Year Zero

  • by Rob Reid
  • Narrated by John Hodgman
  • 9 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

An alien advance party was suddenly nosing around my planet.
Worse, they were lawyering up....

In the hilarious tradition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Rob Reid takes you on a headlong journey through the outer reaches of the universe - and the inner workings of our absurdly dysfunctional music industry.
Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it's a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. And boy, do they have news.
The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on humanity's music ever since "Year Zero" (1977 to us), when American pop songs first reached alien ears. This addiction has driven a vast intergalactic society to commit the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang. The resulting fines and penalties have bankrupted the whole universe. We humans suddenly own everything - and the aliens are not amused.
Nick Carter has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly, and he's an unlikely galaxy-hopping hero: He's scared of heights. He's also about to be fired. And he happens to have the same name as a Backstreet Boy. But he does know a thing or two about copyright law. And he's packing a couple of other pencil-pushing superpowers that could come in handy.
Soon he's on the run from a sinister parrot and a highly combustible vacuum cleaner. With Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick now has 48 hours to save humanity, while hopefully wowing the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.

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What the Critics Say

"Can you imagine The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy combined with The Social Network? Of course you cannot: because only Rob Reid can. Hilarious, provocative, and supersmart, Year Zero is not merely the first IPSF (intellectual property SF) epic ever written, it is also a plain brilliant novel to be enjoyed in perpetuity, in the known universe and all unknown universes yet to be discovered." (John Hodgman, resident expert, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart)
"Year Zero is a brilliant satire of the American entertainment industry, and I never stopped grinning." (Kevin Hearne, author of The Iron Druid Chronicles)
"This book is already required reading on all of the educated planets in the universe, and now they're letting us Earthlings have a look at it, too. There are at least 3.6 good jokes and 9.7 clever ideas per page. I did the math: that's a really impressive ratio. I never thought I would say this, but this book made me laugh out loud and taught me stuff about copyright infringement. Clever, smart, and so original that people are probably already trying to rip it off. (Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not H2G2. Not even close.

This book is interesting. Not great. Not even good. And certainly not like Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy. It was unique with an original storyline but it didn't pass muster to rank above 3 stars.
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- colleen "My favorite genres are absurdist humor, Sci-fi & modern fantasy, but, as you can see, I'll read just about anything. Don't mind the typos."

Fantastic Performance by Hodgman

The story behind Year Zero is summarized in the writeup, and in many of the other reviews.
Folks have thrown around comparisons to Douglas Adams, and while I can understand the impulse, I think they do come at SF from different comedic angles.

Hitchhiker's Guide and company have much more of an absurdist bent - the plot will often bend in service to the joke that Adams is trying to reach. Reid has an outlandish premise, and the comedy results from taking this premise and following it all the way through to the furthest logical (illogical?) extremes. I enjoy both approaches, and while I love and revere Adam's stuff, I think I find Reid's take a more satisfying as a reader.

Or as a listener.

Hodgman's performance on this audiobook is an absolute delight.
I have heard him in interviews, on The Daily Show, on his podcast Judge John Hodgman, in ads, and as an occasional actor. I am an absolute fan, but he seems to keep winding up in roles where he is performing variations on insane-intellectual-lecturer-mad-professor-on-downers-with-an-ironic-twist. (Probably not the most concise description, but I hope the point comes across. Let me state unequivocally, that I am a big fan of his. ) In Year One, he showed more range in the first two hours of the narration than I have seen from him elsewhere.

In many audiobooks, narrators will sometimes lose me in a round of dialogue - they may not make each character distinctive enough to understand who exactly is speaking at any given moment. This was never a problem in this reading, and some of the voices that Hodgman came up with were downright suprising. (I actually checked again on Audible to make sure he was the only narrator listed, they were that different from his normal tone.)
He makes each voice distinctive, but does not lapse in to cartoony or schlocky impressions (something I struggle with when reading stories to my kids at night). His own voice - insane-intellectual-lecturer-mad-professor-on-downers-with-an-ironic-twist is absolutely perfect for the narrator, Nick Carter.

If the premise even mildly intrigues you, or if you are a fan of Hodgman in other media, please give this a try. I loved it.
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- Robert

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-10-2012
  • Publisher: Random House Audio