Year Zero꞉ A Novel

Year Zero

Read Time: 3 Minutes

I took a chance on this one after it popped up in a two-for-one sale. I’ve thought about giving this one a go, almost from when it came out as an ebook but never made the plunge. The premise of human copyright laws bankrupting every sentient being in the entire universe sounded like fun, even if I knew the jokes were going to be around copyright infringements and the like. And yes, there was a lot of that going on which honestly wasn’t as much of a drag as I thought it might be.

If you lived through the Napster shenanigans of the late nineties and early naughties, have an appreciation for music references and jokes, and not looking for anything too “out there” then this book would suit you well. I didn’t mind it… I think had I not picked it up during a twofer then maybe I’d have a few regrets, but overall I think I’d summarise it as enjoyable, a little forgettable, and maybe not one I’d go back to for a second listen.

Certainly disregard the pitch of “In the hilarious tradition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” – because, no, it is not. Yes, it’s humorous sci-fi but there the comparison really ends. It seems anyone who publishes a humorous sci-fi book tries the whole “as good as Douglas Adams” thing, and that usually puts me off trying them because it’s such a low-effort pitch, and they never deliver.

The world-building (universe-building?) was good and well thought out. The enlightened civilisations out beyond the “Townshend Line” (an impenetrable force field erected to keep hordes of aliens bum-rushing Earth to see a Who concert), while better at everything than earthlings, totally suck at making music. That’s where humanity outclasses the entire universe… and because of their civilized rules, they must obey the rules of the planet of origin, which means they owe us all the money, now and until the heat death of the universe.

The narration by John Hodgman was rather dry. While there were no faults like repeated lines or background noises, his delivery was straightforward and seemingly lacked any real enthusiasm. For an audiobook produced back in 2012, the production quality was surprisingly excellent, as I’ve listened to other books from around then and late into the twenty-teens that weren’t as good.

Will I go looking for other books by Reid or Hodgman? Probably not. While I ultimately enjoyed the book, nothing makes me want to go and find what else they have done.

One final note… and this is a personal bugbear of mine so beware: rant incoming! The choice to square off the book cover to turn it into an audiobook cover annoys me. An extra few minutes to make the earth take up the width, and you could have kept the rest. I love the cover art, but the abrupt cuts annoy me. Okay, rant over!


Humorous, Science Fiction
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