"The pace of the story never lets up, yet it finds room for serious contemplation of humanity's woes. The style is easy, with an edge of noir. The central character is a bit of a tough girl which, mixed with her naivety about humans, makes for an intriguing and likeable character. ..... The humour, pace, and wry observation make this a rare and wonderful beast - a serious science fiction novel that doesn't take itself seriously."
This satire was first published in 1977, but its biting commentary still registers strongly today. Aliens trained in Western pop culture disguise themselves as well-known figures and embark on two intersecting tasks: judging humankind's readiness to join the interstellar community, and searching for a ruthless criminal. Scott carries on the tradition of Mark Twain, using outside observers to remark on society. While the treatment of women is the primary focus, other targets include consumer culture and the general human willingness to be led by the nose by a charismatic figure. The narrative drags at times, but the speculative elements are well written and give a good sense of physical and cultural differences. A light touch keeps the moralizing from getting too ham-fisted, and this cautionary tale calling for a better world is a message needed now more than ever. (Mar.)