Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

love minus eightyThis was such a cool book. It’s science fiction, but definitely could be read and enjoyed by a non-science fiction reader. In fact if this book is made into a movie (and it should be) most people would love it.

The story is set in the near future, where our world revolves around social media and where the big medical breakthrough is that people who die can be cryogenically frozen and revived later – at a considerable cost. The average person carries “freezing insurance” which means if they die, they get frozen instead of buried. Some day down the line, a wealthy family member can bring them back.

The idea is frozen is always better than dead. Frozen is at least a chance. But if you’re not wealthy, our options come down to this: if you have no money, you die. Some money, you get frozen but you’re unlikely ever to be thawed.

But there’s one more option. If you’re female, and beautiful, you get put into the “bridesicle” program. That means you get frozen and your profile is put in a sort of dating service. So some lonely but super-wealthy guy reads your profile, visits you for a few minutes, and then pays to unfreeze you and fix whatever medical issues caused your death. Then you’re his wife.

But what kind of guy pays to unfreeze a corpse? And how can two people get to know each other this way? Especially given the total imbalance of control – he’s wealthy and alive, she’s frozen and dead.

This book was hard to put down but I have to tell you it did keep me up a few nights. This book is disturbing on so many levels. I’m not claustrophobic, but women being frozen and stored on shelves is pretty creepy. What got to me more was the idea of being revived for just a few minutes but not being able to move anything other than your face. And I think people will definitely be disturbed by the idea that these women are fully conscious for just a few minutes, then someone pushes a button and you’re frozen again, indefinitely.

“So, Mira.” Alex clapped his hands together. “Do you want to bullshit or do you want to get intimate?” “I don’t understand,” Mira said. “Weeell. For example, here’s a question.” He leaned in close, puffing in her ear. “If I revived you, what sorts of things would you do to me?”

Mira doubted this man was here to revive anyone. “I don’t know. That’s an awfully intimate question. Why don’t we get to know each other first?” She needed time to think. Even just a few minutes of quiet, to make sense of this. … “I’m just – “ She wanted to say “not in the mood” but that was not only a cliché but a vast understatement. She was dead. She couldn’t move anything but her face, and that made her feel untethered, as if she were floating, drifting. Hands and feet grounded you. Mira had never realized. “I’m just not very good at this sort of thing.”

“Well.” Alex put his hands on his thighs, made a production of standing. “This costs quite a bit, and they charge by the minute. So I’ll say goodbye now, and you can go back to being dead.”

For myself, I definitely would rather be taken off any kind of life support than kept alive by artificial means. But one thing you see in this book is that it’s easy to make that choice when you’re in control of your own body. When you’re frozen on a shelf, woken up only for minutes at a time, it’s a different story. These women beg to be kept alive at any price.

Given a choice between death and marriage to some sleazy guy, or one you hate, a marriage you can never dissolve, what would you choose? Can anyone consciously choose death?

Obviously there’s a lot of gender issues here. Men were initially part of the bridesicle program, but women weren’t paying to unfreeze them. So who’s worse off here, the guy who never gets a chance to live or the woman who, because of her physical beauty, is sold off like an animal?

If you’re thinking, but isn’t this book is billed as a love story?  It is, and that part of the book works as well. The book has a cast of strong characters, from an insecure dating coach in love with her best friend to the guy who runs a woman over with his car and then tries to raise money just to visit her for a couple of minutes.

In some ways, this is a story about what dating will look like in the near future, when people meet through on-line profiling and networking instead of just running into each other. When your relationship chances will be determined by an algorithm like e-harmony. When every date might be conducted in a public sphere.  Where, like today, some people are comfortable sharing everything with as many people as possible, and others are just looking for a way to unplug once in a while.

This book is based on McIntosh’s Hugo award-winning short story. I heard raves about this book on some great science fiction sites, like Little Red Reviewer, Science Fiction and Fantasy Reviews, and Stainless Steel Droppings.

I loved how this book raises so many ethical issues. For a deceptively light, entertaining read it will really get you thinking. I highly recommend this book — and not just for science fiction readers.

2 Comments on “Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

  1. Great review and you’ve convinced me to add this to the (huge) pile on my nightstand table! Thanks! ~Jennifer

  2. Pingback: Faller by Will McIntosh | The Book Stop

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