Book Club: Year Zero

June’s Book Club selection was Year Zero by Rob Reid. (Yes, I’m a little behind with my reviews.) After my epic 600-page space adventure, I looked forward to a light and short read. Particularly, a story about the music industry. 

The premise of the story was rather quirky. Quite simply, the author is the founder of the music streaming service, Rhapsody and an attorney. The story is a parody about copyright infringement laws, particularly as it relates to a period in time when peer-to-peer filing sharing was a new technology. Some of us remember the days when dirt-poor college students were threatened with $250,000 fines and felony convictions punishable by up to five years in prison for downloading music from the Internet. The first highly publicized case, Metallica v. Napster, Inc.

There are a ton of references to popular music like the protagonist’s name is Nick Carter as in the Backstreet Boy. A receptionist named Barbara Ann, a nod to the Beach Boys’ 1965 hit and recently revived by the Minions as the Banana Song. Aliens named Carly and Frampton. Some quips were wildly entertaining, but a little goes a long way.

Almost all Book Club readers lost interest in the story towards the middle. Also, some of the characters introduced weren’t fully developed. At first, it seemed like they were going to be an intricate part of the story, but trailed off and eventually disappeared. Finally, the author uses footnotes throughout the narrative. Small passages of explanation, which most readers felt took them out of the story. They distracted them.

Overall, a fun read especially if you are a music lover. Just know that it’s a satirical look at the music streaming industry, so don’t go into it thinking there’s going to be some profound theme. There’s no huge take-away from it other than how lucrative frivolous lawsuits can be. The take-away for me was how Metallica and other musicians lost in the end anyway since they make only pennies on the dollar from streaming services.

Up next for July is A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine:

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident—or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion—all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret—one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life—or rescue it from annihilation.

Until next time, happy reading!

Book Club: Project Hail Mary

*** Beware: this review includes a few spoilers ***

If you’ve read my review of Artemis, you already have a good idea about my critique of Andy Weir’s third book, Project Hail Mary. On a positive note, I liked it better than Artemis. Perhaps because this book was written in the first person, like The Martian, and I felt more connected to the protagonist.

Returning to a tried-and-true format, Project Hail Mary features a lone character in space facing unimaginable obstacles. In this case, Ryland Grace. He has a great sense of humor, which I enjoyed. Though it got a bit immature at times and became annoying. This man didn’t take any of the deadly hurdles he faced seriously. Failed suspense of disbelief #1.

And Grace faces an endless stream of problems. One after another, and all of them, easily overcome. Despite being in a situation with insurmountable complications, he finds a solution somewhere in the recesses of his mind. Perhaps that is why he has such a cavalier attitude. He didn’t ever feel threatened by his predicament. Failed suspense of disbelief #2.

The story is loaded with science and the requisite detailed explanations in typical Andy Weir style. On a positive note, I learned that I understand physics more than biology. Regardless, 500 pages of science is too much, and yep, I stopped turning pages around Chapter 14. The story became repetitious, predictable, and boring.

I did read the last three chapters, but it was another letdown. The entire book was about Grace solving life-threatening problems. Yet, he couldn’t come up with a plan to produce food for himself at the end. It was hard for me to believe that he couldn’t simulate an environment for growing fruits and vegetables. Also, his body suffered from the effects of strong gravity on the surface of the alien’s planet. I couldn’t help but wonder why he resided on the surface when the Hail Mary orbited around the planet. Why didn’t he simply make his home on the ship and visit the surface as needed? Failed suspense of disbelief #3.

The ending was such a disappointment that it compelled me to write an alternate ending. Book club members liked it better but said it didn’t fit Weir’s style. Why? Because I made Grace’s ultimate mission, to save Planet Earth, fail and forced him to face a moral dilemma about the decision he made.

Although this selection failed to capture my imagination, it worked for a ton of other readers. Even though it was tagged as piggybacking off of The Martian, it didn’t matter to them. MGM has optioned the movie rights for the adaptation of the book starring Ryan Gosling in the title role.

Moving on, April’s selection is Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor. I’m hopeful since it’s a novella (only about 150 pages), and it doesn’t seem like it includes a lot of science. In fact, some readers question why it’s labeled as science fiction.