Review: Year Zero

“The terms of this contract shall apply past the end of time and the edge of Earth; all throughout the universe; in perpetuity; in any media, whether now known, or hereafter devised; or in any form, whether now known, or hereafter devised.”

Take a sci-fi universe that’s got just enough ‘it’s that way because it’s amusing’ in it to feel an awful lot like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, build the story around the idea that aliens are bad at music, really dig into the music industry lawsuits from around the year 2000 (applied across space and time), and tell the story from the point of view of a low level copyright lawyer.

Voila. Year Zero.

“No, we haven’t stopped the spread of pirated music or movies online, nor have we slowed it even slightly. But we do get paid pornographically vast sums for trying our very best.”

It’s not a bad book.

There are some parts of it that are downright quite amusing. But there are also quite large swaths of the book that comment on ‘woke culture’ (for real lack of a better phrase) that just drive me a bit up the wall. I get what’s being said and fully support a pile of it… but it’s difficult at best for me to read the style of it. I just … don’t like the main characters / narrator’s voice because of it. Which isn’t an automatic ’no’ from me–it just means that everything else has to be even better to compensate for it.

“I looked at Judy as calmly as I could. “Music and movie piracy…” I slipped into a dramatic pause as I desperately tried to come up with some idea, any idea. I scanned the room for inspiration, briefly glimpsed Randy– I had my answer. “…are terrorism.”

On another tack, I generally try to take the mindset that any sci-fi fantasy book can have one / a small number of gimmes. Something that works / doesn’t work / is changed in that world as a basic rule of the universe. From there, you can build up some pretty outlandish outcomes, so long as everything follows logically either from the real world or these gimmes. But when the gimme is that out of trillions and trillions of worlds and alien species, humanity is somehow the only ones to invent music (of our sort) that literally leads to eargasm and death… Nope. Can’t do it.

“And throughout all of that … you’ve seriously, honestly, never encountered anything like the Copyright Damages Improvement Act?” “Not even close. Our top legal scholars have researched it thoroughly. And they unanimously agree that it’s the most cynical, predatory, lopsided, and shamelessly money-grubbing copyright law written by any society, anywhere in the universe since the dawn of time itself.”

Overall, like I said. It’s enjoyable. I listened to it and it’s a quick book. But I think it really runs into the problem of being very similar to but not quite as good as the Hitchhiker’s Guide. Such is life.