July 13, 2012

BOOKS: Year One, Rob Reid (2012)

I'm pretty sure that it is now illegal to review a comic science fiction novel without referring to Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but let's face it, Rob Reid's Year Zero doesn't run screaming from the comparison.

Seems that for the last 30 years or so, Earth music has been all the rage in the rest of the galaxy -- it turns out to be the one thing humanity is spectacularly good at -- and almost every sentient being carries with him a complete jukebox of all of our music. (And talk about space-saving: It's encoded directly into their DNA!)

But galactic legal codes require that artistic products be dealt with as they are dealt with on their home world; if a planet's theatrical works are presented in outdoor amphitheaters, then other planets are obliged to present them the same way.

And that's a problem, because under Earth's laws, every alien has committed an extraordinary amount of music piracy. They've stolen so much music that to pay the fines they owe would bankrupt the rest of the galaxy, which the rest of the galaxy isn't too keen on, and the only way out they can see is to simply destroy us.

Some of them would like to avoid doing so, and so Frampton and Carly arrive in the offices of Nick Carter, a junior attorney specializing in entertainment law. (Why him, and not someone higher up? They assumed he was the Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys, and couldn't pass up the chance to meet him.) Nick and the aliens have only a short time to find a legal solution that will save the planet.

Reid's novel is certainly more tightly plotted than Adams ever was; the Hitchhiker books generally had no more plot that was absolutely necessary as a framework on which to hang the digressions and the bizarre anecdotes about alien life. But the tone is similar -- light and breezy, enjoying its own silliness, not taking anything too seriously. Reid builds on his premise in surprising ways, carrying the idea to all of its logical (and not-so-logical) conclusions.

It's a fun book, and certainly the most entertaining novel you'll ever read about copyright law.

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