Comedy · Science Fiction

Year Zero

by: Rob Reid

This book was recommended to me by a friend who works at my local bookstore – I was checking out with another comedic fantasy and he saw it and immediately denounced it as just okay, then proceeded to tell me all about Year Zero, which was better and funnier and which he owned. So I put the novel I was going to buy back and borrowed Year Zero instead.

I read half of it, put it down, and then finished it today, mainly because I had started it.  The premise of the novel is enticingly funny – aliens far advanced in every facet of culture and science except music discover our music – the pop, the rock and roll, the jazz, the oldies! They’re so enamored of our music that they all download the entire collection of Earth’s songs.  This is unfortunate, because, by Earth’s laws, they soon realize they owe the citizens of Earth more than the entire wealth of the known universe.  What is there to do but call upon copyright lawyer Nick Carter?

I actually didn’t much like this book.  I didn’t dislike; it just didn’t connect with me well. Something about Reid’s sense of humor and mine didn’t quite click.  I’m not even quite sure why.  Other people have certainly found it hilarious and I could see the humor; it just didn’t actually amuse me that much.  It could just be that most of it was a little too blatant for me; I do tend to like humor that makes me think (which defeats the purpose of an escapism novel but there ya have it).

The writing itself was fairly good.  The story flows easily and even though the plot gets a little complicated at times, the world building is of sufficient quality that I never got lost or confused enough to have to reference earlier passages, which is nice.  One of the reasons I don’t read much sci-fi is that often I’m overwhelmed by the amount of information introduced. Reid does an excellent job of keeping his new worlds manageable for the reader.  The pacing was just a tad bit off at times but overall the story moves well.  It’s fairly action-based, with lots of travel and excitement and terrible things that are soon to happen!

It was told in first person, from Nick Carter’s point of view. I wish he had been developed a little more at the beginning, as there was little time for character development once the action started happening.  He was eventually likable, but I feel like he was somewhat needlessly shallow through much of the book.   My favorite character was his boss, a savvy women who I would hate to face in a legal battle-she was interesting and fun to read about.  The human characters in general were decently well-developed; the alien characters were not as consistently three-dimensional.  Several of them are given prominent roles, so it would have been nice to see them a little better developed.  Some of them served as parodies, but I think their lack of development takes away from that, at least for me.

So if you’re looking for a sci-fi comedy that pokes fun at the music industry, lawyers, and somewhat at human entertainment in general or if sci-fi comedy is your favorite form of escapism, this is the book for you.  If you’re looking for an introduction in sci-fi/fantasy comedy or if you have a very specific sense of humor, this may not be the book for you.  But if the premise intrigues you, read the first few pages.  They’re indicative enough of the rest of the book that you should be able to tell whether or not you’ll find it funny.


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