13 January 2018

Year Zero, by Rob Reid

Posted by Callan Bentley

I was so impressed with After On that I went out an got the only other novel by Rob Reid, Year Zero. The plot set up is something rather ludicrous, but the novel works in spite of the silly premise. Here’s the idea: There are a lot of alien civilizations out there, and they are really advanced. Banded together into a Refined League, they have mastered almost all forms of art, but they are really deficient when it comes to music. They discover Earth’s music and it becomes an ecstatic addiction. They listen and listen, copying music files and lip-synching performances, and loving it. But then, 30 years in to the sonic orgy, somealien realizes they haven’t paid a cent for it, and are subject to legal penalties according to Earth’s copyright laws. Following legal precedent such as when a college student who shares 30 files has been slapped with a $675,000 fine, the aliens owe the citizens of Earth the entire wealth of the universe. So now some of them want to destroy the Earth to get out of the debt. And in steps our hero. Goofy, right? But it’s worth reading, because Reid is a really skilled writer with a terrific imagination. It’s super fun. And as an added bonus, the novel has at least one character in common with After On, as well as the social media app Phluttr, which was central to the subsequent novel. I like it when authors or auteurs manage to construct multiple independent stories that fit into the same fictional universe with elements like that, akin to Quentin Tarantino’s Red Apple cigarettes or the 1% overlapping novels The Golden Ocean and The Unknown Shore by Patrick O’Brian. Overall, I’d say that After On was a stronger book than Year Zero, but I enjoyed the alien music law fest too. It’s a nice escapist novel.