Title: Agent to the Stars
Author: John Scalzi
Genre: Science Fiction
Recommendation: Amusing first contact story with well-written characters.
Summary: Thomas Stein is an enterprising Hollywood agent who has just closed the biggest deal of his career. He gets an unexpected meeting with his boss who asks him to take on a new client: an alien of race Yherajk who looks like a pile of green goo. The challenge ahead of Tom is to figure out how to present the alien to humanity.
Reactions: The premise of the novel is pretty great. Aliens come to Earth and hire a Hollywood agent to get the best representation. As you might expect with a premise like that the novel is not entirely serious. There are a number of comic moments in the book and there were some places I laughed out loud.
The good news is that funniness of the book doesn't get in the way of character development. Tom's character is very sympathetic despite being a negotiations shark. We get to learn a lot about him and he is definitely my favorite human in the novel (some of the Yherajk are pretty great characters too). The least believable part for me was Tom's budding romantic relationship, which I honestly wasn't feeling. It was a little sudden and in my opinion not very well done.
In a number of places I also had some trouble suspending disbelief. Some things work out a little too easily and certain characters don't react in a way I would expect them to react. But overall, the motivations are there and the ending is quite satisfying.
I was also pleasantly surprised that Scalzi didn't skirt around creating the new culture for aliens and came up with both technology and art for the culture which were coherent and fascinating at the same time. He also didn't bog down in any sort of info dumps on the aliens along the way, which is definitely a plus in a story.
Overall, it was an action-adventure plot with well-developed main character and amusing supporting cast that was easy to read and enjoy. There were some pretty interesting thoughts in the book on managing perceptions and I thoroughly enjoyed it.