURE #1: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

I got it from the Library and read it .  Enjoyed it but found the humor kind of irregular.  In some places it was very good and in other places it seemed forced.  I might of found it better if I had not read The Old Man's War first.  I'm not going to say anything else to spoil it for those who haven't read it yet.

 

Toni

Toni L. Chapman
Everyone needs some Tender Loving Care
Moderator
paulgoatallen
Posts: 7,327
Registered: ‎08-16-2007
0 Kudos

Re: NOVEMBER FEATURE #1: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi


Nelsmom wrote:

I got it from the Library and read it .  Enjoyed it but found the humor kind of irregular.  In some places it was very good and in other places it seemed forced.  I might of found it better if I had not read The Old Man's War first.  I'm not going to say anything else to spoil it for those who haven't read it yet.

 

Toni


Toni:

Insightful as always! Irregular definitely describes Scalzi's humor. And it's interesting that reading Old Man's War first altered your opinion of this book. I was wondering about that myself since all of his OMW novels have been brilliant thus far and Agent to the Stars was something he wrote back in '96 as a "practice novel." Honestly, on a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rank this on the Nelsmometer? Just curious...

Paul 

"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
Inspired Bibliophile
Nelsmom
Posts: 2,628
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: NOVEMBER FEATURE #1: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Paul,

 

I would give it 61/2  stars.  It was definitly above average but I would not say it was the greatest book.  But a book worth reading.

 

Toni

Toni L. Chapman
Everyone needs some Tender Loving Care
Moderator
paulgoatallen
Posts: 7,327
Registered: ‎08-16-2007
0 Kudos

Re: NOVEMBER FEATURE #1: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Toni:

I just finished Agent to the Stars and I have to say that I think I enjoyed this much more than you did. I love "weird" speculative fiction a la Jeff VanderMeer, Rudy Rucker, Paul Di Filippo, etc.  and I rate this novel right up there with VanderMeer's Shriek and Rucker's Frek and the Elixir, two books that I absolutely loved. 

 

I guess the thing that struck me was John's offbeat sense of humor and specifically his sardonic take on a number of SF cliches.  The aliens were described as like Jell-O – "gelatinous" – which for some reason cracked me up throughout. I loved how John described the alien race in terms of decidedly non-threatening, mundane terms. Besides Jell-O, the alien Joshua even describes himself thusly: "We look like snot... and we smell like dead fish." 

 

I'm a sucker for good one-liners and this book was chock full of them. One of my favorites was when the protagonist, Hollywood agent Tom Stein, is in a critically important discussion with the alien head honcho. He says to the alien: "...we also have another phrase, 'You have to go through Hell before you get to Heaven.' The guy standing next to Stein mutters under his breath, "I can't believe you just quoted a Steve Miller tune to the leader of an alien race."  Yeah, I know, it's completely out of context but trust me – you will enjoy the wry wit of John Scalzi in this book.

 

And the thing that really surprised me was that under all this zaniness and irreverence, there was an actual Message. I'm not going to give anything away but I was really impressed how Scalzi could write this off-the-wall adventure of aliens visiting Earth and hiring a Hollywood agent to help out with their image while also intermingling a profoundly moving theme... 

 

I am a big fan of John's Old Man's War novels – I just read Zoe's Tale a few weeks ago – and it was really cool to see another, more unbridled, facet of his writing. After the success of his Old Man's War novels, I'd love for him to try something a little more "weird" like Agent to the Stars. He's a wonderful storyteller, obviously, but I think his true genius is in his humorous narrative and offbeat way of looking at things. Fans of authors like VanderMeer, Rucker, and Di Fillippo should definitely check out this book. I loved it.

Paul 

"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
Inspired Bibliophile
Nelsmom
Posts: 2,628
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: NOVEMBER FEATURE #1: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

That's okay Paul.  All of like things to different degrees and it doesn't hurt my feelings at all.  I know that Nels and I might listent or read the same book and some I will like better than him.  Some he likes better than I do.  I find it interesting to hear others comments and sometimes I will go back and reread the book and come away with a new appreciation of it.

 

Toni

Toni L. Chapman
Everyone needs some Tender Loving Care
Moderator
paulgoatallen
Posts: 7,327
Registered: ‎08-16-2007
0 Kudos

Re: NOVEMBER FEATURE #1: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi


Nelsmom wrote:

That's okay Paul.  All of like things to different degrees and it doesn't hurt my feelings at all.  I know that Nels and I might listent or read the same book and some I will like better than him.  Some he likes better than I do.  I find it interesting to hear others comments and sometimes I will go back and reread the book and come away with a new appreciation of it.

 

Toni


TLC:

You're absolutely right. If everyone liked Chocolate Chip ice cream, that would make for a decidedly boring Ice Cream Club. (Hey, there's a great idea!) That's the fantastic thing about this genre – there's so much more than just 52 flavors: hard SF, space opera, epic fantasy, dark fantasy, romantic fantasy, paranormal fantasy, post-apocalyptic fiction, steampunk, military SF, alternate history, high fantasy...

