Length: 11 Hrs 37 Min
Genre: Science Fiction’
Quick Thoughts: Love Minus Eighty is one of the most engrossing science fiction novels I have read in a long time. McIntosh has created a darkly beautiful near future world and populated it with characters you truly wish were real. It is an exploration of our romantic future and an affective romance all in one wonderful novel.
I was quite hesitant to start Love Minus Eighty. It wasn’t that I didn’t expect it to be good, quite the opposite. After reading Soft Apocalypse, I knew Will McIntosh would be an author whose work I would savor. Yet, I had recently finished a literary science fiction novel that I felt I should have loved, and whose style and literary flair I appreciated, but I just couldn’t engage with it. I know I can be a moody reader, and sometimes the worst thing for me to do is eat a steak when all I want is candy. When I read the description for Love Minus Eighty it contained some key phrases that just told me this would be a novel that requires my brain to be ready to consume a nice big thinky piece of cow flesh. First off, the term Love, meant that this would be about, well, love. I told myself that this would be a novel ABOUT Romance, and not a romance novel. The description goes on to say the book “follows several interconnected people in a disquieting vision of romantic life.” To me, whenever I see the term “interconnected” in a novel or movie description, I assume this means either nonlinear story telling or a group of loosely connected vignettes. I assume that, in this case, the style of the book would be just as or even more important that the plot. These assumptions made me almost classify Love Minus Eighty in the same light as an art house film, one that would require me to think up snooty literary terms during my review to describe the style of the novel, as opposed to my typical review style of screaming “LOTS OF EXPLOSIONS! KILL KILL KILL” So, I kept putting off listening to Love Minus Eighty. Until the voices of those I follow on twitter began yelling at me, telling me that I just have to listen. So, mood be damned, I gave it a go.
After an embarrassingly public breakup, Rob is just seeking a bit of solace, when he accidentally hits and kills a jogger. Devastated and depressed, Rob discovers that his victim is part of the Bridecicle program, where attractive women are cryogenically preserved as potential mates for rich men who could afford to have them revived. Giving up all he holds dear, he works at a soul crushing job to raise money for brief 5 minute visits with his victim, Winter. When he learns that she may be removed from the program, Rob, with the help of Winter’s Ex-Boyfriend Nathan, a dating coach and his partner Veronika, attempt to save her life. Love Minus Eighty proves to me that I simply make some of the stupidest assumptions about books. I mean, really, my hesitation to start this book was based on some of the most ridiculously bad assumptions in the history of bad assumptions. Will McIntosh has created on of the most realistic near future worlds I have ever encountered. So much science fiction depends on brilliant scientific breakthroughs that while possible, seem to go against our societal priorities. Love Minus Eighty relies as much on an acute sociological understanding of our society as any extrapolation of our future technological progress. MicIntosh’s brilliant dark futures only enhances a series of complicated, but sweetly hopeful romantic entanglements. To describe Love Minus Eighty as simply a novel about romance would take away from one of the most solidly romantic tales I have ever read. Love Minus Eighty is a romance for the socially awkward, where true affection and organically developing friendships play a much greater part than romantic delusions or moments of instalove. McIntosh fills his novel with a range of regular people, from the fabulous to the frumpy, each of them coming alive in a way that made you wish they were in love with you. I felt more of a connection with these people and their relationships than I do with people I encounter in my real life. In particular, the characters of Veronica and Lycan resonated with me. Their relationship was a realistic counterweight to Rob and Winter’s more movie plot story, and I think the interplay between the two relationships made both work even better. One thing I loved about Love Minus Eighty was the subtle way he integrated this world with the world he created in Soft Apocalypse. While, in no way a sequel, those who read Soft Apocalypse could see how this new strange world came out of the one he created in that novel. Love Minus Eighty is one of the most engrossing science fiction novels I have read in a long time. McIntosh has created a darkly beautiful near future world and populated it with characters you truly wish were real. It is an exploration of our romantic future and an affective romance all in one wonderful novel.
Kevin T. Collins is quickly becoming on of my favorite narrators. His voice is sandpaper smooth, a unique velvety grit that that can add depth to a character, while still being pleasing to the ear. I am simply amazed at his ability to pull all the emotion out of a scene. With a slight break in his voice, or a simple unexpected modulation, he deftly displays the emotional complexities of a character. I am not a very emotional person, but Collins is one of the few narrators who has managed to affect me with his voice in ways I just didn’t expect. He is perfectly cast in Love Minus Eighty. He display’s Rob’s devastation and depression with a subtle touch, making the listener feel for his plight without ever feeling emotionally manipulated. He allows us to feel the relationship between Rob and Winter develop naturally. The perspective of Veronica is handled by Eileen Stevens. Steven’s gives a solid performance as well. She captures the self deprecating Veronika perfectly. She struck a totally different tone than Collins, offering a new perspective and a needed shift in tempo. The other perspective, that of Mira, a gay woman who was the longest member of the Bridecicle program, was handled affectively by Ali Ahn. What truly made this production work was how organic the transition between narrators felt. Whether a science fiction fan or not, Love Minus Eighty is a novel that should be given a priority spot on your reading list.
Note: Thanks to Hachette Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.