What Love Feels Like – the Dawn of Human 2.0 Dave Cunningham and C.K. Tyler
Roundfire Books 2020, ebook, £4.99
Reviewer: I. Rosenfeld
What Love Feels Like is written by two writers: a male author/journalist and a female school counsellor. The writers’ real professions are echoed in the life experiences and attitudes of the two characters who inhabit the novel. Dawn and Luke love words. They use them in a great deal of emails to establish their courtship and later for connection, self-exploration, and to fall deeply in love.
But it is the second strand of this entrancing novel that I found even more interesting. From the start we know that software engineers in a biotech office are debating whether love is a matter of the brain’s chemical reactions, therefore meaningless to the future of the human race, or its opposite: perhaps love is the very definition of civilization, which, at a time when we are becoming more tribal, divided, warlike and aggressive is the only saving grace left to us.
The novel chugs along nicely on these two levels. I enjoyed a number of things about it. The cover, with its ironic take of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, shows the female hand directing the heart and the male hand opening up to receive it, which subtly reflects the dynamics of the Dawn-Luke relationship. Secondly, I loved the way the female lead is portrayed as emotionally and conventionally intelligent, witty, honest and open. The man is also portrayed as genuine and pretty much her equal.
In the second half of the book, their emails border on sentimentality and there’s a dip in the plot. Perhaps a few private diary entries would have added spark to the relationship. Even so, the overall tension is maintained via the fantasy plot-strand, which explores the question of whether their love will survive Luke’s death and potential ‘immortality’. This is shown to be achievable by preserving his consciousness with an Artificial Intelligence program.
Overall, I found this to be an appealing novel. The portrayal of a more old-fashioned and subtler courtship was engaging; it reminds us that desire and love last better and longer when there is a meeting of minds. And, seeing as mind matters, it is ‘mind’ and ‘consciousness’ which is preserved after Luke’s death.
So how will Dawn react when she is invited by the U.S. government’s highly classified Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency to continue her relationship with Luke after he has physically died?
The ensuing discourse is both accessible and relevant to philosophy and technology, bereavement and faith. Without spoiling the end for you, let’s say that, even though there are no great twists and turns in the love story, the dual plot-strand will appeal to many: readers who have not given up on cultivating love and intimacy in their lives, people hanging on to the memory of a deceased partner, and millennials who enjoy emotionally intelligent fantasy/reality crossovers.