Paul 

"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
Moderator
paulgoatallen
Posts: 7,327
Registered: ‎08-16-2007
0 Kudos

Re: NOVEMBER FEATURE #1: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

I'm trying to get John to stop by and talk a little bit about Agent to the Stars (I have questions below that desperately need to be answered!) so if any of you have any comments or questions, let's hear 'em!

Paul 

 

1. Agent to the Stars and your Old Man’s War novels have very different tones. Although I’m a HUGE fan of your Old Man’s War sequence – wanna see my Scalzi tattoo? –  I loved the absurdity and off-the-wall sense of humor in Agent. It reminded me a little of Rudy Rucker’s Frek and the Elixir and stuff from Paul Di Filippo, Jeff VanderMeer, etc. What was the initial spark that inspired Agent to the Stars and are you contemplating ever returning to the satirical format in the future?

2. In the book’s Author’s Note and Acknowledgements, you wrote about “underestimating” this book. What exactly do you think made this particular story so popular?

3. Have you ever contemplated releasing Agent to the Stars in a scratch-n-sniff edition?

4. I was surprised by all of the relatively “heavy” themes intermeshed among all the “fun:” Tolerance, open-mindedness, perseverance, etc. Am I reading way too much into this or was there a real “message” here?

5. Do you like Jell-O? I used to but now, after reading Agent to the Stars, I just can’t bring myself to eat any… I mean, what if it’s sentient?

"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
Moderator
paulgoatallen
Posts: 7,327
Registered: ‎08-16-2007
0 Kudos

Re: NOVEMBER FEATURE #1: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Hey guys. John just got back to me with his responses to my interview questions. Here it is in all of its gelatinous glory:

 

PGA: Agent to the Stars and your Old Man's War novels have very different tones. Although I'm a HUGE fan of your Old Man's War sequence – wanna see my Scalzi tattoo? –  I loved the absurdity and off-the-wall sense of humor in Agent. It reminded me a little of Rudy Rucker's Frek and the Elixir and stuff from Paul Di Filippo, Jeff VanderMeer, etc. What was the initial spark that inspired Agent to the Stars and are you contemplating ever returning to the satirical format in the future?


JS: The initial spark for writing Agent to the Stars was simply trying to see if I could write a novel -- it was my first attempt at one. To that end, I didn't try to make it a deep, meaningful story: I intentionally made it light, fun and fast to read. By the time I had started work on the novel, I had already been a humor columnist, first for a newspaper and then for America Online, so writing something funny seemed like the best way to go.

As for the satirical format in the future, well, I'm currently writing the follow-up to "The Android's Dream," called "The High Castle." TAD was pretty damn satirical, if I do say so myself, and I expect THC will be as well.
 
PGA: In the book's Author's Note and Acknowledgements, you wrote about "underestimating" this book. What exactly do you think made this particular story so popular?

JS: Well, it's funny, which is always nice, and genuinely humorous science fiction is harder to find than it should be. Also, it's about Hollywood and movie stars, and those are topics people just can't seem to get enough of. So it's a nice combination of the two.
 
PGA: Have you ever contemplated releasing Agent to the Stars in a scratch-n-sniff edition?
 
JS: Heh. No. I don't want to lose readers.
 
PGA: I was surprised by all of the relatively "heavy" themes intermeshed among all the "fun:" Tolerance, open-mindedness, perseverance, etc. Am I reading way too much into this or was there a real "message" here?

JS: You're not reading too much into it, no, but I think you point out something interesting, which is that people don't necessarily expect their fun to have threads of seriousness in it. I think you can have it, as long as you don't lose sight of the fact that your goal is to entertain, not to lecture. There are a lot of books where the author stops the story to make a serious about whatever it is they are trying to make a point about. I think that's silly. You can address serious stuff IF it makes sense for the story and you keep the story moving forward. That shouldn't be too hard.
 
PGA: Do you like Jell-O? I used to but now, after reading Agent to the Stars, I just can't bring myself to eat any… I mean, what if it's sentient?

JS: But that would make it better! I do like Jell-O, actually, although I try not to think too much about what it's made out of. Gelatin is definitely one of those "don't ask exactly what it is you're putting into your mouth" foods.  
"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky
Frequent Contributor
lilithesquee
Posts: 67
Registered: ‎10-15-2008
0 Kudos

Re: NOVEMBER FEATURE #1: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Well, I am about half way through this book it is funny and flows quite well;  however not really my cup of tea.  I think if I didnt have this really fabulous to read pile this book would be more interesting to me, but all my other books are calling my name and this book just doesn't call.    I may finish it, I may not. 

 

Lily 

Dude, Where's My Book!
Moderator
paulgoatallen
Posts: 7,327
Registered: ‎08-16-2007
0 Kudos

Re: NOVEMBER FEATURE #1: Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi


lilithesquee wrote:

Well, I am about half way through this book it is funny and flows quite well;  however not really my cup of tea.  I think if I didnt have this really fabulous to read pile this book would be more interesting to me, but all my other books are calling my name and this book just doesn't call.    I may finish it, I may not. 

 

Lily 


Lily:

Thanks for your honesty – I wish more people were like you! I agree with you that Agent to the Stars definitely isn't for all SF fanatics but if readers enjoy humorous, irreverent storylines, I think they'll really like this book.  I know I did.

Paul 

"There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save..." – Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky