Will McIntosh – Love Minus Eighty

I owe a big Thank You and an internet hug to Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings . If he hadn’t raved about this book so much, I would have left it on the TBR pile for much longer. The title and cover just didn’t speak to me and despite the interesting premise, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. What I got was a beautiful love story set in a dire future. And a brilliant read that left me surprisingly happy and wanting more of the same.

love minus eightyLOVE MINUS EIGHTY
by Will McIntosh

Published by: Orbit, 2013
Ebook: 432 pages
Standalone
My rating: 9/10

First sentence: The words were gentle strokes, drawing her awake.

A NOVEL OF LOVE AND DEATH, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

The words were gentle strokes, drawing her awake.
“Hello. Hello there.”
She felt the light on her eyelids, and knew that if she opened her eyes they would sting, and she would have to shade them with her palm and let the light bleed through a crack.
“Feel like talking?” A man’s soft voice.
And then her mind cleared enough to wonder: who was this man at her bedside?
She tried to sigh, but no breath came. Her eyes flew open in alarm.

In the future, love is complicated. Technology moves ever forward. To be disconnected from the maze of social networking is to be an outcast.
Even death doesn’t have to be the end. An impossible love story is about to unfold between a hit-and-run victim and her killer.
Love Minus Eighty is a disquieting vision of our romantic future, as hopeful as it is horrifying, by a Hugo Award-winning author

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Where to start? I didn’t know what to expect from this, despite all the rave reviews and the great book blurb. But it’s safe to say that this book overwhelmed with feelings. There is so much to discover here. Great world-building, characters I’d love to be friends with, and a few love stories that I found believable and touching. But let’s start at the beginning.

Rob, a rather poor man with a rich girlfriend, gets into a car accident after said girlfriend dumps him in the worst way you can imagine. In this accident, he kills a young woman named Winter. Because Winter is incredibly beautiful she ends up in the Minus Eighty – the place where the well-insured or the very beautiful are stored for resurrection. That is, if some millionaire is willing to pay for it. Rob, eaten up by guilt, gets a gruelling but well-paying job to visit the girl whose life he ended and, after a few times, realises that he keeps coming back not to soothe his guilt but because he actually likes her…

Nathan and Veronika are dating coaches. They help people doctor their online profiles to be more interesting, they tell them what lines to say on dates in order to attract their potential partner, but ironically enough, they are both single. I absolutely adored the dynamics between these two. Bickering like an old married couple, yet unable to see that they could be more than friends. Veronika has been in love with Nathan for a while but spends her time playing interactives. Now that is an intriguing world-building idea. From what I understand, you project soap operas into your living room and take on the part of one of the players. Is it healthy to play these things every day? Probably not. Would I want to try it? Hell, yeah!

love minus eighty coverThe scenes in the Cryomed facility – the Minus Eighty – were the ones that made me cry. When Rob visits Winter, her desperation is tangible. Being awake, being alive, for five minutes at a time, only to return to oblivion, is a terribly depressing thought. But there is one other woman in the facility. The book actually starts with Mira, the girl who has been frozen the longest. Whenever someone woke her up for a “date” it became obvious just how terrible the idea of the Minus Eighty is. Yes, death doesn’t necessarily mean the end, but for most of these women, death would probably be a welcome release. Will McIntosh manages to get his readers into his characters’ heads and I couldn’t help but feel horrible whenever the bridesicles were involved. Talk about turning a cool idea into a brilliant book.

Despite that depressing premise, this is an ultimately uplifiting story. It’s a romance of sorts, and one that I found surprisingly believable, but it’s also a story of budding friendships. The characters’ lives are thrown together because of Rob’s accident. Their plot strings start interweaving more and more and by the end, you have a tightly-knit group of friends who help each other out whenever one of them is in need. I am treading dangerous ground here and will probably sound cheesy now but it warmed my heart to see them interact, to see how there are many ways to love a person and these characters are slowly learning to grow up and understand that.

I don’t always agree with the popular opinions in the book bloggosphere but in this case, everybody who has raved about Love Minus Eighty: I’m totally with you. Because apart from the great ideas and characters, Will McIntosh happens to write in a style that is utterly readable but still makes you think for yourself. There isn’t a single info-dump in the entire book. The author just trusts us to understand the world bit by bit and come to our own conclusions.

If you think the premise is too depressing, don’t worry. I won’t spoil a thing but know this: When I closed the book, it was with a happy, satisfied smile, and maybe one sad eye because the story was over. It’s a good thing I’m such an obsessive book buyer because I have two more McIntosh novels on my pile and if they are anything as good as this one, I’ll have the internet to thank for another author discovery. Oh yes, and Love Minus Eighty is going on my Hugo ballot.

MY RATING: 9/10  –  nearly perfect!

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What other people think:

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5 thoughts on “Will McIntosh – Love Minus Eighty

  1. Carl V. Anderson says:

    A wonderful review, I’m so glad that you enjoyed this one so much. I’m like you in that there are times when online hype drive me away from a book rather than too it. I have a friend who likes to point out, very truthfully, how silly this is of me, but I’d be lying if I said that this did not occur, far too frequently. However, it stands to reason that some hyped books do live up to their hype and as I’ve experienced that myself, I shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss those books.

    Love Minus Eighty does so many wonderful things right that I have no trouble with it being one of the novels I’ll nominate and champion for the Hugo this year (referencing a conversation on my site). Like you, there are technological predictions/inventions that I too would love to get a crack at. But the strength of this book lies in the characters and their interactions with their world and with one another. It can sound cheesy to want to wax eloquent about the many facets of love shown here but the fact remains that this is a strength of the book.

    I was impressed that even though this is not the wildly depressing book that it sounds like it could be, it isn’t all sweetness and light either. Potential SPOILER: I like the way McIntosh shows how much of a burden it is for Rob to keep up this promise he has made, the penance he has chosen for his earlier sins. I like the fact that he doesn’t suddenly become all noble but that he does experience the very real feelings that people have when they have a duty/burden to care for someone who is ill.

    There is so much to squee over in this book. I do so hope it gets some attention this awards season.

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    • Nadine says:

      I totally agree. It’s fascinating how the depressing set-up doesn’t take over. I did cry when I read one Mira scene (the one with Jeannette) but the rest of the book was surprisingly uplifting.
      I can’t tell you how glad I am that you recommended the book. To me, it came out of nowhere. I hope this makes it onto the Hugo shortlist alongside Ancillary Justice. If either of these two win, I’ll be one happy puppy.

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      • Carl V. Anderson says:

        I am finishing up some short stories today for my SF Signal review tomorrow and then plan on getting back to Ancillary Justice over the weekend. I strongly suspect it will make the short list and I want to have read it for my Hugo voting.

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  2. Anton says:

    It’s really a fantastic book! I just finished it myself. I confess I picked it up because of the cover. Probably won’t write a full review (which would be mostly me gushing about it anyway, who needs that?), but will definitely make it into one of my Blurbs posts.

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