Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Book Review: Year Zero

Before I go any further I need to clarify that I'm talking about "Year Zero" by Rob Reid. Not Jeff Long's book. Not Kiara Windrider's book. Not a book of poetry by Brian Henderson. Or an audio drama by Bernice Summerfield. Certainly not any of the songs by the same name. Despite the lack of originality in the title, the rest of the book is a bit different.

In 1977 an alien race, one of millions (at least), found picked up a transmission while passing near Earth. It was an episode of "Welcome Back Kotter". Compared to their own sitcoms, Kotter sort of fell in the "so bad it's good" category. Only without the "...it's good" part. Then the end theme song came on. It was one of the most beautiful pieces of music they'd ever heard. Several crew members died of brain hemorrhages and died in ecstasy caused by how wonderful they music was. See, if your species doesn't self destruct you get to join a galactic society based around the arts. Most all technology that could be invented has been and your planet gets access to it all immediately. Then your society gets to work on it's arts and culture. A view of even the most gaudy city would bliss out a human. Many apartments would put one of us into a coma. But they can't do music worth a damn. So they started listening to Earth. Mostly a few stations out of New York City. And they started recording and sharing. Today each and every intelligent being in the galactic society has about 25,000,000 songs. I should say that the survivors do. Just like on that first ship, there was a doozy of a death toll.

Then one day they realized that American laws state that the fine for music piracy is $150,000.

Per song.

Earth is now owed all of the wealth that could be created between the beginning of the universe and the end. ALL OF IT! So it's time for the aliens to lawyer up. Not just to save the galactic economy, but to keep someone from destroying the Earth.

Many of the reviews compare this book to the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (HHGTTG). I think the reviewers are being a bit lazy. I know a few weeks ago you saw me compare the latest Agatha Heterodyne to HHGTTG. The difference being that every sci-fi comedy gets that comparison just for being funny. And "Year Zero" is a funny book. But Douglas Adams had a gift for turn of phrase that made HHGTTG funny. I saw much of that in the Agatha H novels. Rob Reid's book I'd compare more closely to John Scalzi's stuff. Specifically "Agent to the Stars". I'll admit that it seems I'm suffering from a similar laziness to that I accused other writers of suffering from. Because "Agent to the Stars" is also a sci-fi/comedy/legal book. But the word play is closer to Scalzi's style than Adams'. But there are explanations of alien species and societies that will remind you of entries in the HHGTTG. With some hints of Terry Pratchett thrown in, too.

This is Rob Reid's first fiction novel. Before this he was the founder of Listen.com which launched the Rhapsody music player. So you'll see where his experience there comes through in this book.

Trust me, you'll enjoy this book.

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