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The universe still holds vast space unexplored by mankind and we are comfortable knowing that we are alone in the galaxy. However, what if we weren’t alone and Aliens have been trying to communicate with us through music and sounds but man has been none the wiser? The proof is in the cosmic beeps that N.A.S.A routinely ignored as mostly inconsequential — in reality, Aliens are transmitting their music to us.
The day they figured we didn’t get it, Year Zero was set. The 1970′s TV show ‘Welcome back, Kotter’ with its iconic theme song and a young John Travolta, was the beginning of how music changed the universe. The discovery of Earth music was indeed so important to the aliens that they collectively reset the clock for the entire cosmos in Pre-Kotter and Post-Kotter delineations to mark the discovery of Earth music.
Imagine for a moment that your name is Nick Carter, no relation to the Backstreet Boy, working at a law firm as a lowly associate hoping to make partner. You work hard, are generally a good guy while lusting after your gorgeous neighbor. This is fairly normal until one day, Aliens phase into your office and tell you Planet Earth is the source of all music in the known universe. Oh and they want to copyright it for interstellar listeners for legal reasons. Suddenly your life isn’t that boring.
Rob Reid’s other characters in his new book Year Zero are just as memorable, with many echoing real life traits and quirks. From every neurotic nuance to sarcastic quips uttered in the book, there shines an ease of reading that conveys real plausibility to this seemingly improbable scenario. The two Aliens that guide Nick Carter on his journey through the universe are Frampton, who exhibits a nerdy alien historian vibe while the other, Carly shows the ‘frustrated-with-the-universe’ temperament that we all have when life doesn’t go our way. Manda, the neighbor, is a fun and quirky underground hit musician who Nick secretly pines after.
Reid also throws in a small appearance by the man we know as Bill Gates but who is in reality an Alien. His creation of Windows was in an effect to help human kind not to accelerate ourselves into planetary destruction. He is one of the few Aliens that have trespassed onto earth, knowingly saving the human race with Windows and MS DOS.
The Aliens are not the main attraction in Year Zero, but that they love our music is the thing that intrigues. It is after all, one of the earliest forms of auditory communication for many species on our planet, making this form of communication on other planets plausible as well. Fortunately aliens love our music, so much so, that some of their most precious metals are Metallicam, Vanhelium and Bon Jovium. Metallicam, for example is the heaviest metal in the universe and is orders of magnitude above any others, serving as quote ‘plutonium on steroids’. This is one of the many humorous twists exhibited in the story and they are all very welcome additions.
Rob Reid’s Year Zero is exceedingly hilarious and excellently crafted, pulling in cultural references from the last three decades. In the same tradition as Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, Reid has written a close encounter of the 3rd kind not with any poking and prodding but with gut busting laughs and obscure musical knowledge. In Year Zero, aliens view humanity as on the cusp of either expected self destruction or rising to the level of a Refined Being. It seems only one in four societies ever achieves the level of Refined Society, since every other society usually kills itself through disease, hunger, famine, or nuclear winter.
Together they form a Refined League, which serves as a United Nations for the Refined members of the universe, upholding the laws of all the Sextillion’s of societies in the cosmos. They love, share and expound upon our earth music to the point where they have dissected entire songs for months on end throughout the entire cosmos. There is nothing stereotypical about this alien story at all.
The problem though? When the League realizes that Earth’s piracy laws extends throughout the Universe, the intergalactic music industry suddenly owes Planet Earth royalties and damages from illegally sharing their music. Suddenly the Universe owes Earth a lot of money and they are NOT happy about it.
The real meat of the story is how this overlying concept of Aliens loving Earth music clashes with our copyright infringement laws written into every contract since the inception of those laws. Not only do humans get in trouble for illegal sharing but these laws manages to affect the entire universe. Reid clearly has the pulse of our culture easily defined, twisting it with his own interpretation of music meets science fiction in a sneaky smash collaboration to exhibit his unique perspective for life on our lovely little planet.
There is nothing stereotypical about Rob Reid’s writing, which is suitably funny and caustic wit all rolled into one. You get the sense of Nick Carter’s character and step into his shoes as the story unfolds. Watch as chaos ensues while Carter tries to keep his job, make partner, and oh, save the entire human race while getting the girl too. Cheeky without being rude, this book will slowly envelop readers into a story that restores our faith in the music industry and makes us hope that there are aliens who do love our music.
Rating: 4.5/5 for a great parody on the human condition, on alien existence, and our addiction to music.
Image Courtesy of Rob Reid