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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.

©2012 Robert Reid (P)2012 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"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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  • Robert
  • Akron, OH, United States
  • 08-15-12

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.

33 of 36 people found this review helpful

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A great book for super nerds!

I wish people wouldn't compare new authors to epic writers like Douglas Adams or Steig Larsson. It just sets them up for failure and disappoints readers. While this is a funny book about aliens, that's where the comparison to Douglas Adams stops. Rob Reid may have been influenced by reading Hitchhiker's, but he may have also enjoyed a book or two by Christopher Moore, or any number of other humorous writers. If you choose to listen to this book, listen to it for its' own value and not because you liked some other book that came before it.

That being said, here's what I thought of Year Zero:

It started out a little slow for me. I had a hard time getting into the characters and the story line. But once I got the hang of it, I found it to be packed with little quips and references to everything nerdy that I love. From the video game Portal to Microsoft Windows. It's not the kind of book where I laughed out loud in random public places while listening with my earphones, but I did chuckle quite a few times, and thought to myself, wow, he really just said that!

The narrator was perfect for this part. Not too over the top, and not so middle of the road that he made the funny bits boring. He did a great job with all the voices.

If you are a nerd, geek or gamer (or have a partner that is) you will love this book.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

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Unexpected hero on a sci-fi romp

John Hodgman is delightful as the nebbishy hero of this adventure. He has to prove himself in unexpected ways. The ending has a great twist explaining why our civilization is the way it is (tongue in cheek, of course.)

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Funnier than Scalzi

I've been listening to a lot of Scalzi's stuff: Fuzzy Nation, Redshirts, etc... and I was always left feeling that the writing and dialog never quite met the expectation set by the premises of the stories.

With Year Zero, I found the opposite. This book is frequently funny, and John Hodgman is the perfect narrator for the wit and satire. On the other hand, the premise of the book is so lightweight that it doesn't warrant a novel-length exploration.

I'd recommend this book to fans of Scalzi, and I'll definitely be keeping an eye open for more literature from Rob Reid.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Divya
  • martinez, CA, USA
  • 05-23-14

Brilliant and Funny

What did you love best about Year Zero?

Brilliant and Funny

Any additional comments?

Just good Book could not put it down. Brilliant and Funny. It reads a bit John Scalzi book but a bit more over the top. I do agree with some that it drags on for a few short chapters towards the back end of the book and those chapters are a bit superfluous. But no book is perfect and this is as close as you can get.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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If you like copyright humor (and who doesn't) then

If you could sum up Year Zero in three words, what would they be?

Copyright Humor Lessig

What did you like best about this story?

This book is what you would get if you got Douglas Addams, Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow to write a book together. It is a short but fun book to read, it has good characters, a decent plot and a solid ending. It moves right along and did make me laugh out loud a few times.

What about John Hodgman’s performance did you like?

Once I found out that John Hodgman did the reading for the audio book there was no way I was going to bother with the print edition. He is the perfect voice for this book, now I wish he'd go and do the audio editions for the Hitchiker's Guide series.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Hope they didn't spend too much on the FX

Any additional comments?

I would only recommend this book to a few people. If you are an avid reader of Boing Boing then this book is for you, otherwise move on.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Edge of your seat funny

Would you listen to Year Zero again? Why?

Yes, very funny.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Year Zero?

I don't believe in spoilers

What about John Hodgman’s performance did you like?

Great. He did an awesome job with a wide array of charcters.

Any additional comments?

<br/><br/><br/>Year Zero's summary may sound a bit far fetched but it's completely plausible. The Universe's financial structure is in perial because of America's asinine copyright laws. The only way to solve the issue is to try to negotiate the rights to every song created..... So, destruction of earth it is. Actually, most of the aliens are so smitten with our music that they would never wish Earth any harm, but one group wishes otherwise. <br/><br/>This is one of those books that you will tell everyone about and buy for your closest friends. It's edge of your seat funny and a one sitting kinda read. My recommendation is buy as soon as possible. Unless you work for a record label or congress, you probably wouldn't get it anyways.<br/><br/>People who will like this book may include: nerds, geeks, and music lovers. I don't want to put Rob in the same class as Douglas Adam's its not fair to Rob. It's like going to see a movie that everyone tells you is best ever and when it doesn't completely blow your mind your let down. This book is an instant favorite for me and there will be a hardback edition on my shelf. I just don't want you to go into it expecting the universe..

