Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: Year Zero by Rob Reid

Title: Year Zero
Author: Rob Reid
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Del Rey
Pages: 364
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I received this book in a First Reads giveaway on Goodreads .

An alien advance party was suddenly nosing around my planet.
Worse, they were lawyering up. . . . 

In the hilarious tradition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Rob Reid takes you on a headlong journey through the outer reaches of the universe—and the inner workings of our absurdly dysfunctional music industry.

Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. And boy, do they have news.

The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on humanity’s music ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), when American pop songs first reached alien ears. This addiction has driven a vast intergalactic society to commit the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang. The resulting fines and penalties have bankrupted the whole universe. We humans suddenly own everything—and the aliens are not amused.

Nick Carter has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly, and he’s an unlikely galaxy-hopping hero: He’s scared of heights. He’s also about to be fired. And he happens to have the same name as a Backstreet Boy. But he does know a thing or two about copyright law. And he’s packing a couple of other pencil-pushing superpowers that could come in handy.

I really had no idea what to expect when I got Year Zero out of the mailbox. It had an alien wearing headphones on the cover... I read the back and realized that this is totally not my style. Still, I felt an obligation to the author to give it a go (he gave me a free copy of his book, after all).

Right from the start, the reader has to be up to date with every musical performer from the 70s until today. As a child raised in the 90s, I have no idea what most of these references even are. For anyone who doesn't know who the stars of the 90s and early 00s are, keeping up will be quite difficult as well. I cannot imagine this will be on too many shelves in 20 years.

The story itself seemed a little hurried and even sporadic. The characters didn't really keep me interested and the style of writing reminded me of an elementary school student's short story - then this happened, and then that happened, etc. I gave up on the footnotes about halfway through.

I'm giving it more than one star purely because of the shock value. I was constantly like, "what just happened?" The parrot, for instance... Year Zero was somewhat entertaining and I did get through it very quickly just to see what sort of randomness would happen next, but I probably wouldn't read it again.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Audiobook Review: Feed by Mira Grant

Title: FEED (Newsflesh #1)
Author: Mira Grant
Publication Date: May 1, 2010
Publisher: Orbit
Pages: 571
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The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop.

The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives - the dark conspiracy behind the infected.

The truth will get out, even if it kills them.

I was very underwhelmed by this book. For starters, it is marketed as a zombie book, when in fact, it's a political conspiracy book with some zombies thrown in. It was entirely not what I was expecting.

The writing in this book was painful at times, and extremely repetitive. The world building is force fed to the reader via Georgia rather than shown through events. I will say that the zombie concept that Grant has come up with seems entirely original and was interesting. But I will also say that again, we are force fed the zombie virus situation throughout the book. It seemed like every five minutes I was hearing about a blood test, which model it was, where the needles stuck, and about the blinking lights that finally settled on green. I get it! I got it after the first few pages, actually.

Another repetitive aspect that drove me crazy was Georgia's health issue - Retinal Kellis-Amberlee. Basically, the zombie virus concentrated in her eyes. We constantly hear about her sunglasses, how her eyes hurt in the light, her migraines, contacts, and how every time she enters a building she runs into problems with security. Once again, I got it after the first few times.

The characters in general just weren't very likeable to me. Georgia seemed kind of arrogant and goes out of her way NOT to fit in with everyone else. She constantly talks about her desire to tell the Truth (yes, with a "T") and nothing but the Truth. Though she associates herself with the "newsies" (a branch of bloggers who report only facts without opinion), every blog post we hear from her is nothing but opinion, even going so far as to state which candidate should win the presidential election.

Shaun just seemed like an idiot. If I had to hear about him "poking things with sticks" one more time, I was at risk of giving up altogether. But I pushed through. Shaun is what is called an Irwin - a blogger who goes out into dangerous areas to get footage of himself doing stupid things. Oh, and Irwins are named after Steve Irwin (there was even something about a Steve-o award), as if people in 2040 will remember who Steve Irwin was.

Buffy was another idiot, just for different reasons. I'm not really sure why they don't have books (Kindle, maybe?) in the year 2040, when they have earring cameras and hotels with private elevators, but for whatever reason, they rely on fictionals (bloggers who write fiction, shockingly) to get their fix. Buffy seems to whine and complain a lot throughout the book and is the ultimate demise of everyone.

I didn't love any of them. I actually thought they were all maybe 18 years old, only to find out from reviews that they were actually around 24. They were completely juvenile, unrealistically so. No one in real life makes a (supposedly) witty comment at the end of every sentence. And no one would call their brother an idiot when she thought he was about to die.

Speaking of brother/sister relationships, this one was a little weird. I love my brother and all, but I don't share a bed with him and I can stand to be away from him for more than five minutes. I've also never let my love for my brother interfere with my dating experience.

My last unfortunate comment is that I have never before read a book and not cared at all when a character died. I did not care in the least when characters in this book died. I think that fact alone speaks volumes about this book. 

Notes on the Audiobook

Audiobook narration is extremely hit or miss, and this one was a definite miss. Paula Christensen's voice was annoying, her voice rising at the end of each sentence, almost like a sports announcer. Jesse Bernstein's voice wasn't nearly as bad, but BOTH need to work on their British accents. I have never been to England, but I've had English friends and I watch TV - I could have done a better job. Paula's accent sounded like a strange combo of Australian and British, and Jesse's sounded like Samoan mixed with British and American. Both were really weird.