Published: 2013 by Orbit
Genres: Science Fiction
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Love Minus Eighty is a futuristic story that describes the love lives of a handful of intersecting characters. Mankind has developed the technology to revive the dead provided that their bodies are frozen shortly after their deaths. Of course, this technology is prohibitively expensive for people without resurrection insurance, which is most of the human population. Only the proverbial 1% can afford it. That’s where the Bridesicle program comes in. Pretty women are sometimes frozen after death. The cost of their revival is paid by a rich male patron in exchange for a marriage agreement once they’re alive.
The central character of the story is a man named Rob. His girlfriend Lorelei is an attention whore and breaks up with him on a live camera in front of thousands of people. On his way home from being broken up with, Rob hits a jogger named Winter and kills her. She gets put in the Bridesicle program. Rob is a genuinely decent guy, but now that Lorelei left him, he’s poor. He regrets what happened to Winter, and starts making sacrifices to save the money that it takes to visit her. Now, he can only afford to visit for five minutes at a time, and months will go by between visits. For Winter, it’s a rare opportunity to be alive again, if only in a limited state and for a short time period. Over this time, Rob and Winter begin to develop mutual feelings for each other, even though there’s zero chance of them being able to have any kind of future together.
But limiting my description to just Rob and Winter’s story would be too simplistic, because it’s the minor characters that truly make this book shine. All of them are complex, with both strengths and flaws that make us love them, pity them, and feel anger towards them. There’s Veronika, and she’s a dating coach. She’s secretly in love with her best friend Nathan, but won’t take the initiative to follow through with her feelings because the friendship they have is comfortable. Then Nathan starts hitting it off with Lorelei, and Veronika has to come to terms with what she feels. And even the despicable Lorelei isn’t irredeemable. She seems like a heartless bitch, but there are moments when she uses her flair with an audience in a way that surprises everyone.
It’s hard in a novel of this length to create minor characters who are so fleshed out and whose stories intertwine the way that they do. But if you think about it, that’s how social circles work, both in the future and in our own time. Everyone’s connected in some way, and seeing these characters’ stories as they are influenced by each other without even realizing it made me pause and think about the way that all of our actions affect other people.
Generally when I start a book I read it within a few days. A few weeks, even, if I’m super stressed and don’t have much time for reading. Love Minus Eighty took me a full six months, because it was the type of book that I needed time to digest. I’d read a chapter or two at a time, savoring the complexity of the characters and the story. Beautifully written, tragic, and yet hopeful, Love Minus Eighty is the story of intersecting relationships against the backdrop of a technological future.