Love Minus Eighty - Will McIntosh See more reviews at http://bibliosanctum.blogspot.com

I have a confession to make: I'm a sucker for love stories. But not just any kind of love story would do, oh no, because I like my romance the same way I like my Fantasy -- gritty, transcendent, in-your-face, plus it helps if it's just a bit bizarre! Love Minus Eighty is definitely all this and more, as if you couldn't already tell from its exquisite tagline, "A novel of love and death in no particular order".

Decades from now, dwindling resources have caused cities like New York City to practically fold in and build upon itself, creating a social stratification system that's even more segregated than what we know today. No doubt, the book paints a pretty bleak view of the future, but it's especially bad if you're one of the hundreds of dead women cryogenically frozen in dating farms, awaiting your lucky day when some rich man will like you enough to pay millions for your revivification before whisking you home to be his wife.

And seriously, to think some of my friends complain about internet dating! Online dating sites have got nothing on the nightmare that are these dating farms, which charge male suitors thousands of dollars by the minute to "date" the dead women, whose consciousnesses are "awakened" for the session before the plug is pulled again and they go back to their state of non-existing. Will McIntosh expanded upon this idea from his award-winning short story "Bridesicle" (because that's what society in this world called the frozen women. Horrible, right?) for this novel, which follows a group of characters whose lives are all interconnected because of these dating farms.

What a disturbing and yet fascinating basis for a story, and it's all set before a futuristic backdrop which seems so outlandish but feels familiar enough to make you feel uncomfortable at the same time. It's a world of digital information and social media on steroids, where attention seekers can be trailed by thousands of literal "followers", their floating user screens going wherever that individual goes. People wear systems on their bodies to connect them to the network, allowing them to call up and communicate with multiple contacts at the same time. The setting was so vividly described that at times I felt like I was watching a movie (oh why oh why can't this be a movie?!)

But in spite of all the new technology, some things always stay the same. For one thing, people will still look for love, that timeless, formless, unshakeable deep connection to another soul. This makes Love Minus Eighty a sci-fi novel that's definitely more about the human story and less about the science and technology. Questions like how the dead can be brought back to life, or how these dating farms even manage to revive dead women for short periods of time aren't the point. Instead, what's important is the emotional impact of the story, and subsequently, the ethical implications of keeping women on ice and in limbo, basically according human beings who have the potential to live again less rights than what you'd give a dog in an animal shelter.

I also have to say the focus on love and dating was a nice touch, not only as it's something practically everyone can relate to, but also because it makes the characters and their motivations feel that much more poignant. It's hard to really say whose perspective was my favorite -- Rob, Veronika, Mira, and even a couple of the supporting characters -- because they each had their own experiences which I found acutely heartbreaking and intense.

Of course, this book wasn't perfect by any means, and I for one had some issues with some of the dialogue as well as the pacing, especially with the way it led up to the ending. However, the mere fact that I'm usually so persnickety about these things but was still able to overlook them meant that ultimately for me, Love Minus Eighty was all about the story and its provocative ideas. Above all, I enjoy books that make me feel (and here's where that whole "I'm a sucker for love stories" comes in), and this one was at once a very thoughtful commentary on the ways of the heart and just twisted enough for me to eat it up.