Year Zero by Rob Reid
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication Date: 2012 Random House Audio
Length: 9 hours, 54 minutes
Read by: John Hodgman
The Short Version:
Aliens love our music, but when they realize that according to existing music copyright laws they owe us all the wealth of the universe chaos ensues.
Why I Read It:
I heard many positive reviews of this and many recommendations for the audio format and it sounded like a fun listen.
If I tried to explain the plot of this book I would talk myself (and you) into a DNA strand like twist so I’m going to go with the publisher’s description this time.
Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on American pop songs ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), resulting in the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang and bankrupting the whole universe. Nick has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly. Thankfully, this unlikely galaxy-hopping hero does know a thing or two about copyright law. Now, with Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick has forty-eight hours to save humanity—while hoping to wow the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.
If you think that sounds wacky, then hang on because that’s only the beginning.
I’m very glad I listened to my friends and listened to the audio version of this one. John Hodgman does an excellent job of narrating the story from Nick’s point of view and also of characterizing the large cast of characters both human and otherwise. He’s got just the right amount of wry humor and appropriate cynicism for the convoluted music rights laws that are needed for this book. It’s got some elements of spot on satire and he nails them perfectly with his narration.
On the whole though this book started out great for me and then somewhere in the second half it felt like it went on just a touch too long, with just a touch too much. I found myself checking my ipod to see how much of the book I had left. I still liked it but I don’t think I liked it quite as much as some of my friends did.
There is a lot of humor in this one and I laughed a lot. The idea that aliens first experience with the music of Earth was when hearing the Welcome Back Kotter theme sent them into paroxysms of bliss is hilarious. From there the story of their introduction to our music is my musical history. Theme songs from shows I watched, to AM radio pop songs, then on to FM Album rock pretty much traced my musical life from junior high into college.
I did enjoy this book but I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been just a little shorter. I loved the first half but the second half felt a little forced and repetitious.
Rating 3.5/5 for the book
Rating 4.5/5 for the narration
SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.