Monday, September 12, 2011

Love at Absolute Zero by Christopher Meeks

Love at Absolute ZeroGunnar Gunderson is a physicist with some pretty straightforward ways at looking at the world. While his research delving into the physics of absolute zero is going very well and he’s just secured tenure at the university, Gunnar suddenly feels an intense need to find a mate and wants to act on this desire quickly. While on a small hiatus from his teaching and research, Gunnar decides to devote his three day stretch to finding a woman whom he can settle down with. But three days being what it is, Gunnar finds himself in a pickle when his strange preparations for meeting the girl of his dreams don’t go as planned. However, he’s delighted when a chance encounter puts him in the way of a very attractive woman who is receptive and open to Gunnar in a way that none have been before. From the moment they meet, Gunnar and his paramour are smitten, and when Gunnar agrees to go to great lengths to be with the woman he loves, he has no idea what he’s getting himself into. Thus the three day courtship of his imagination takes on some huge permutations, and Gunnar begins to realize there are huge differences between love and science. In this hugely heartwarming and emotionally eloquent saga of Gunnar and the stirring of his heart, Meeks shares with us a most endearing man, looking for love and enchantment in some very unusual ways.

Every time I discover that Chris Meeks is putting out a new book, I get unusually antsy about getting my hands on it. It’s always a pleasure to discover the way in which he will capture my attention and immerse me in the lives of characters that are so complex and concrete that they are difficult to separate from their real life counterparts. Meeks is always upping the ante and outdoing himself with each successive book, growing and stretching as an author whom I’ve come to trust and admire. This latest book was different for Meeks in that he explored the human comedy and tragedy of love in a perfect arena, juxtaposing it as he did with stone cold scientific fact. It was lovely the way the immutable played against the transcendental, and the way Gunnar emotionally slid from his staunch and scientific opinions on love to a more refined and relaxed attitude when it came to taking a chance and letting the desires of his secret heart be fulfilled.

Gunnar was one interesting dude. While he’s a very successful physicist and not a bad teacher, there’s a component of his life that’s lacking, and it takes a wave of success to realize that he needs someone to share it with. He’s funny and self-depreciating, but unrealistic about love because he doesn’t understand it or how it works. Gunnar is very comfortable looking at love as a scientific problem, and because of this his attempts to solve it as such are usually impractical and don’t make a lick of sense. And when you stop to analyze what Gunnar thinks about love, it’s enough to make you question what love is and wonder if there are any universal rules that apply to love at all. Meeks subtly proposes these questions by putting Gunnar through his paces, and as the reader laughs at the improbable notions of his protagonist, there’s an element of perplexity as to why it shouldn’t be so. Discovering love isn’t like discovering a new isotope or element, but there is the same flush of initial recognition and the same enthusiasm to share your discovery with the world. For all that, love will not and cannot react in an explicit and time tested manner. For Gunnar, this is a realization that comes to chafe at him. While I could sympathize deeply with Gunnar plight, I could also laughingly relate to what he was going through at times. He had an uncanny knack in his humanness to be thoroughly affective and involving, his confusion and beliefs both charged with the spark of genuine humanness that is a hallmark in Meeks’ writing.

When Gunnar decides to immerse himself in the experience of love and to let go of the safety of some of his ideas and his world, he’s in for a rude awakening. This new twist to his love affair baffles and untethers him. Once again, Gunnar tries to insert himself into science, but this time, the results are different. One of the most elegant things about this novel was the way that science and physics were more than ideas. Not only were they solid and sculpted plot elements, they gave the narrative a push/pull between two very different ideas and schools of thought that Gunnar tried to apply to his life. When leaving science behind to venture towards love, Gunnar becomes lost and directionless and finds himself fervently wishing to be ensconced in a world he understands and feels safe to him. But unfortunately, these new directions cannot be reversed so easily, leaving him feeling unmoored and angry. Always at the back of his mind is another opportunity for love that has passed him by, and as Gunnar grows less and less comfortable with the situation, his mind wanders to places where it’s painful for it to go. It was here that Gunnar loses himself and loses his way. The tenderness and confusion of his heart was on full display, and there was an element of hopelessness and melancholy that effused this section of the book and drew me deeper and deeper into Gunnar’s heartache and grief. But no matter how deeply shattered he felt, there was a glimmering light to his personality that clued me in to not counting him out of the game just yet.

