the Little Red Reviewer

Love Minus Eighty, by Will McIntosh

Posted on: June 19, 2013

love minus 80

Love Minus Eighty, by Will McIntosh

published in June 2013 from Orbit

where I got it: received copy from the Publisher (Thanks Orbit!!)















This review has exactly one spoiler. And the [spoiler] mentioned happens right at the beginning of the book, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

Insurance of the future has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with death. In the  future, the wealthy pay for extended freezing insurance, to be cryogenically frozen at the time of death, ideally to be thawed out later when their family can afford it. Even for those without the monetary means, the idea of being buried in the ground is distasteful.   Revival is big business, and one company has hit on a jackpot idea: allow wealthy patrons to speak with beautiful dead women at a dating center, and if a relationship develops, they can revive her and marry her. Sit down and think about that for a moment.  It’s like a futuristic version of The Bachelor, only worse. The “bridesicles” are only awake, only alive, for a few minutes at a time. Like a speed dating system from hell, she has five minutes to convince whoever has awoken her to visit her again.  Running the dating center isn’t cheap, wealthy patrons pay by the minute to speak with women who will do anything to stay awake, stay alive for just a few more seconds.


what would you do to stay awake, when awake is the only time you’re alive?

Love Minus Eighty is based on Will McIntosh’s short story, Bridesicle (listen to the audio, here). While there is some character overlap, the endings are very very different. If you’re already familiar with Bridesicle, you’ll recognize Mira, whose chapters alternate with everyone else’s.  As might be obvious from the title, the story focuses on interpersonal relationships, often of the romantic variety. 

Rob Mashita is living far beyond his means. Shacked up with wealthy socialite Lorelei, Rob has dreams of being a professional musician.  Lorelei chooses a particularly vicious way of telling Rob that it’s just not working out between them. Hurt, confused, and just a teeny bit drunk he [spoiler] hits a young woman with his car, killing her [/spoiler].  

Terrified and confused, Winter wakes up at the Cryomed Dating Center. She’s afraid to die for good, she doesn’t want to wake up just to flirt with dirty old men either. Being chosen for the Bridesicle program is advertised as an honor, as something only the most beautiful are chosen for. As Winter learns, it’s hell.

When Rob learns that the woman he killed, Winter, has been put into the Bridesicle program, he makes a vow to help her. Of the lower classes, and living in Manhattan’s Low Town, Rob barely has an up-to-date skintight system, let alone the funds to visit Winter.  If she doesn’t get enough visits, if she isn’t profitable enough to Cryomed’s dating center, she’ll be removed from the system. She’ll be buried in the ground, and Rob will be a murderer.

Elsewhere, in High Town, Veronika and Nathan enjoy making fun of their clients together.  We get a lot of the story from Veronika’s point of view, and she quickly became my favorite character, even though at first I wasn’t even sure if I liked her very much. Like Nathan, Veronika is a dating coach, helping people improve their online profiles to be more attractive, feeding them flirtatious and witty lines through a private messaging system. It might be the future, but dating still sucks.   

Love Minus Eighty is about love and death, and the sides of ourselves we choose to show to others, and something that hooked me right away was the characters. They all have backstories, they all have goals and fears and dreams and insecurities. None of them want to compromise, or face their denial, or give up what they’ve worked so hard to achieve. For a not-romance, this book is painfully intimate. Don’t get hung up on the “romance” thing, this is angst and schmaltz free.

On top of the beautiful story and deeply developed characters, the book is deftly layered, with sneaky little bits here and there that burrow into your brain and make you think. I love books that make me think!

I couldn’t stop thinking about how isolated women like Mira and Winter must feel. At least on The Bachelor, the women all get to talk and gossip amongst each other. Mira and Winter don’t even have that. Except for the few minutes that they’re on “dates”, they are completely alone. Not only are they trapped in mail-order-bride hell, they’re in solitary confinement. Who the hell at Cryomed thought that was a good idea??

I couldn’t stop thinking about if there was anything that would be worth waking up in the dating center for.  And you know what? There is. When you get to the scene, you’ll know it.

Love Minus Eighty also made me think about my relationship with technology.  We use e-mail, facebook, twitter, youtube to interact with our friends and loved ones (and a few strangers), right? Lorelei is a person who defines her own self worth by her social media presence. How many followers does she have, and how often/long do they follow her? How can she get more?  She reminded me of Kim Kardashian, and how we’re already so close to a society as obsessed with social media and attention as Lorelei is.  How many twitter followers have I got again? How come it’s one less than yesterday? maybe I should say something witty. . .

But back on topic! I’ve teased you with the plot, and hinted at the characters, but it’s impossible to talk about Love Minus Eighty without discussing the innovative cover art as well. I highly suggest reading this incredible post over at Far Beyond Reality about the cover design (And while you’re over there, sign up to win a copy of the book!).  For fear I’d damage the beautiful vellum cover, I removed it while I was reading the book, and that completely changed what I was looking at.  With the vellum on, it looks like a woman reaching towards the camera to push a button. When the vellum is removed, all I see is her ghostly face, as if through a thick sheet of ice. If I was meeting  woman at the Cryomed Dating Center, that’s all I’d see: her face.

This photo isn't blurry.

This photo isn’t blurry.

Well, I’ve blathered on for over a thousand words about Love Minus Eighty. At this point, the only way I can close this review is to tell you to go read this book, because it’s about so much more than what you’d think by just looking at it. Even if it doesn’t look like your thing, read it anyways.

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18 Responses to "Love Minus Eighty, by Will McIntosh"

Well, I want to go out and get the book now. Great review! Thanks.

I’m adding this to my TBR list & to my next senses blog post! Thanks so much for your intriguing review!

you’re very welcome, it was a fun one to write. :)

This one was such a pleasure to read and was one of those books that was so easy to review. I love it when I connect so deeply with a book that the review practically writes itself. Such a wonderful feeling.

I love the romance in this book because it felt very real, real in all its shallowness and depth, selfishness and selflessness. Each and every character in this book is interesting to one degree or another. No character felt wasted, none felt like mere window dressing. I enjoyed the limited viewpoints that allowed us to see so many characters through a few peoples’ eyes.

One of the best books I’ve read this year.

This looks wonderful, and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it!

yes yes! go get it! you need to read it so we can talk about it! :D

It’s not at the library, but that’s what Amazon is for.

This sounds exactly like the kind of book I’d love, and after reading both your review and Carl V. Anderson’s I think I need to go and buy a copy. And thanks for you comments on the cover – that’s the kind of detail that makes me go for the hardcover.

Lauren, this is definitely one you are going to enjoy, I just know it. I’m with you on that, I have a huge appreciation for art direction details!

Seems to be the book de jour around the blogs lately.

very true. hmmm…. maybe I should have waited till all the hype died down?

This book is mentioned in a Huff Post Book article- they suggest reading it with a frozen margarita ;)

[…] *Little Read Reviewer- Intriguing Review- Love Minus Eighty- Will McIntosh- […]

[…] *Little Read Reviewer- Intriguing Review- Love Minus Eighty- Will McIntosh- […]

[…] week I reviewed Love Minus Eighty, the new speculative fiction novel from Will McIntosh.  I might be new to his […]

[…] 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 […]

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