Having recently read and enjoyed Reviver by Seth Patrick (review here), with the dilemma it poses about the rights of the revived dead, Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh, also published in June this year, was a big temptation. It, too, has a fascinating premise and also, happily, lives up to it.
Set in a vaguely anonymous and heavily altered New York City a hundred years or so in the future, we are presented with a world gone social media mad. Life is lived in front of an audience of screens, the projections of online voyeurs, who follow the popular around, listening in to ‘private’ conversations and moments. Life and death matter far less than how much money you have, how beautiful you are and how many ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ you have. Should you have these then death is actually little more than an inconvenient intermission in an otherwise long and spoilt existence. You will be frozen and then instantly revived, your ailments at least temporarily held at bay and your injuries fixed. If you are female and beautiful but without money then it is possible that you might find yourself in a form of frozen living death, one of the Bridesicles, awoken for brief expensive ‘dates’ with the type of man who would want to revive a dead woman to be his wife or, more accurately, sex-slave.
The introduction to Love Minus Eighty is superb and immediately puts the reader into the heart of the matter – what would it be like to be one of these frozen women who must beg to be awoken? When Rob runs over and kills Winter (what a name!), his life changes almost as much as hers. When she becomes a Bridesicle, Rob works every minute he can to have her woken from her frozen death. Their strange relationship is the core of this wonderful novel, but there is much more to it than that. Parallel stories and lives make the pages turn quickly. Rob’s friends, his ex-girlfriend in her crazy social media whirl, the man who wants to commit suicide but risks being rewoken against his wishes, his father who lives with the memories of his dead wife, and most of all the frozen women that we glimpse in all their terror, grief and desperation.
As all good dystopias should, Love Minus Eighty builds a well-realised and extraordinary world. The layers of city reflect the layers of social class. This is a world in which you are classed by the technology you carry on your body, your social skin, and how many conversations you can conduct simultaneously. Yet this contrasts with the people themselves. Many of the characters we meet here want the same things as you and me, no more or less, and the main story of Rob and Winter co-exists so well with the love stories of other individuals who have to work so hard to uncover true feelings behind all this social glitter.
This thoroughly enjoyable novel has some big themes but they are not delved into too deeply. Instead, this is a fast, easy to read and addictive novel that you can put as much or as little thought as you like into reading. I would certainly like to read more of this dystopian world and find out what happened to some of the other Bridesicles imprisoned in their coffins of ice.