While the first sections of the book were lighthearted and comedic, the middle was more somber and reflective. Towards the end, there’s a measure of redemption for Gunnar, and there’s a sense that the time has come for this man. Gunnar’s plight is the path that will take him from the safety of ideas he can hide behind to the raw and uncharted territory of the unknown, finally landing him in a place where he doesn’t need to have all the answers and can let his heart soar. I was rooting for this man to extricate himself from the mire he had unwittingly gotten himself into, but was also appreciative that Meeks gave his character a heart that was truly ardent and that I could relate to without difficulty. As a character, Gunnar grows exponentially, and that’s something I love to see in the books I read. Plot, character and motivation combine into the perfect confection of a book that sees its readers cheering along for the underdog: a specimen who seems to have it all figured out but is repeatedly shocked when his hypothesis doesn’t lead to the desired outcome. Gunnar and his life go from looking into the yawning maw of hopelessness to landing in a harbor of contentment and fulfillment with a satisfying and well deserved conclusion. There are elements that are left up in the air, but one has the feeling that this new Gunnar will react with with a preciseness of the heart that has eluded him before.

This book was another winner for Meeks, and decidedly so. It was in scope and emotion a very different book than The Brightest Moon of the Century, but in some ways, the concern I had for Gunnar both rivaled and matched the concern I had for Edward in Brightest Moon. This is a story that is fundamentally original and inventive. It forces its reader to ask pressing questions about not only the state of the protagonist’s heart and mind, but their own, and proves to both that the ideas we sometimes hold dear may limit us in imperceptible but very life altering ways. A deeply resonant read that manages to be funny without sacrificing its gravity. Highly recommended!


Author Photo About the Author

Christopher Meeks began as a playwright and has had three plays produced. Who Lives? A Drama is published. His short stories have been published in Rosebud, The Clackamas Literary Review, The Santa Barbara Review, The Southern California Anthology, The Gander Review, and other journals and are available in two collections, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea and Months and Seasons. He has two novels, The Brightest Moon of the Century, a story that Marc Schuster of Small Press Reviews describes as "a great and truly humane novel in the tradition of Charles Dickens and John Irving," and his new comic novel, Love At Absolute Zero.

Christopher's Website.

Virtual Author Book Tours A warm thanks to Virtual Author Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour by visiting these other blogs:

Raging BibliomaniaSept. 12th
Alive on the ShelvesSept 13
Book BriefsSept. 14 & Sept. 15
Booksie's BlogSept. 16
A Casual Reader's BlogSept.19 & Sept 20
She Treads SoftlySept. 21 & Sept 22
This Miss Loves to ReadSept. 22
From the TBR PileSept 23
Butterfly-o-meter BooksSept.26 & Sept. 27
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time!Sept 27
The Book AddictSept 28th & Sept 29th
Lit EndeavorsSept. 30
Books and NeedlepointOct. 5
My BookshelfOct 6 & Oct. 7
Laurie's Thoughts and ReviewsOct.7 & Oct. 10
Gabriel ReadsOct. 10 & Oct. 11
Dan's JournalOct. 11 & Oct. 12
Words I Write CrazyOct. 12
Ramblings of a DaydreamerOct. 13 & Oct. 14
Drey's LibraryOct. 14





This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

19 comments:

Meghan said...

I have really enjoyed all of Christopher Meeks's books so far. I also have this for review and can't believe I haven't gotten to it yet - I'm so glad you think it lives up to his excellent standard.

Mrs. Q: Book Addict said...

Christopher Meek's is new to me. This does sound like a great read. I'm happy that the book didn't disappoint you, sometimes having too much expectations leaves you disappointed.

