The Future of Love is Ice Cold

Images from the novel Love Minus Eighty

Every once in a while a novel will take me on a journey so compelling I can't stop reading until I finish it. This was the case with Will McIntosh's science fiction novel Love Minus Eighty, an intriguing story about the future of technology and death that transformed into a story about the future of love.

The novel has many elements I enjoy: imagination, good characters, and plot. As a bonus is the inventive depiction of future technologies: people live in High City—literally a city built in the sky—and wear expensive "systems" on their bodies that are like computer skins and allow them to effortlessly connect and engage with the world. People with systems can change the environment's appearance and smell, have multi-chat conversations vocally, retreive information instantaneously, and place their "screen" anywhere they wish to be virtually. The novel is peppered with other technological delights such as high speed public transportation, droids, drones, and virtual reality interactives. The world moves fast and technology interfaces with body and mind seamlessly. Multi-tasking is second nature and people in Love Minus Eighty feel helpless when they're not wearing their system; the same way we feel helpless when we don't have our mobile phone or our internet connection is down.

Most intriguing about the novel is when people die they can be kept frozen in crèches (coffin-like incubators) at minus eighty degrees (where the novel gets its name) at cryogenic dating centers with the hope that somebody will visit them and pay a huge sum of money to bring them back to life. Death is a business and the only people who can be kept frozen are those who had expensive longevity insurance or high ratings (are attractive enough) that someone might be interested in marrying them. Women who have died without insurance but who have high ratings are "bridesickles" brought back to life for visits so suitors can interview them. These visits are considered "dates" and are expensive and brief (only five minutes) so the product won't age. The novel creates a situation that asks to what degree we are a species that will do anything to survive? In particular it creates an ethical situation for women to choose between death or the chance to marry a wealthy suitor they barely know and will most likely never love so they can be "revived".

The novel's story is essentailly ironic as the protagonist, a young, middle class man named Rob accidentally kills a woman while he is driving somewhat recklessly after his girlfriend broke up with him. Later he finds out the woman he killed is now a bridesickle and saves money so he can visit her. At first he visits her out of guilt and because he wants to confess he is responsible for killing her, but as he gets to know her he eventually falls in love. The problem is he's not rich and can't afford to visit her often and has no chance of reviving her because it's too expensive. The other problem is that if a bridesickle doesn't get enough dates she may expire because she is not considered profitable.

The novel kept me guessing with surprising characters and plot twists and captured a future world I see glimpses of now. Many of the technologies in the novel have ethical issues such as cryogenics, but MccIntosh remains objective and allows his characters to work through relationships with technology and how it affects them. In the end the novel delivered a story about people and a world I wanted to experience and showed that love is powerful no matter the circumstance or obstacles faced. A recommended read.