Melting for Love

Author: Will McIntosh

Love Minus EightyYou guys know I’m a total cheapskate when it comes to books. So it’s high praise indeed when, the moment I finish a (library) book, I march right over to the computer and buy another copy! (In this case, it was for a friend who I thought would really enjoy it. Not that I wouldn’t mind owning my own copy.) That’s exactly what happened with Love Minus Eighty, which was named the best science fiction book of 2013 by the American Library Association, and which I can safely say is the only cryogenic romance I’ve ever read.

In the 22nd century, illness and even death have been conquered — if you can pay. Desperate for the chance to live again, everyone who can afford it buys cryogenic “freezing insurance.” But restoring a dead body back to life costs a fortune, so the youngest and most beautiful women are placed in a cryogenic dating center. Rich male clients spend thousands of dollars to revive the “bridesicles” for a few minutes at a time; if they find one they like, they sign a contract, making the woman effectively an indentured servant-for-life to her new husband.

Rob is a penniless twentysomething musician, freshly (and publicly) dumped by his Internet-personality girlfriend, when he accidentally hits and kills a young woman, Winter, with his car. Crippled by guilt, he scrapes together enough money to visit her at the cryogenic dating center, seeking forgiveness and closure. Winter begs him to keep visiting so she has something to look forward to, and he agrees, seeking atonement by working himself to exhaustion at blue-collar jobs to earn the money it takes for his visits. Unexpectedly, Rob receives help from Nathan — Winter’s ex-boyfriend — and his friend Veronika, deeply cynical virtual-dating coaches who are reluctantly impressed by Rob’s quest. The more they learn about the plight of the “bridesicles,” the more urgent it seems to save these women from a degrading second life. But it will take some unlikely allies, and ingenious planning, to pull off what they’ve got in mind.

The setting feels instantly real, a natural progression of our own narcissistic, commercialized online culture, where the urge to idealize ourselves and block out the unpleasant aspects of reality battles with a deeper urge to connect with others and feel something genuine. But the whiz-bang cryotechnology, while it raises intriguing ethical questions, ultimately isn’t the point — just the backdrop for a timeless tale of flawed but well-intentioned humans learning to trust, accept, forgive, and love. Which is to say, it’s a surprisingly warm-hearted and touching story.

If you liked Ready Player One or Super Sad True Love Story, you’ll enjoy this funny, fast-paced, and moving adventure that’s both a glimpse into our possible future and a commentary on contemporary society.

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Stephanie Perry
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