Love Minus Eighty

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Years in the future, dead women in cryogenic dating farms await rich, lonely suitors to resurrect them and take them home. LOVE MINUS EIGHTY follows interconnected lives touched by these dating farms. 

There's Rob, who accidentally kills a jogger, then sells everything to visit her, seeking her forgiveness but instead falling in love. Veronika, a socially-awkward dating coach, finds herself responsible for the happiness of a man whose life she saved against his will. And Mira, a gay woman accidentally placed in the heterosexual dating center near its inception, desperately seeks a way to reunite with her frozen partner as the centuries pass.

I normally try to avoid love stories/paranormal romance when I choose my fantasy reads I gave it a few tries but it just wasn’t my cup of tea when I read that. However for Love Minus Eighty I made an exception. When I read the synopsis on the site of Orbit it really intrigued me was eager to find out how this story would unfold. And well this review should be self explanatory, the first thing you should do after reading this review is go to your bookstore or online and order this book!

Love Minus Eighty is written by Will McIntosh who has written numerous short stories for different science fiction magazines, and one of them, Bridesicle, has one him a Hugo Award. The short story Bridesicle was translated into a full length book, resulting in Love Minus Eighty. In Love Minus Eighty Will McIntosh explores a many subjects of human society and with views from a few perspectives, producing an utterly interesting, engaging and an extraordinary story. 

The story starts off with a prologue set in the year 2103 AD with Mira, and this is the first glimpse you see of how it goes about in such a cryogenic dating farm. I can only imagine that future dating won't go into this direction. Mira is revived by a possible patron, but Mira doesn't have any recollection about how where she is and what is exactly about. The idea behind the dating farms is that when you die, get hit by a car or have a different accident (only in the case of female) you are being frozen at -80oC and stored, but in order to pay off the bill, rich suitors can revive a possible candidate and have a chat, at outrageous prices, to see if there is chemistry. The costs of actually bringing a person back to live depends on the what occurred to that person, the extent of damage. But when the date time is out, the candidate is dying again, until the next visit... As you see this happening with Mira, it directly set my mood straight and was intrigued firstly by how Will McIntosh wrote this part and secondly by seeing the idea of Love Minus Eighty come to live, it does give a certain kind of chills. 

After the prologue the story skips to 2133 AD and from this point onwards the focus in on a multiple of characters that each have their own story to tell but have their lives interconnected by the cryogenic dating farms. The first is Rob, his girlfriend, Lorelei, has just broken up with him in front of a lot of screens (bit like followers on twitter) but in an accident Rob hits a jogger with his car, but isn't pursued by the legal system since he wasn't under influence or the likes. However Rob does find out that the person he hit, a woman, is now in one of the dating farms, and ridden with guilt as he is, he is seeking redemption for his own soul. But visiting turns out to be a bigger problem, the costs of just a few minutes talk are above what Rob can afford. If found the first few encounters with Rob and Winter (the person he hit) very interesting and Rob is ridden with guilt and want to make amends it somehow feels that Winter is playing the guilt card even more giving Rob a worse feeling about himself, forcing him to keep paying the costly fees for a visit. And too be honest I really thought that Winter was just playing Rob, but their connection does go deeper, luckily, and in the end it shows the true essence of what love is all about.

A second point of view is made from Veronika. Veronika is a dating coach who helps people with dates from start to finish, making the profiles, setting them up and feeding them lines when they are on a face-to-face. Her connection with Rob is more through her friend Nathan on which she has a secret crush. If you look at her character, Veronika has a great amount of depth and is quite complex. Her crush on Nathan drives her to do some questionable things. But when Veronika meets Lycan in her life and this doesn’t really make it easier for Veronika as she is now trying to hide her feelings for Nathan from him, playing a dangerous game and being courted by Lycan, Will McIntosh manages to show all the feelings that accompany them in a more than great way. How he shows the feelings of jealousy and wanting are just super. The third person that is more making the connection of it all is Nathan. Nathan is also a dating coach but where Veronika is still hesitant and prefers to be single, Nathan is living  the wild life, one night stands and he does seem to get easily bored when relationships go on for a few weeks. Nathan dates Winter. Well that should say enough as to how Rob’s Nathan and Veronika’s lives are interconnected. Nathan’s character is quite opposite of Veronika but similarly to Veronika, Will McIntosh does show some vice and virtues of Nathan is full colour. When you meet him in the first few chapters he is one of those guys who you would say just wants to have fun, but when he meets that one special person, Nathan seems to see that life is more than just winging it and that with all the money and material things you can’t substitute love.

Though the story mainly revolves around Rob, Veronika and Nathan, there are still a few secondary characters that play their own parts into this complex love story. Winter, Mira, Lorelei and Lycan. It is not only that either Winter or Mira or Lorelei of Lycan is connected to the three mentioned above, these four additions all play neatly into several lives. Lorelei for one is the ex of Rob and Lycan is visiting Mira in the minus eighty, Winter is the ex of Nathan and much more. Showing a secondary web of connections was done in a brilliant manner, this was the bit that I really really liked.

Now for the world of Love Minus Eigthy. It’s interesting. It’s building up on some of the technologies that we are familiar with but Will McIntosh does give them his own spin on it. Take for example the social media. When you thought that it was going far in our day and age, in Love Minus Eighty it is taken just a few steps further. With complete connection with systems and integrated video recordings, calling on screens to follow someone. And in 2133 AD you still have the addicts to it, trying to make a create a huge social audience and achieving this with some drama at hand. Though you can impose a block on screens, if you can get just a few more followers with some drama why shouldn’t you? If you look at how Will McIntosh shows this new level of social technology it did made me think about how dependent we have gotten on it.

So far what I have told about Love Minus Eighty, from down to the characters and setting really made this book rock solid for me. But there is one last thing that resonates and is explored all throughout the book and this is shown by the points-of-view of the main characters. Human morale. The strong emphasis on this subject makes Love Minus Eighty from start middle and finish just amazing. Even though you are presented with the fact of the cryogenic dating farms, that they are there and it has been going on for a while, it does put your mind to thinking, is this the right way? If you would get his by a car, would you be wanting to be put on ice until you could be revived? Especially if you see the pain and desperation that is accompanied by each single reviving. As you see Winter and Mira coping with the pains of being abandoned after only a few minutes of conversing and having to put on a face of deception to get “rescued” out of the dating far, it does leave a mark. Later in the book you learn that there is also a movement going on to free all the “bridesicles”. I was very pleased with the level of detail that Will McIntosh provide on the morality and social acceptance of the dating farms. And that by the lives of several “bridesicles” and Rob, Veronika and Nathan you see that true love cannot be bought.

Love Minus Eighty is an extraordinary book. It’s a must, must read and I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The whole concept of the cryogenic dating facilities and future that is envisioned produces a unsettling vision of the near future. With online dating being ever more popular in our times it’s fast, it’s easy and on some level anonymous, the concept of cryogenic dating might not be such a far reach... But next to the idea behind Love Minus Eighty, which is just brilliant, the story that is being told from the perspective of a lot of characters really give a good grip it. Will McIntosh shows a level of interconnectedness (hope that is a word) that goes beyond the 3 main point of view and introduces a great many of secondary and even tertiary levels of how they are each connected with each other. However, the level has a certain degree of complexity it doesn’t feel like heavy to digest material at all. Will McIntosh writes and tell the narration part in a clear and engaging manner. And to top this story off, when you look at the essence of it all, Love Minus Eighty is an exploration of possibilities, human morale and at the top of this a true love story. It just comes to show that how much you might have, true love cannot be bought and you should cherish each and every moment. Beautiful.

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