Love Minus Eighty – Will McIntosh

Technology is the magic of the future. The wand and magic spells have been replaced by screens that can pop up virtually anywhere and simulations that can bring your dream man right into your living room. There is no need for cash, as money flies right out of your account when you’re wearing your “system”. If you think social media has brought about the loss of privacy you have no idea how accurate that is and how hard is to have a moment when nobody is watching. No need to learn spells and magic formulas like Harry Potter. No, it’s way easier than that. And less complicated.

Love Minus Eighty I had my doubts about getting this book. The title is quite catchy, and the cover art even more so – the book does get a bonus point for that, but science fiction is rarely a genre I pick up on my own. Still, after reading Carl’s review, I decided to give it a try. We should get out of our comfort zone sometimes, right?

The story begins in 2103 in a dating center where Mira, a woman who’s been dead for eighty years, is revived for a few minutes to speak to a potential husband. The future has brought about the marvel of revival, where people with a generous insurance or attractive enough can be brought back from the dead. The Bridesicle program is a special section of this “experiment” and wealthy men can pay for the revival and reconstruction (that sounds awful but accurate, given the extensive physical damage some of the women had sustained) of a woman, in exchange for a lifetime marriage contract. A very disturbing version of Sleeping Beauty, except that Prince Charming is neither young nor charming but obscenely rich.
The story revolves around Mira and another woman, Winter, who also ends up in the Bridesicle program. Rob, the man who killed her by accident, is consumed by guilt and decides to visit her as often as possible, which is not a very easy thing to do as only a few minutes worth of conversation with a revived woman costs several thousand dollars. In order to get the money he has to give up his dream, move back in with his father and work a menial job – a big change from his former lifestyle.

I liked the small number of characters that inhabited the story. Each one of them feels real enough to evoke sympathy, even the attention-seeking Lorelei, who lives entirely for her social media ratings. The small cast of characters include Veronika, a shy dating coach with a not-so-secret crush, Lycan, a brilliant scientist but socially awkward, Nathan, the handsome guy who falls in love with the wrong person, and Rob, the young man whose one reckless act makes him reconsider his lifestyle. There is also Sunali, a former bridesicle who fights to change the rules of the facility that runs the Bridesicle program.

It was a weird experience reading this book. Not only because it depicts a very technologically driven world but also because it’s described in such a way as to make it very plausible. Technology had made so many wonderful things possible – traveling for example, and extending one’s life, but it has also altered the real world with the aid of virtual simulations. Imagine walking in a dilapidated old neighborhood and with just a touch being able to change the landscape, the smell, even the sounds – all this made me think of a pretty bandage over an infected wound.
The language is appropriately futuristic, from acronyms to the name given to people who have chosen to live without technology – raw-lifers they are called – but the story offers only a glimpse into what that means. It would have been interesting to see the world through their perspective.
In spite of the technological background, people’s emotions manage to shine through and the events force the protagonists of the story to reevaluate their lives. Some of them even manage to find a measure of happiness, while others are content to live a life that has more in common with a soap opera. It’s disturbing how close this feels to a near future. It made me think of the choices we have and the paths we decide to take in life. Would people accept to be frozen in case of an accident or illness, so they can be revived in the future by someone who would have entire control over their lives? Is it worth living a hundred and twenty five years in an artificial world? Is it worth living a life without privacy for a fleeting moment of fame?

I based my rating on the emotional rather than literary merit of the story. While the idea the book is based on is surprising and intriguing (not sure how original, but it certainly feels special) it made me feel sad, faintly repelled by it all, and not even the less bleak and quite abrupt ending managed to dispel that.

3/5 stars

*Read in February-March 2014

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10 Responses to Love Minus Eighty – Will McIntosh

  1. Vishy says:

    This looks like an interesting book, Delia! Sorry to know that you didn’t like it as much as you had hoped to. The book cover looks quite interesting and some aspects of the technology which is described in the book look quite believable. I will look for it in the library, when I go there next time. Like you, I don’t read much of science fiction, but I occasionally dip my toe in the water and read one Sci-fi book. This one sounds quite fascinating.

    • Delia says:

      It’s disturbing how real and possible this future seems, Vishy, the author did a really good job on that. I think this is the part that I found the most disturbing. That, and the idea that you can bring someone back from the dead and you basically own them. Creepy.
      It’s a good story, do read it, I would be very interested in seeing your thoughts on it.

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    Superb commentary Delia.

    The plots seems creative and intelligent. This sounds like quality science fiction.

    As for the emotional impact of the book, if it is presented intelligently and genuinely, I consider that part of what gives a book literary merit.

    • Delia says:

      It’s definitely an interesting story, Brian. I was caught by surprise by the abrupt ending, or maybe I just wasn’t prepared to let go yet. 🙂
      I would have liked to know more about the raw-lifers, that would have been really great, to see both sides of the story but obviously that wasn’t the main point in the book. Still, if the author decides to write a sequel from that point of view, I’d be very interested to read it.
      Are you a science fiction fan?

  3. FictionFan says:

    I don’t read much sci-fi either, mainly because so much modern sci-fi crosses over into fantasy. This one sounds as if it does stay in the sci-fi field though. Interesting idea – I’m sorry you found the ending a bit abrupt and unsatisfying.

    • Delia says:

      I’m not really one to put books into strict categories. It may be that this one crosses over into fantasy, there’s a lot going on and it keeps things interesting to the end but I guess I wasn’t prepared for it when I turned that last page. I’m glad I read it though, it was a good story.

  4. Deb Atwood says:

    I enjoyed your commentary on the novel. It made me feel sad just reading what you wrote. This may not be the book for me…

    I also really like what you said about moving out of your reading comfort zone. That’s probably the biggest benefit for me in belonging to a book group. I’ve read some marvelous books (and some not so much) that I’d never even heard of.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Deb,
      It made me sad, too, reading about a future that seemed quite possible.

      Book clubs are great, aren’t they, though I prefer the ones where everybody brings along their favorite and we pass them around, rather than everybody reading one book. That feels too much like homework. 🙂

  5. Deb Atwood says:

    I actually read this book (after forgetting I said I might not, how’d that happen?) Anyway, I actually really liked it. I agree about the creepy parts, even more so since the power holders are the elite and people in love without money were without luck. However, I feel that was the author’s point, and the rebellion had me rooting.

    • Delia says:

      I think what I found most disturbing was the possibility of it being real. People being obsessed with ratings, with what others think of them and their value in terms of social media. Also with the fact that others could have control over somebody else’s life – people viewed as merchandise (women in particular). I think this cast a rather bleak shadow on my experience reading the book and I can’t find it any other fault, really.

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