The Yherajk have a problem. They really want to make friends with humanity, but humanity just isn't ready to make friends with something that looks like a puddle of slime and smells worse. So, they do what anyone with an image problem would do: they hire an agent to represent them.
Tom Stein is an up-and-coming Hollywood agent. He doesn't represent any A-list stars, but he's working on it. However, all that changes when his boss assigns him to some new clients: the Yherajk. Under pressure from his boss and being tailed by a gossip rag reporter, Tom must find a way to make the Yherajk as popular with humanity as his movie-star, blond-bombshell client Michelle Beck. Luckily, Tom has two things going for him: an excellent assistant (Miranda) and a Yherajk who's a little bit human himself (Joshua).
Agent to the Stars was originally published as a free novel on author John Scalzi's website in 2004. It's still there in HTML format, and you can download it in other formats from ManyBooks, which is where I got it. Originally written in 1997, some of the references to human technology are a bit dated, particularly given the current status of AOL as an internet service provider. However, these are only minor stumbling blocks in an otherwise engaging read.
I've been an admirer of Scalzi's writing ever since the bloggerati directed me to his website some years ago. At some point along the way, I read the first chapter of his book The Android's Dream, which also involves alien races that communicate using smells. I was hooked, but with a backlog of books to read, I knew it would take me a while to get to it. Finally, a few years later I have now read a Scalzi book. My only regret is that it took me this long.
Shortly after setting up my Sony Reader Touch, I was looking for (free) books to download, which is how I stumbled upon Agent to the Stars. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I gave it a try. After downloading and importing it into my eBook Library, I checked to make sure the text was formatted properly, and before I knew it, I was already five pages into the story, just reading it off of my computer screen. I finished the rest of the book on lunch breaks and while doing mind-numbing tasks like waiting in line at the post office. It was great for keeping my stress level down.
Scalzi's dialogue is witty and sharp (when it's appropriate), and the pace of the story kept me engaged throughout. He drops just enough hints to keep the reader engaged, but leaves many things up to the reader's imagination. Agent to the Stars is a good place to start if, like me, you're hesitant to commit too much of your reading time to a new-to-you author. At 286 pages, you'll be in and out and ready for a new tale before you know it.