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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Satire from Space

Posted by Alana T.

I am a big sci-fi fan, so I read a lot in that genre, and scanning the shelves I ran across Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi.  Wait, don't scroll down to the previous post!  Don't be scared off by the science fiction cover; read on...

First of all, the story of the publication of this book is amazing in itself.  Basically, the author wrote this novel to see if he could write at all.  He placed it on his website in 1999 and asked readers to send in $1 if they liked it.  A few years and $4000 later, a small press offered to publish a limited edition of 1,500 copies.  Those quickly sold out (now selling for hundreds of dollars apiece on eBay!).  The book has been re-published (more than 1500 copies this time) by a different company and it continues to sell well.  This kind of story only makes sense if the book is good, and it is.

Second, this book is funny.  Not happy-go-lucky chuckle here and there funny, but hard-hitting, oh that's so true it's awful funny.  It is common for science fiction to tackle social commentary, but rarely does it try to be humorous at the same time. 

The story line is simple.  Aliens have come to Earth, but they decide they need to ease the transition of their integration into human society; they are ugly and stinky, both definite negatives in our beauty obsessed culture.  The aliens (who are pretty funny by themselves) believe they have an image problem, and after watching TV transmissions for decades, they figure the best way to solve their problem is to hire a Hollywood publicity agent.  The book follows the escapades of Tom (the agent) and Gwedif (the alien) as Tom tries to find a way to make the stinky guys seem like the best thing ever.

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