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Friday, March 01, 2013

cover of 'Year Zero' by Rob Reid

A humorous, entertaining, satirical look at the music industry by way of a science fiction adventur romp, complete with aliens and thef ate of the Earth at stake. Here's the setup: there is a Refined League of aliens who have mastered the siences and now focus all their highest energies on the Refined Arts-- but they aren't very good at music, and when they discover Earth's music (by way of the theme song "Welcome Back Kotter"), they are blown away - some of them literally die in ecstasy. They spend the next several decates listening to human music, and when they finally recover enough to start studying other aspects of Earth culture, they discover that -- due to our anti-piracy laws -- they owe all the wealth of the galaxy to Earth.

The story is set in motion when two aliens show up at the law offices of Carter, Geller & Marks (a firm that specializes in copyright and patents) to meet with an associate named Nick Carter - whom the two aliens picked because he shared a last name with one of the partners (although he's not actually related), and also because he has the same name as one of the Backstreet Boys. They are concerned that someone is trying to help humanity along to destroying itself before beocming Refined and collecting on all its debts. At first, Nick gets the impression that his two visitors, Carly and Frampton, are agents of some kind; but as the story goes along he discovers they aren't anything so impressive, but rather musicians from an alien race that look enough like humans that they have made very lucrative careers in lip syncing to Earth music.

The book is fun and silly, and quite cheeky in tone, including some entertaining footnotes. There are fascinating aliens of all sorts, and I think the best description of a "wrinkle" (a la Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkile in Time) that I have ever read-- everything receding at once without getting smaller, moving away from everything in a directioun you didn't know existed. Along the way, Reid gets in digs at music industry executives, lawyers, politicians, reality TV, technology, and many other aspects of our often-ridiculous society. I often found myself laughing out loud as I read.

There are some particularly entertaining notions about our technology and the role that aliens might be playing on Earth. It's mentioned multiple times that a handful of visitors came to Earth before the "Townshend Line" was set up (to protect Earth from trillions of fans of The Who trying to attend concerts), and suggested that there may be a Guardian or two on Earth as well. Before the story ends we get a pretty clear idea that there are aliens who love Earth and its music so much that they came to Earth to protect humanity from destroying ourselves; in one case, that loving protection takes the form of a frustrating, seemingly-broken technology, which is intended to slow down our progress so we don't advance too quickly and blow ourselves up in one way or another. The story does have a proper ending (and actually quite a clever solution to the legal problem that works and doesn't seem like a cop-out), but there seemed to be a hint of possible sequels in the way of tracking down the other aliens on Earth-- and I don't think I would mind visiting Nick Carter's wacky, entertaining life again sometime.

Title:Year Zero
Author:Rob Reid
Date published:2012
Genre:Science Fiction
Number of pages:384
Notes:read an ebook


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