The premise of Year Zero makes me smile. Aliens, who fell in love with Earth’s music in 1977 when they heard the theme song to “Welcome Back, Kotter,” have been making pirated copies of our music, but only recently learned about copyright. Fearing they need to make amends, they visit a young earthling specializing in copyright law. This attorney is then taken on an amazing journey throughout the universe so he can try to save Earth.
Year Zero by Rob Reid has been compared to the marvelous Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If I had to choose a book series to take with me on a desert island, it would probably be Hitchhiker’s Guide because I would need a good laugh.
It’s completely unfair to compare someone’s first novel to The Hitchhiker’s Guide. Lovers of The Guide know why I would also bring my towel with me on the desert island. They smirk when someone mentions the number 42. They try to use the phrase “So long, and thanks for all the fish” at any given opportunity. There is a lot of love for The Guide, so saying someone’s first novel is like The Guide sets up some pretty big expectations.
I can see where the comparisons between the novels come into play. Rob Reid takes very mundane things, like songs from the Backstreet Boys and Los del Río, and turns them into amazing things in the eyes of aliens, like my precious towel in The Guide. (Don’t tell the aliens that you didn’t remember who Los del Río was because they love that song, and you still dance badly to it at weddings, I guarantee.)
Things like that can clearly be compared to The Guide, but throughout the rest of Year Zero Reid tries too hard to be clever or creative and it seems forced. By the time our copyright attorney starts bouncing around the galaxy and meets the universe’s reality stars, their law enforcement, and terrifying teddy bears, it all just seemed to be too much.
But I didn’t stop reading the book. If it was really bad I would’ve stopped reading it, so it’s not bad, but it just seems too forced to be great. It’s definitely not The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I did see the comparisons and smiled many times, so Reid is on his way.