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:

Bout of Books 9.0 – Updates

It’s time! Bout of Books is here and I’m ready.

Bout of Books

There does seem to be a curse on me. Last time around, Bout of Books was going to happen during my week off work. That week off had to be postponed. This time around, it’s not quite so bad, but I do have to work Tuesday and Wednesday. The rest of the week is all mine, however, and I intend to spend it buried under books. Here’s how it’s going so far:

MONDAY

Total books read: 0
Total pages read:
216
Pages read today: 216
Challenges:

Books I’m reading:

  • Will McIntosh – Love Minus Eighty
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go

Progress report:
January 6th is a holiday in Austria which means no work for anyone. Yay!

love minus eightyI started reading Love Minus Eighty a few days ago because Carl made it sound so good. And he was right.
The prologue was fantastic and had me glued to the pages. This story takes place about 100 years into our future, where the most beautiful (or well-insured) women are frozen after their death, to be revived by the highest bidder. Before one such rich man may decide to buy her, there is a set of “dates”. Lying in a tank with only your face unfrozen so you can talk to a perverted old man doesn’t sound like it makes nice reading material. And it is depressing. But also so good! I find myself caring about all the characters and wanting to know what happens to them.
The world building is done superbly. It’s like I learn a new tidbit on every page, but McIntosh never dumps the info on me. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Aaaah, I’m in Sci-Fi heaven.

never let me goDespite being absolutely in love with Love Minus Eighty, especially now that the characters’ storylines become more and more interwoven, I can never read only one book. So I started Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. It is very different in tone and so far, it deals with the upbringing of some strange children in a place called Hailsham. I didn’t even read the blurb, just dove straight in. It’s not as gripping as the McIntosh but I like being able to switch back and forth.

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TUESDAY

Total books read: 0
Total pages read:
276
Pages read today: 70
Challenges:

What I’m Reading:

  • Will McIntosh – Love Minus Eighty
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go

Progress report:
This is going to be a long day. Today is one of the two holidays (probably only two, we’ll see) that I’ve had to postpone because work is just insane at the moment and we need everybody who possibly can to come in. I will be reading on my commute and I did read a bit of Never Let Me Go last night in bed. But if my regular work days are anything to go by, tonight I’ll be too tired for much reading – I wouldn’t want to miss a single page in my current books. They are just too good to read with a sleepy mind.
I’ll see you guys for the next update tonight. I’ll be the one with the freshly ordered pizza in her hand and the sleepy eyes.

UPDATE: So yes, work was exhausting and I did end up ordering food. Not much reading, but I still think I can finish my two books, plus a third, until Sunday.

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WEDNESDAY

Total books read: 0
Total pages read:
316
Pages read today: 40
Challenges:

What I’m Reading:

  • Will McIntosh – Love Minus Eighty
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go

Progress report:
Good morning, everyone. Here’s to this one being less draining then yesterday. I want to find out what the people in Love Minus Eighty are going to do. And Kazuo Ishiguro fascinates me once more with how thrilling the daily lives of children and teenagers can be when he is writing about them.

UPDATE: Ah well, the curse is back. Looks like I’m going to be working the rest of the week. On the plus side, for a work day, today was pretty nice. Stressful but nice. Tomorrow the CEO is buying pizza for our entire department because so many of us came in from their holidays or stayed at work longer than they had to. So let’s be happy about the small things.

The only reading I did was via audiobook before falling asleep. Kazuo Ishiguro continues to amaze me. His characters are exceptional but lead quite normal lives. And still, little everyday things that upset them, make for quite a thrilling plot.

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SATURDAY

Total books read: 0
Total pages read:
316
Pages read today: 0
Challenges:

What I’m Reading:

  • Will McIntosh – Love Minus Eighty
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go

Progress Report:
So no updates from the last days. I’ve spent over 10 hours at work every day and was predictably braindead by the time I got home. It’s Saturday morning and I’m heading to work again. I’d call this week a terrible, terrible failure bout-of-books-wise.

I did inch my way forward in each of my two books but I enjoy them both too much to read them in my current half-asleep state. I want to be wide awake and take in every page. At the moment, I feel (and look) like a zombie, so everything – apart from work – that requires me to use my brain is a no go.

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SUNDAY

Total books read: 0
Total pages read:
525
Pages read today: 209

What I’m Reading:

  • Will McIntosh – Love Minus Eighty
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go

Progress Report:
Aaaah, finally proper weekend. So yeah, Bout of Books 9.0 didn’t work out after all. I can’t say I read much during the work week but that’s okay. Maybe I’ll have more luck next time and either a normal work week or a real week off. 🙂
My books are still great. I’m almost finished with Never Let Me Go and I’ll tell you a secret. I’m a few chapters before the end and I totally disobeyed my own rules and watched the movie adaptation. It was surprisingly good but what struck me most was the difference in delivery of certain lines. Where the audiobook narrator is calm and has the characters say even mean things in an almost factual way, Keira Knightley put a big more passion into her lines. It makes for a completely different character. More on that in the upcoming review. But all things considered, book and movie both tell a great story.