Book Review: Year Zero

Year Zero is a book I’d heard a lot of good things about from various sources on the internet.  I bought the book on a whim (you know, when you need to get your Amazon cart up to $35 so you can get your free shipping), and it sat on my shelf for a while.  I was re-arranging my to-read book shelves and just sort of started to read it.  Somewhere between my legs falling asleep and my back going numb from sitting awkwardly on the floor, I figured I should just read the thing in a comfy chair instead of trying to find a convenient way to re-shelve it.  I got about half-way through before I had to take a long pause while working on skating costumes, and finished reading it during my recent trip to Nationals.

The premise of Year Zero is a bit hilarious – aliens discover how amazingly awesome Earth’s pop music is, and hold it to be the greatest art form in the universe.  Thus it is wildly shared, downloaded, and distributed throughout all of outer space.  Unfortunately, because the people of Earth are not yet advanced enough to belong to the greater galactic society, the aliens must abide by Earth’s laws when handling their artistic content.  Which means they owe the people of Earth a lot of money.  Which, of course, is a good reason to try to get rid of them.  The story follows the adventures of Nick Carter (a human lawyer, not the boy band musician), as he, along with his neighbor and his cousin, must work with Carly and Frampton (of alien reality tv fame) to save the Earth from other aliens who want to destroy it.

One thing I will say about this book – it’s funny.  Especially for people who grew up during the days of Windows XP and Napster.  One of the great things about science fiction is that it can point out the insanities of modern society without becoming a boring essay or a long-winded political rant.  I feel like this book does a lot to point out many of the absurdities we have to deal with in today’s society, especially as we adapt to the changes and challenges that new technology presents.  The story itself isn’t anything new, and while the characters are funny, they aren’t particularly original.  The humor of this book is spot on though.

The only problem in writing a book that mocks modern technology, is that it becomes outdated almost as soon as that technology does.  I had a moment while reading this when I realized, if I gave this book to any of my students they would be totally lost as to why it is so brilliantly funny because they never had to deal with many of the technological issues this book harps on.  Which is rather sad, actually.  The book is good, but it isn’t going to have that lasting, timeless quality that really brilliant science fiction is capable of achieving.

So I would say I highly recommend this book, because it is good for a laugh, but I would read it sooner, rather than later.  The story was good, but the material is already starting to feel slightly dated, and I expect it will only continue to be less relevant as time goes on.  So I’m glad I pulled it off the shelf when I did, because it proved to be a fun and worthwhile summer read.  Oh, and my apologies to the person who sat next to me on the plane – I didn’t mean to interrupt your nap-taking with my incessant giggling.

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