Love at Absolute Zero represents an experiment for Christopher Meeks in more ways than one. First off, it’s only available as an e-book, as Meeks, whose previous (wonderful) works include Months and Seasons and Brightest Moon of the Century, is working to generate some buzz for his latest project through e-sales in order to attract the attention of the book industry. Second, he’s stepping a little further afield of his usual comfort zone with this novel insofar as his protagonist, Gunnar Gunderson, is a physicist working on, among other things, creating new, theoretical forms of matter that exist only at absolute zero — an effort that Meeks, who teaches creative writing for a living, might otherwise know nothing about if not for his investigation of the topic for the purposes of writing this book. Yet despite the experimental nature of this, his latest work, fans of Meeks will be pleased to see that he’s still at the top of his game and more than capable of generating the kind of quirky character-driven fiction that we’ve come to expect from him.
This time around, the quirks belong, for the most part, to the aforementioned Gunnar Gunderson, a 32-year-old physicist who has just earned tenure at the University of Wisconsin only to realize that he’s more than a little bit lonely. His quest, then, is to find a mate–and find one quickly, as a glitch in his latest research project has just opened up a three-day window of opportunity within which to find true love. Apparently, though, Gunnar has never heard Diana Ross’s admonition against hurrying love — nor, for that matter, any love songs, for his romantic ineptitude is rivaled only by his brilliance in the physics lab. Indeed, among the especially comedic touches in the novel is Gunnar’s decision to employ the scientific method to attract a mate. And so Gunnar bleaches his teeth, gets braces, dyes his hair, opts for Lasik eye surgery , and eventually goes so far as to move to Denmark in his dubious quest for love. Thus while Meeks is, in fact, doing new things with this novel (as all artists must!), he’s also allowing his natural talents to shine through by focusing on that which makes his other works especially gratifying — the quest for love, the quest for self-knowledge, and the quest for personal fulfillment.
As engaging as it is amusing, Love at Absolute Zero is, ultimately, a heartfelt study of the tension between the head and heart, science and emotion, calculation and chance.