Book Review: DEFENDERS by Will McIntosh

DefendersWill McIntosh’s Defenders is unlike any alien invasion book I’ve read. It starts off with introductions to characters you immediately care for, revealing the strangeness and borderline horror of the world they live in. The Luyten are an alien species that has already almost won the war, combining their ability to read human minds with heat ray guns to decimate humanity into living in the shadows. Their victory is inevitable, and yet we experience their dominance, initially, through young minds, adding to the sense of vulnerability and hope.

Into this situation, we meet a very likable cast of characters:

The sole captured alien, Five, is being interrogated by Oliver in a secret compound far enough away to be out of range from the other Luyten’s telepathic reading. Without spoiling anything about Oliver’s circumstance, I’ll say that he has marriage problems, trust issues, and is on the verge of losing everything for this war. He is very smart, but lacks charisma and self-confidence. He will be vital to humanity’s attempted survival, though, so don’t expect him to catch any breaks any time soon.

Kai is a young teenager when we first meet him. He’s left his only friend and has no family, and is struggling to find food and warmth in the narrowing space humanity has left. His only means of survival will be following Five’s instructions.

Another young teenager, Lila, is on the run with her father. Her moments with him are as emotionally engaging as if I’d been there with her, needing my father to make the broken world around me somehow right–and yet also recognizing that I’m strong enough to be valuable in that change.

As the title reveals, the Luyten are not the only force to reckon with. Defenders are Goliath-type soldiers created without serotonin so that the aliens can’t read their minds.

There are lots of twists in Defenders, so I’ll leave the plot alone at that. As I mentioned above, this book was a unique experience. When I see a book about invasion, I think I’m getting ready for a sprawling series of give and take. This book isn’t small, but it does complete the story in time jumps that unfortunately made me feel like it was progressing too quickly. Will is an incredible writer, and one could argue that the book is tightly edited to only include the necessary scenes. His father is a Brigadier General, and Will acknowledges that he provided a good deal of advice on military tactics. I don’t know much about tactics, and while this book displays believable scenarios, it doesn’t get bogged down in the details. Maybe I should be thankful he didn’t spend chapter buy gabapentin 300mg uk after chapter of waiting in the months between major events. On the other hand, skipping time sort of took me out of their experience, as though I were reading a documentary after the fact instead of living with them during. I’m conflicted making that statement because he does place us in their daily lives during key moments, with battles that are fresh and intense and in dramatic conflicts where death is imminent, such as while the bad guy is trying to be a friend.

In order to keep the main cast central to the narrative, Will sometimes jumped ahead when I would have liked to have seen more of the effects of major events. We see how they affected our main cast, but I guess my preference would be to have seen this story expanded to multiple books. Relationships formed off the page, for example, but then had strong emotional moments on the page, so it was a give and take between wanting more and getting what I hoped for. While I had moments of strong emotional responses to their conflict, I wonder if I could have had more had the off page moments been included. The result was loving the first stage of the characters’ lives, but only having a so-so enjoyment and engagement with the middle and end of their stories.

While I didn’t predict many of the plot twists exactly, there was kind of a predicted pattern to the conflict that played out about as I thought it would, leaving the ending less surprising and fulfilling than I would have liked.

In spite of being conflicted about the style of storytelling in Defenders, I recommend it. For alien invasion stories, it has one of the strongest casts I’ve read or seen. The action is visceral and unrestrained, evoking a real sense of danger that shined just as much as the character moments. I just wish it would have taken more time with the characters and had more surprising plot twists.

***Listen to Tim and Sarah Chorn interview Will McIntosh about his writing career, Defenders and Love Minus Eighty on AISFP Podcast 263. Includes giveaway of Defenders.***
Timothy C. Ward
Executive Producer

ScavengerTimothy C. Ward has been podcasting since 2010, first as AudioTim, and now with AISFP. His newest story, Scavenger: A Sand Diver Tale, is available on Kindle for $.99. His novel in progress, Order After Dark, is a Post-apocalyptic Fantasy set in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former Executive Producer for AISFP. His debut novel, Scavenger: Evolution, blends Dune with Alien in a thriller where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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