Book Review: Year Zero by Bob Reid

Published: July 2012

Publisher: Del Ray

Pages: 364

Genera: SciFi, teen friendly though words like ‘whore’ are found periodically

Final Rating: 2.5 stars

Series: nope, standalone

Source: Library Overdrive account, in ebook format

Other Disclaimers: Nothing of note besides a few gross minor ‘-isms’ I will discuss in the review

Summary:

Aliens are real.  And they devote all their time to the Refined Arts, which they are extremely good at, unlike measly, primative Humans.  However, the most revered of the Refined Arts is music and, well, aliens suck at making music.  So when it was discovered that humans are very good at making music Aliens go crazy and illegally download a tonne of human music.  Which happens to be against our copyright laws.  So now every Alien species out there – that humans don’t even know exist yet as they haven’t advanced enough to be brought into the Refined League – owes humans all the money in the universe and more.  Unfortunately certain Aliens don’t take this news well.  But how do you protect yourself against something you are not technologically advanced enough to understand?

Year Zero follows a copyright lawyer and he new Alien friends as they try and sort out this legal battle and prevent things from becoming deadly.

Review:

Ever read a book that starts out so great it makes you go “yes this is the book I need to be reading” and then within a very short time you realize that it just…isn’t?  I really hope you never have because it’s so disappointing.  That is what happened to me with Year Zero.  It had the most promising opening I have read in literal years.  Then by the end of the third chapter I knew it wasn’t going to be as good as it promised.

What this book promised from the start was a ridiculously funny and interesting read that took the subject to the extreme but didn’t cross the line into absurd.  For example, the discovery of human music was so big of an event that the Refined League reset the universe’s clock back to zero on the day and time of first discovery.  Silly, for sure, but not absurd.  Sure a few of the things brought up in the opening prologue used the set the scene and tone of the book pushed the boundaries of believability but it was never too much.  But all that fizzled as soon as the book hit chapter one.  Literally in the first chapter things start to go awry.

It started with a very racist joke.  Which, thankfully, didn’t extend past the first chapter and I didn’t see anything racist after that (though I’m white so I’m not overly sensitive to that sort of thing so I could have missed something).  After that, the book showed that it was clearly a British person writing an American.  I actually still haven’t checked if the writer is British, but there are certain words used in the book that are not New York, even if this is an AU version of NY.  In actuality, Goodreads is telling me Reid is American, but I wonder if he has spent time abroad because the word usage was just too off; it didn’t work in the location he chose to set the book in.

The author tried to do a few things to the book to make it stand out.  The humour was one thing, but it was very hit or miss.  Yet, when the humour hit, it hit well.  2016-11-28.jpgThe giant Microsoft/Bill Gates conspiracy was inspired and I will forever think about it every time my computer crashes or isn’t running properly.  Or the joke at the bottom of this page, which I had to screen shot and share with friends from that side of the world.  The word usage was another, but I found it strange.  The footnotes thing was cute-for one chapter.  The book employed footnotes to add humorous little extras to the text that couldn’t really be added in line with the story.  After the first chapter they were more annoying then anything else.  Especially if you read it on an ereader so it was hard to flip back and forth so just read all the notes at the end of the chapter.  But if you didn’t read the chapter all in one sitting the notes didn’t make much sense.  Finally the song lists at the end of the book were only mildly interesting, but mostly just very stereotypical.

The other ‘ism’ I had an issue with in this book was the gross sexism.  It started with the whole ‘if you haven’t caught on during the entire chapter of me texting my crush I will now tell you that I’m a heterosexual man that has FeelingsTM for my neighbour when it was clearly obvious from the start of the book, after 12% and 3/4 chapters‘.  That was not really sexism, but is something you see in about 90% of books written by men with male leads.  It’s tired an boring.  Another thing you see in these types of books that was also present was the main female character was hot (shocker), a musician (yawn), studied premed in school (not unheard of but pushing believability) but was also working as a paralegal????  Is there any box that wasn’t checked in that list?  Looks, brains in both science and law and can play music and sing and liked the main male lead.  High standards of perfection, much?  Then there were two whole chapters that the second main female lead was described as a ‘tramp’ or ‘whore’ or other variations on that every time she was mentioned.  Gross. Gross. Gross. Gross.

I will say that for the most part, the world building in this book was stellar.  The things Reid thought up were creative and interesting, even though at the start there were essentially human-like aliens.  The book even poked fun of the fact that this is a tired and stale trope but then it went on to show other types of aliens and interesting worlds.  Perhaps those well read in SciFi wouldn’t be impressed with the world building as there are doubtless countless better example out there.  One of which (by Douglas Adams) I really want to read soon. 

Last Thoughts:

Overall my high hopes were dashed with this book.  It had good moments but there were a lot of issues with it and caused me to only give it a 2.5 star rating.  I’m not upset that I read this book and think that others would enjoy it.  It did give me quite a few laughs and was interesting enough.  However, it wasn’t as good as it initially promised and that disappointed me. 

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