Agent To The Stars And Other Stories

agent_to_the_starsI recently read the ebook of John Scalzi’s first novel Agent To The Stars, which I downloaded from ManyBooks.

I did this because I had previously read Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades and enjoyed them both thoroughly. Enjoyed them so thoroughly in fact that I can confidently say these two books are amongst the best sci-fi novels I’ve ever read. I was also looking for something different at the time preferably with a touch of humour (having just finished a couple of rather dark and serious tomes)  and the blurb on ManyBooks (see excerpt below)  suggested that Agent To The Stars would fit that bill:

The space-faring Yherajk people have come to Earth to begin humanity’s first interstellar friendship. There’s just one problem: They’re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. Gaining humanity’s trust isn’t easy when you look like a B-movie terror, and Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal.

As it turned out, it fit the bill very well indeed. There are rather a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in the book which complement the strong flavour of sci-fi surrounding the ins and outs of first contact. I found Agent To The Stars to be well written, easy to read and easy to get into and I find it quite surprising that it didn’t appeal to either an agent or a publisher. IMHO it is a great read and one that I’d recommend to all as a great read.

old_mans_warThat said, I can recommend his next book even more highly. As I said above Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades are two of the best sci-fi novels I’ve yet read. I bought the former in old style paperback format (in a Waterstone’s I think) because I’d read a glowing review of it (can’t recall where though) and was familiar with and enjoy reading Whatever, John Scalzi’s blog. When I sat down to read it, it turned out to be one of those books that grabbed my attention straight-away and held it right the way through. The concept was new and interesting, it struck me as making scientific sense and most importantly was understandable – in terms of why as well as how it was being used. It was also one of those books that when finished left you wanting more. I was hooked.

the_ghost_brigadesNot long after reading Old Man’s War I found myself compelled to buy a copy of The Ghost Brigades to read on my Kindle. I was just as gripped by this tale and was no doubt just as caught out by its twists and subtle blinds as anyone else who has read it.

And whilst being immersed in the joy of reading it I was struck by the thought that there was a certain quality about both books that made me feel at home. It’s a feeling a little like putting on a favourite pair of comfortable shoes, stepping into your local bar at the end of the day, visiting a childhood haunt or listening to a treasured record. Well, like these things … but not quite because despite the familiarity there is a sense of something different and exciting, of new worlds to visit and strange sights to see. I find myself thinking of the vast expanse of Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels, the attitude and fun of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat, and the scope of Peter F. Hamilton’s space opera and probably a bit of Larry Niven’s stuff (Heorot, Dream Park, Footfall) as well.

Of course, there’s another ingredient that helps create this sense of comfort and rightness. John Scalzi is a damn fine storyteller!

Buy his books. Enjoy them. They are very, very good.

PS The Last Colony had that same effect and is another excellent read.

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