This is a kind of good, kind of bad, and very ridiculous take on first encounters with an alien species. It’s also very clearly a younger John Scalzi getting ahead of himself in terms of talent, and trying something that can only really work as a farce, and offers some deeply disturbing questions that aren’t really answered in the book and a lot of casual misogyny that I bet he felt perfectly fine with at the time.
Anyway, our narrator is a 30ish agent for a top-notch firm in Hollywood and we meet him on the day that he’s landed a lucrative payout for his rising star client who’s recently starred in a bad science fiction movie, and is trying to leverage that into more serious work, despite her not exact penchant for such work. Tom Stein, the agent, is called into his boss’s office and told of a new assignment wherein he would have to discharge most of his clients to take on a new, special, secret client. That client, as you could guess, is an alien race who has asked the agency to help prepare them and the world for first contact. The race is a form of gelatinous, single-celled colony similar to the lichen from William Sleator’s Interstellar Pig. We find out that a collection of this colony, named Joshua of all things, has been imbued with a clear understanding of humanity and will work with Tom to figure things out.
Like I said, it’s kind of good and kind of bad. It’s charming and fun, but also weirdly angry and aggressive at times, and plays around Hollywood tropes, but doesn’t actually seem like John Scalzi knows anything about Hollywood. It comes across as Connie Willis slush pile too often.