Audiobook Review: Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

10 07 2013

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

Read by Kevin T. Collins, Eileen Stevens, and Ali Ahn

Hachette Audio

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.

Grade: A+

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.





Audiobook Review: Hollowland by Amanda Hocking

10 05 2012

Hollowland by Amanda Hocking (The Hollows, Bk. 1)

Read by Eileen Stevens

Audible, Inc.

Length: 7 Hrs 36 Min

Genre: Young Adult Zombie Apocalypse

Quick Thoughts: Hollowland is a great introductory novel for those who are looking to stick their toes into the Zombie subgenre. It’s an exciting apocalyptic road trip, with Zombie action that is bloodcurdling and intense but not overly gory. Long time obsessive Zombie enthusiast will find its themes and scenarios familiar, and not wholly original, but if they are looking for a comfortable, surface level Young Adult Zombie road novel, Hollowland is worth the trip.

Grade: B

One of the problems spending an entire month celebrating zombie fiction on your blog for Zombie Awareness Month is that along with that, you will be spending an entire month listening and reading almost entirely zombie fiction. Now, I’m not complaining. The reason I am doing this is because I love zombie tales, yet, typically they are spread out within my reading lists. In an average month I listen to around 15 audiobooks and read two to three print novels and a few novellas. Just in audiobooks alone, over the span of this event, I will probably be listening to somewhere between 120-150 hours of cannibalistic undead, crafty survivalists, crazy apocalyptic cults, and intestine rending, brain eating action. So in order keep from viewing my next zombie read or listen as work, I have been looking for a bit of variety in my zombie choices. So, along with the Zombie Road trips, and Zombie proof bunkers, I’m looking for Zombie perspective tales, comedic zombie novels, and even romantic zombie novels. One of the sub-categories of Zombie literature I wanted to focus a bit more on was Young Adult zombie novels. In the past, I have listened to Jonathon Maberry’s Rot & Ruin and Ilsa J Bick’s Ashes, but haven’t explored much beyond that in the Young Adult Undead world. After doing some research, and asking for some suggestions, I found a few YA zombie titles for Zombie Awareness Month. I think taking on the Zombie Apocalypse from a teenage perspective is actually quite apt, because, like everyone else, Zombies prefer their meat fresh.

Amanda Hocking’s Hollowland is the first novel in her Zombie Apocalypse series featuring a young teenage protagonist named Remy White. Narrowly escaping from a government quarantine compound which was overrun by zombies, Remy leads a small group across an apocalyptic landscape in search of the safe government facility her younger brother was sent to. Hollowland is a pretty standard by-the-number Zombie Apocalypse novel. You won’t find too much new ground broken here.  As Remy leads her group, you encounter many of the Post Apocalyptic staples, and evacuated iconic city, violent marauders, small self contained compounds, and apocalyptic cultists. Despite a relatively generic plot, it’s actually a whole lot of fun. If Hocking’s goal was to tell an exciting, fun filled Zombie tale, full of adventure, that would be a great introduction for teenagers to the subgenre, then she definitely succeeds.  Remy White is a well drawn character. She is neither hero nor villain, just a Survivor who is willing to do what it takes to keep her and those she cares about safe. Hocking creates a group of characters that are entertaining, and frustrating, which include a former young rock star, a medical student, and a young impressionable, and volatile teenage girl. Hocking’s female characters are better drawn then her male characters. I found Remy and Harlow to be believable characters, Remy being the tough as nails survivalist, and Harlow her young petulant shadow who just wants to be a normal teenage girl. The boys I found a little bit cookie cutter and less interesting, and this caused me to struggle a bit with some of the romantic elements of the novel. I found Remy’s main love interest to be sort of bland and needy. Of course, I tend not to be a huge romance fan anyway, so there wasn’t much of a loss there. Luckily, the romantic parts were minor and never were a major factor in the narrative. Hollowland is a great introductory novel for those who are looking to stick their toes into the Zombie subgenre. It’s an exciting apocalyptic road trip, with Zombie action that is bloodcurdling and intense but not overly gory. Long time obsessive Zombie enthusiast will find its themes and scenarios familiar, and not wholly original, but if they are looking for a comfortable, surface level Young Adult Zombie road novel, Hollowland is worth the trip. 

Eileen Stevens capably handles the narration for Hollowland. She delivers a measured, even handed reading to the text.  Stevens does a good job capturing Remy’s character, touching the depths of her character. She also nails the sometimes bratty, sometimes vulnerable Harlow. Her male voices weren’t as well developed, often times I had trouble determining which of the teenage mail characters were speaking during some of the more lengthy bits of dialogue. Her pacing was appropriate to the text, never rushing the narrative, allowing the action scenes to play out in their own way. Overall, I feel Stevens gave a strong performance with the tale. Her small weaknesses were more than made up by the depths she gives the female characters, and her crisp, easily understood narrative voice.