A Review of Year Zero by Rob Reid.

One problem with having a Kindle is that Amazon, for good or ill, does offer some ebooks at incredible prices in order to entice you to buy something you might not have otherwise bothered with. Such was the case with Year Zero (2012) by Rob Reid. The price was so good I thought, why not? Why not indeed.

Cover of Year Zero by Rob Reid (2012).

In Year Zero the music of humanity has been discovered by the greater universe and has been recognised as the greatest music in the universe. So great that the rest of the universe has given up trying to make music and listens only to music produced by Earth. And due the way the laws (American I presume) governing illegal downloading of music, humanity is now entitled to the entire cumulative wealth of the universe from all time past, present, and future. An interesting premise to be sure.

Year Zero  failed to capture my interest almost immediately, but was rather a series of thinly plotted events covered in heaps of pop culture references of which I only understood a few. Does this make Year Zero a bad book? Not for some, but for me it was boring to say the least.

Rob Reid is the founder of Listen.com and so has first hand knowledge of the American music industry and how it works. However, I don’t care about the laws of music, music piracy, or how the music industry conducts itself, so as authentic as these portions of the book might be, they added little overall enjoyment of the story.

I found the main characters to be two dimensional with no real development throughout the story. The protagonists were suitably good and the antagonists suitably bad. There was a balance between the two so there was never any real tension between them.

Year Zero has been compared to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and I can sort of see why. In Year Zero there is a rather Byzantine bureaucracy the hero has to contend with, there is the man out of place aspect to the story, and in addition Year Zero is dotted with anecdotal footnotes throughout similar to the entries of the Guide.

However, the bureaucracy is too easily dealt with, the man out place is never really out of place enough, and the footnotes tend to take you completely out of the story, as opposed to the completely charming entries of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which draw you in.

In the end Year Zero was not enough science fiction and too much pop reference, which turns out is not a good fit for me, so it left me feeling unsatisfied and disappointed in the end.

Year Zero is one of those books that will probably appeal greatly to people that are very interested in popular culture and music. To them I would say give Year Zero try, especially as a low cost ebook. However, if you’re like me, with little interest in most of the goings on of music, music piracy, the music industry or musicians, then I would probably recommend Year Zero only weakly.

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