BA book review: Year Zero by Rob Reid

By Phil Plait | July 10, 2012 10:55 am

When I was at SXSW last month, I ran into my friend Drew. He dragged me and my friends to a party, saying this guy named Rob Reid would be there. Rob, he told me, wrote a really good scifi novel.

"Oh?" I said. "What’s it about?"

Drew got a funny look on his face. He said, "I can’t explain it. If I tried it would sound ridiculous, and you’d think I’m nuts. Just talk to Rob about it."

So at the party I met this Rob Reid fellow, and we hit it off immediately. He’s really funny, articulate, and smart; three things I admire above almost everything else, especially in a writer.

Turns out the novel is called Year Zero, and Rob gave me the elevator pitch about it: the Universe is filled to the brim with advanced civilizations, well ahead of us in every way except one: music. Theirs is terrible, but our rock music is revered throughout the cosmos, and all these aliens have been uploading it for decades. But they also have one law above all others: to respect native laws. And we have copyright laws. Since they’ve been pirating our music for so long, they owe us money for all those uploaded songs. Lots of money.

All the money, it turns out.

This is a ridiculously cool premise for a satirical scifi novel! [And Drew was right; had he tried to explain it to me I would’ve thought he was nuts.] Rob sent me an advanced copy and I swallowed it down in about two days. I loved it. Funny, smart, silly… three things I also happen to admire in a novel.

Bottom line: recommended. Buy it and read it. Rob had a trailer made for it as well:

This book is hot off the presses: it was released today! It’s available on Amazon (duh) as well as for the Kindle. I imagine you can find other flavors of booksellers, both analog and cyber, to fit your needs.

And I hope the movie rights have been secured. I’d wait in line to watch that. Rather than pirate it, of course.

[BTW, Rob gave a fantastic and very funny TED talk about copyright law. Seriously! And you know I must like his book because his talk has more views than my TED talk, that jerk.]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Geekery, Humor, SciFi

Comments (26)

  1. RAF

    Rock music revered throughtout the Galaxy…that sounds about right.

    …wonder if their favorite “guitar riff” is Smoke On The Water??

  2. This sounds somewhat reminiscent of (though quite different from) Greg Costikyan’s “First Contract” [sic], also a good, fun read.

  3. Carey

    I read Scalzi’s “Red Shirts” based on your recommendation, so I will probably get this too. Especially since it’s on the Kindle!

    (And hey, isn’t that the Napster logo? I should have known it would be about music piracy!)

  4. I read and reviewed the book yesterday. It was an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Not great literature and not quite in the same league as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” but still pretty darn good.

  5. Jon

    So, is there a DRM-free ebook available anywhere, or is this going to be a pile of irony?

  6. I’ve been itching for something new to read. Thanks! Will get this when I get home tonight, and will hopefully have something to read on my flight to TAM X.

  7. Kevin

    “Let’s go Space Truckin'”…

  8. bouch

    So, Human music is the exact opposite of Vogon poetry? That can’t possibly include Milli Vanilli, can it?

  9. Not the Kindle, please – that forces you into Amazon’s DRM and makes it impossible for Real Bookstores ™ to make any money off a sale.

    Shopping online ain’t the same thing!

  10. Other Paul

    Sounds like fun. But the video trailer – oh dear. Reversed note heads on a barred quaver pair. The musical equivalent of presenting a capital sigma as an E. The linguistic equivalent of presenting a laterally inverted K as spoof-Cyrillic.

  11. Wayne Robinson

    OK. Purchased. Your recommendations for ‘the Redshirts’ and Guy Harrison’s latest book on 50 popular myths were right on the money (both 5 star books), so I’ll accept your advice once again.

  12. Steve Metzler

    8. bouch Says:

    So, Human music is the exact opposite of Vogon poetry? That can’t possibly include Milli Vanilli, can it?

    1 internets awarded to bouch! But the burning question is: how will he collect? :-)

    Looking for some new sci-fi to read myself (you can only take so much Peter F. Hamilton), so will probably pick up a paper copy of this for the lolz. Have an upcoming trip to the States and it sounds like an ideal read for the plane.

  13. Dean

    Anyone find a store selling this in ePub? The Amazon format is beyond worthless.

  14. Ken

    Sounds great, but my cap for a DRM-encumbered book is around $4 (I am willing to pay, and have paid, several times that for a portable format on other titles I’ve purchased).

  15. Rince

    Japan actually has much harsher copyright laws then the US. Just a side note. :)

  16. Mephane

    Wait, did I see that right? The kindle edition costs more than a physical copy? This makes absolutely no sense to me.

  17. Thinking on No 3, Carey, if that is in fact a Napster logo …… who needs to sue whom for the money?
    Do not worry though, folks, they have the colours right, and the general theme of Napster, but it IS different.

  18. Nigel Depledge

    Rob sent me an advanced copy . . .

    Erm . . . in what way was this copy of the book particularly advanced? Did it download straight into your brain, or what? :-)

    Oh, hang on. I guess maybe you meant advance copy, is it?

  19. Nigel Depledge

    RAF (1) said:

    Rock music revered throughtout the Galaxy…that sounds about right.

    …wonder if their favorite “guitar riff” is Smoke On The Water??

    Either that or Layla.

  20. @17 Mephane: The hardcover version is $14.45 from Amazon , while the Kindle & Nook versions are $12.99 for a whopping savings of $1.46 (not counting shipping).

    Still, I’ll probably download the free “sample” to my Kindle before I decide whether to fork-over any cash.

    ETA: I like the spoof of the Napster logo on the cover.

  21. Ponteaus

    @16. Rince: that doesn’t justify the US’s ridiculous copyright law

  22. SeanMcD

    Trent Reznor of NIN fame will probably be ok with this, I’m sure the title is no coincidence considering the song “Warning” from Year Zero is about ETs and greed on Earth. I look forward to the dead trees version.

  23. Buckley

    Thanks for the recommendation. I just finished it. Excellent read. Loved the part with Bill Gates at the end.

  24. Buzz Parsec

    Send… More… Chuck… Berry…

    (I know I’m really late to the party, catching up on posts I missed while at TAM, but I couldn’t resist.)


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