Beth F said...

I have never read Meeks. (ducking my head in shame) Thanks for the giveaway and the chance to add to my TBR pile.

This was the winning sentence for me: "I was rooting for this man to extricate himself from the mire he had unwittingly gotten himself into, but was also appreciative that Meeks gave his character a heart that was truly ardent and that I could relate to without difficulty"

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have never read Meeks either. I really need to remedy that!

Audra said...

I too haven't read Meeks and I might have passed this book over had I seen it in a store. But your review has me totally interested in this novel now! It sounds a bit like a Scarlett Thomas book (which is good -- she's always thought-provoking). Thank you for the giveaway -- I'm adding this to my TBR.

Alison's Book Marks said...

I just wanted to stop in and wish you a great BBAW! Heather, you make my blogging world a happier place, and I thank you for that.

Have a great week!

Geosi said...

Fantastic review. You often have a way of driving me towards a book you enjoyed.

Trisha said...

Sounds like Meeks is an author I should look for. There are very few authors that give me that "antsy feeling" when a new book comes out, so I'm in the market for a new one. :)

Steph said...

How is it that I've never heard of this author before this? The book itself sounds so cool (you know I love books that involve science-y elements), but it's the fact that Meeks is an author your habitually look forward to that really seals the deal for me! Must do some investigating!

Amy said...

I'd never heard of this author but I see you're definitely a fan. Sounds like a really interesting book and I'm glad it didn't let you down!

Tracy said...

Sounds fascinating! An author I've not read, yet, but you make his books sound like must-reads.

bermudaonion said...

You've made me wonder why I've never read Meeks' work. I'm going to enter the giveaway, but I'm kinda thinking I might not be smart enough for the book.

nomadreader said...

This one sounds so good. I have a fondness for playwrights turned novelists, so I definitely need to check out Meeks. Thanks!

Aths said...

I haven't even heard of this author! You've got me all curious about this book now and I can't wait to check it out! Fabulous review as always! I'm off to check more of his books, thanks for highlighting this book!

Teddy Rose said...

Wonderful and thought provoking review. I really enjoyed "Love at Absolute Zero" as well.

BTW it is on sale for 99 cents for Kindle and Nook for the duration of this tour.

Amy said...

This book definitely intrigues me. I love the mixture of science and romance, though I'm not sure I have a good understanding of either one or the other! (heee, heee). I'm not familiar with Christopher Meeks and I think I'm missing out on a great writer based on your reaction to this book! Christopher Meeks is now on my authors to read list and I will soon be doing a search for his works.

Gunnar sounds like an entertaining and interesting man. I was worried that this woman he's smitten with had an ulterior motive based on how they met and go together. But it sounds like things work out for Gunnar.

Thank you for introducing me to an exciting new author! Another wonderful review, Heather! Thank you!

Jenners said...

Sounds like the author managed to pull off a tricky balancing act! I've never heard of this author but he's on my radar now. Thanks!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I loved Chris Meeks's short fiction collection, "Months and Seasons" - he's quite talented.

Do you get his monthly newsletter, The Maplewoods Mirror? It has a nice mix of creative writing, personal stories, and his photography.

Christopher said...

First, thank you Heather for gettting into the book so deeply. I could tell you loved it just by the many points you gave.

Thanks, too, for everyone else's comments. Because the blog tour is going so well, I made LOVE AT ABSOLUTE ZERO and my first novel just 99 cents for now. In this way, everyone wins. See it at http://www.amazon.com/Love-at-Absolute-Zero-ebook/dp/B004ZF9GWE

The print version came out this weekend and looks gorgeous. I love the subtle things the designer didn, such as the drop caps and font choice. Whoever wins it should enjoy it.

Dawn mentioned my monthly newsletter on life and writing, The Maplewoods Mirror. Anyone can get it free by signing up in the super simple form at www.chrismeeks.net (Thanks for enjoy it and my books, Dawn!)

--Christopher Meeks

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