15 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott
  • Roseville, CA, United States
  • 09-03-12

Great Twist on a Crazy Universe

Okay, comparing anyone to Scott Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide is just unfair because that was classic. Rob Reid does come close though. The idea of America's ridiculous copyright law reaching into and affecting the highly refined beings of the cosmos is very funny. You won't laugh on the first page as I did with Hitchhiker, but by the 3rd or 4th I was consistently grinning at pokes at popular culture including social media (including "Flutter" - you have to hear it, I won't ruin the joke and Klippy the annoying mascot for Microsoft Word). Like Hitchiker's Guide there is an important "love interest" that helps keep the story interesting. The narration is an excellent performance of dozens of weird characters with great voices.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Howard
  • Cumberland, MD, United States
  • 09-14-12

Why are aliens more ethical than us

Delightful tale of copyright gone wrong. Pleasurable story with some real context that should get you to start thinking why we have such ridiculous copyright laws. Also, consider that the vast world of the universe would owe so much, and be willing to function under Earth's messed up intellectual property laws. Truly fiction that we can only hope will be copied in real life!

Ried uses fiction very well to make his points. Hodgman is flawless with his performance of Reid's first work of fiction. Looking forward to more from this pair,

10 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Very witty and funny, bonus at the end

The whole thing sounds so preposterous that it's very funny. Plot twist is very witty too so the whole story line won't sound shallow. And if you get to the epilogue, the bonus scene although predictable, it's the pinnacle of funny conspiracy theory.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter Beverley-Smith
  • 02-05-17

I can't believe I chose this book

What disappointed you about Year Zero?

The premise is poor, delivery is below standard and I have only just made it to the end of the first chapter.

What will your next listen be?

Still thinking about it

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of John Hodgman?

Not sure the book is worth it

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Extreme disappointment

Any additional comments?

Sad

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  • lyn Alton
  • 01-31-16

took time to get into but once there great

I took time to get into it but loved the concept. funny clever concept. recommend it

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  • Paul
  • 09-28-14

Amazingly funny

Would you listen to Year Zero again? Why?

Absolutely, it packed a lot into a relatively short story and kept me laughing with every paragraph.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Nick Carter, the main character because he was so level headed and reasonable without ever being dull.

Which character – as performed by John Hodgman – was your favourite?

Trudy, he managed to play such a curt and brusque character so well.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me laugh out loud on the train for a whole week.

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  • Vincent
  • 12-24-12

This will go out of date very quickly.

This book was fairly humorous, an interesting tweak on the digital aspect of DNA and the so called 'junk genes'. In real life someone has taken the genome of a living cell and converted it into digital code, altered it using a computer to recreate a new bacteria that replicates, which has 'www url addresses' encoded in it too. The problem I had with the book is the story is too trite. The title is wrong, it should have at least have been Years Zero, but we never speak about month, day and year in the same terms as we speak of hours, minutes and seconds.

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  • Owen Neochi
  • 07-02-15

Interesting Idea - a bit drawn out

Still a fun novel. I just felt that the main plot was a bit slow with lots of side bits. There were lots of incidental characters and incidents that could have been fleshed out or could feature in further novel.
Still liked it, but read it at double speed

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  • C SIMONSEN
  • 02-01-15

Very entertaining book

This book is highly recommended by me! Its fun to listen to, easy to understand, well written, and very well read. I was recommended this book buy the guys at TWIT as the Author was on the show and thought it might be worth the read, IT WAS!
I'm not normally a far out fiction reader. but the story line is just too good in this book.