Book Review: LOVE MINUS EIGHTY by Will McIntosh

LoveMinusEightyBased off the Hugo Award Winning Best Short Story, “Bridesicle,” Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh has been on my expect-to-be-wowed list for the last year. I let a friend borrow my copy and his quick review was, good, but definitely a love story. I would say, great and it’s a love story. I am not a Romance reader, but I do enjoy seeing people fall in love. Love Minus Eighty adds enough ingenious and terrifying future technologies to trick those who don’t pursue books about love to realize that they can enjoy a story that centers on unsuspecting people falling in love.

The setting for Love Minus Eighty is a future where young women who have died are kept alive in cryogenic tubes, only to be woken up by potential suitors. Five minutes of chatting costs these suitors around $9,000. Bringing back these bridesicles costs millions. So, what we get is a disturbing kind of prostitution where women have to talk kinky and sign off on a life of sexual slavery in order to escape a possibly more horrific situation in their cryogenic stasis.

Can you imagine what it would feel like to wake up for five minutes knowing it could be your last five minutes, that when you go back to sleep it could be weeks or months before another suitor wakes you? Can you imagine what it might make you do to keep that suitor interested?

McIntosh surprised me with how chilling and heart-wrenching his scenes were concerning these women and the ones who fall for them.

McIntosh adds an interesting social society to this story, where people follow celebrities via screens that can pop up and float around anywhere not blocked by a person’s IP (in-person) privacy settings. So, one of our main characters, Rob, is introduced while his girlfriend Veronika breaks up with him in an embarrassing way in front of hundreds of her fans (who watch via their pop-up screens). Soon after, Rob suffers a financial setback that requires he give up his dream of playing his lute full-time to work at a factory where he pulls out computer chips from old machines. Yet another character McIntosh created a powerful empathy toward. I’m still affected by this sacrifice.

AISFP Podcast recently had Will McIntosh on to discuss Love Minus Eighty. Guest co-host, Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues discussed how this book is categorized as Social Science Fiction, a sub-genre term coined by Ursula K. Le Guin. One of the more personal elements of Love Minus Eighty’s Social SF was it’s analysis of what someone must give up for love.

I’m going to pause here for a section of spoilers. If you still aren’t sure if you should pick this up, please just do it. Every reader who enjoys future technology and understands longing for peace and companionship will find a most memorable experience in Love Minus Eighty. Do yourself a favor, read it, be moved and then join the conversation.

Okay, now to spoilers. *cracks knuckles* This is gonna be fun.

On page 208, part of Rob’s chapter, 32:

What do you say to someone, when you know this is the last time you’ll ever speak to her, but she doesn’t? There were things Rob wanted to say. He wanted to tell her that over the months, his reason from coming had shifted. He wasn’t visiting out of guilt or obligation, he was visiting because being with her was worth every dollar, worth all the work and sacrifice.

So impactful, and shaming. Do I feel the same about my wife? I want to say yes, but my actions don’t always reflect this. Granted, I’m thinking about the time I take away from her so that I can write and do my AISFP thing, but Rob gave up playing his lute so he could work crazy hours for months just to visit her for five minutes. I guess this is getting personal now, but Rob really made me think about what I sacrifice for my wife. Of course, Rob’s friends call him a saint, but throughout his story, you can’t help but want to be more like him. That’s powerful writing.

In this writing game it’s supposed to take like five books before you start earning enough money to consider writing full-time. That’s my goal, but I’m having a hard time imagining another five years of the evening and weekend writing. And now with a six month old baby, it is extra tough. The story I just published, Scavenger, is a kind of therapy in analysis of this struggle between selfishness and love.

What about Rob and Winter’s story meant the most to you?

There isn’t too much more to say about them besides how well McIntosh developed their relationship, adding tension to their possible future in all the right moments and devastating amounts.

Another gut punch from McIntosh was the story of Rob’s father, Lorne, and his truth test on his wife. Can you imagine what he must have felt when he found out she didn’t love him as wholeheartedly as he loved her?

At the end of my podcast with Will I asked him about this and he had something very insightful to say about people who find happiness without the kind of sparks that Rob and Winter felt for each other. I don’t know. I don’t think I’m that kind of person. My wife and I don’t have quite the story of Rob and Winter, but there have been sparks like that. Part of our relationship is trying to maintain that as we hit our five year anniversary next month. If anything, I’m seeing the reality that parent’s love is not always perfect, as McIntosh writes in the following scene:

pg 302, Rob, Ch 47

Lorne shook his head. “The thing is, it was bothering me so much, I asked her about it, and she admitted it.” Rob wanted to tell his father he didn’t want to hear this, that most of the other pilings that kept his life steady had already torn loose, and he needed the few that remained. But it was clear Lorne needed to tell this, maybe more than Rob needed to believe his parents’ love was true and perfect.

“She said she cared about me, but never felt that thump-thump that I feel for her.” Lorne turned around, grabbed a towel off the rack. “We had a rough time for a while after that. Finally, she said she could only feel what she felt, and that it was enough for her. Always had been. And she hoped it was enough for me.” … “In the end I decided it was. But it was a hard lesson.”

What do you think about this kind of relationship? I am not sure I believe that a person’s love can’t grow, as he writes in “she could only feel what she felt”. Call me an optimist, but I have a hard time accepting that two people’s love can’t become a mutual thump-thump as Lorne describes it. I’m not one to say you can’t marry someone without that thump-thump, but I’d ask why settle without that?

Lots of thoughts and emotions stirred up from this book. I put this review down for a couple weeks to reflect on and act on being more sacrificial for my wife and child, so it’s already affected my life in tangible ways.
Timothy C. Ward
Executive Producer

ScavengerTimothy C. Ward has been podcasting since 2010, first as AudioTim, and now with AISFP. His newest story, Scavenger: A Sand Diver Tale, is available on Kindle and Smashwords for $.99. His novel in progress, Order After Dark, is a Post-apocalyptic Fantasy set in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former Executive Producer for AISFP. His debut novel, Scavenger: Evolution, blends Dune with Alien in a thriller where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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