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Book Review: Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh (Audiobook narrated by Kevin T. Collins, Eileen Stevens, and Ali Ahn)

January 11, 2014 2 comments

An ambiguously Asian looking woman is seen through a foggy glass pressing her finger down.Summary:
In the future, you can live forever. But only if you can afford to pay to be medically resurrected and any injuries sustained fixed.  The rest put everything they have into freezing insurance, getting cryogenically frozen in the hopes that one day, someday, they might get resurrected.  At the very least, they wont’ die.  But beautiful women who die too young (and too not filthy rich) get a different sort of a second chance.  They get awoken and given the choice of going into the cryogenic dating facility.  Men will come through and pay to wake them up and talk to them, and if they fall for them, they’ll pay to have them resurrected and their injuries healed.

In this world, three different, yet intertwined stories are told.  There’s Rob. A once-musician who accidentally struck and killed a jogger in the middle of his break-up with his reality star-esque wealthy girlfriend.  He proceeds to take out a loan to visit the jogger to apologize but slowly the guilt turns into something more.  Then there’s Veronika, a dating coach with a bad case of unrequited love and a need to feel like she’s doing some good in the world.  And finally, Mira.  A lesbian who was placed into the heterosexual cryogenic dating pool back at the beginning before they bothered to wake the women and ask them if they wanted to be there.

Review:
I was immediately intrigued by this book’s premise and then realized I’d already read another scifi book by Will McIntosh and enjoyed it.  That book, Soft Apocalypse (review), is actually set in the same universe as this one.  Although they’re not a series, technically, Love Minus Eighty takes place a bit in the future after the events described in Soft Apocalypse.  I enjoyed the future imagined there, so was happy to return to it once again to see where things have gone since everything fell apart for Earth.  And oh my have they taken an interesting turn.

The future is a near dystopic mess of most of the wealth being in the hands of the few.  While some people have foregone civilization to live off the land, the rest of the have-nots spend their time in body suits, called systems, that are basically like a full-bodied smartphone.  They reminded me a bit of Google Glass.  Their systems filter out all the unsightly aspects of where they live, including garbage, and they also block pop-up ads that otherwise accost you on the street.  Everyone pours their little bit of money into their systems because without one you fall entirely off the social stratum.  This is already creative enough to be intriguing, but then McIntosh tosses in this idea that cryogenics and resurrection has been figured out but only the wealthy can afford to be resurrected and everyone else pours all the rest of their money into freezing insurance.  Then we get the cryogenic dating program aka bridesicles, and oh wow.  Any scifi reader can see what an interesting setting this is.

On top of this setting, McIntosh weaves three different, yet ultimately intertwined narrators.  It’s a narrative structure I enjoy but only when done well, and McIntosh mostly pulls it off.  Some things sometimes felt a bit like too much of a coincidence, but for the most part the intertwining made sense.  All three narrators have unique voices and perspectives.  They are well-rounded with flaws, even Mira, who is frozen a lot of the time, but they also are still likable.

The plot is complex and truly had me on the edge of my seat for the last third of the book.  I was rooting for the characters and did not know what would happen.  An unpredictable, yet satisfying, ending plays in perfectly with the plot.

I am of two minds about the presence of Mira in the story.  On the one hand, I appreciate that McIntosh took the time to think about how the heteronormativity of the bridesicle program could affect a lesbian.  On the other hand, it frustrates me that she and her girlfriend have their agency removed and spend most of the story frozen and at the whim of the heterosexual people around them.  Having lesbians rescued by the straight folks just kind of rubbed me the wrong way.  I sort of wish there had been some modern day queer person who helped them out in some way.  That was the other thing that bothered me.  The only queer presence was from the past in the form of Mira and her frozen girlfriend.  In such a sweeping narrative with so many characters that is also set in a city, it seems odd to me we never encountered another queer character.  Particularly when one of the main characters is a dating coach.

The narration of the audiobook was wonderful.  Having a different voice for each narrator really helped keep the stories straight, and each of the narrators did a wonderful job bringing their characters to life.

Overall, this book presents a richly imagined near-dystopian scifi future that gets the reader to think about if living afraid of death is truly living.  The three-narrator structure lends a complexity to the plot that keeps it engaging and consistently moving forward.  One of the plot choices might rub some readers the wrong way, but if the world building and narrative structure appeal, it shouldn’t be much of an issue.  Recommended to scifi fans who enjoy a city setting and some romance.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Book Review: Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery (Series, #1)

April 10, 2012 2 comments

Chairs on a deck near the ocean.Summary:
Michelle ran away from mistakes made at home to the army, and now she’s coming home from three tours of duty to Blackberry Island in the Pacific Northwest.  Her father abandoned the family when she was a teenager, but left his historic inn in trust to her.  Her mother was running it until she died, and now Michelle is back to reclaim her inheritance.  Only it seems that her mother may have not so much been running the inn as running it into the ground.  Meanwhile, Michelle’s once best friend, Carly, thought she was working toward owning part of the inn only to be side-swiped by the fact that Michelle’s mother lied to her….not to mention the bad blood between her and Michelle.  It’s a lot for anyone to deal with, but toss in Michelle’s PTSD and Carly’s single motherhood, and it seems impossible for either of them to ever truly get their lives in order.

Review:
I am not usually a chick lit person, but this one slipped in under my radar thanks to Harlequin’s new MIRA line (which is chick lit with some sex scenes).  I’m glad it did, because I found the story relatable, heart-warming, and a welcome escape.

The plot is complex, which I think is evident from my plot summary.  There is a lot going on.  But it never feels forced or like too much.  It simply feels like real life.  Michelle and Carly both have a *lot* of shit to deal with and watching them deal with it imperfectly but understandably is an enjoyable experience.

Although both Michelle and Carly have their own romance plot lines, the story is really about healing their broken friendship, as well as their wounds from their individual painful pasts.  I enjoyed this because the story shows healing happening alongside real life.  Too often books either ignore the tough things or focus on them to the exclusion of real life.

Of course, being the mental illness advocate that I am, I was incredibly pleased to see Michelle’s PTSD come up and be dealt with in such a true to life manner.  Michelle at first is mentally wounded and won’t truly admit it.

While she wasn’t a big believer in PTSD, she’d been told she suffered from it. So she’d listened to the counselors when they’d talked about avoiding stress and staying rested and eating well. (location 207)

Perhaps the most true-to-life part of the whole book is that Michelle takes a while to admit that she is not ok, even while those around her who love her are expressing their concerns to her.  A lot of people have difficulty acknowledging a problem, particularly if they view themselves as strong and independent.  Seeing Michelle realize that reaching out for help is stronger than suffering alone is honestly the best part of the whole book.

Although we do have a couple of sex scenes, I did feel that the romance was a bit….quick and forced for both women.  However, this is the first book in a series, so perhaps their romantic relationships will be explored more in future books.

I also have to say that the title makes zero sense to me.  It brings to mind summer, but that’s about all the relation I can see between it and the story.

Overall, this is a piece of chick lit with an intelligent perspective on PTSD in female soldiers and a dash of romance.  Recommended to fans of the genre as well as those who enjoy a contemporary tale and want to dip their toe into the chick lit world.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

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