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Defenders Paperback – May 13, 2014

3.9 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

As with Love Minus Eighty (2013), McIntosh expands another short story into a novel in this near-future military science-fiction adventure. It’s 2029 and the mind-reading capabilities of alien invaders, the Luyten, render Earth’s military forces ineffective, thus threatening humanity with extinction. Scientists create genetically modified superwarriors in a last-ditch effort to save the planet. Unfortunately, the free-thinking and military-minded Defenders may pose as great a threat as the aliens. Using alternating points of view in short chapters, McIntosh weaves the story among several characters. Among them are Oliver Bowen, CIA interrogator and the first to communicate with a captured Luyten; Khai Zhou, saved by the same alien and another child of the invasion; Lila Easterlin, who dreams of becoming a genetic engineer and adores the defenders for saving her. Hard-science sf readers will be disappointed in the simple treatment of technology and the standard invasion trope, but McIntosh’s strengths lie in character interaction and effective dialogue, and he succeeds in creating an emotional story of love, loyalty, and forgiveness amid the stark realities of war. --Craig Clark


"McIntosh is without a doubt one of the most underrated science fiction authors writing today. Defenders is an emotional, action-packed story....McIntosh's cautionary near-future tale, told from multiple perspectives, serves as a brutally honest portrayal of how humans carelessly exploit, destroy - and in this case create - other species."―RT Book Reviews (Top Pick)

"What makes Defenders such an incredible novel is McIntosh's pure elegance, the beauty of its simplicity. Each element of the novel, the characters, the situations, the world, the results of the world's actions, organically feed into each other as the novel progresses."―SFFWorld

"This military science fiction novel offers fast paced action."―Publishers Weekly

"McIntosh's novels often blend unlikely scenarios and genre tropes in ways that make you rethink them. Here he's brought together the classic veterans' "coming home" story with telepathic alien invasion and issues around what it means to have been genetically engineered for one purpose. It's a posthuman scenario that McIntosh is exploring in all its messy complexity."― io9.com

"McIntosh tells a more global yet still deeply personal tale about life during wartime and its aftermath... McIntosh has his finger on the pulse, again."―Kirkus (starred review)

"An emotional story of love, loyalty, and forgiveness amid the stark realities of war."―Booklist

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (May 13, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031621776X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316217767
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Will McIntosh is a science fiction and young adult author, a Hugo award winner and a winner or finalist for twelve other SF awards. His newest novel is Burning Midnight, a young adult SF adventure, and up next is Faller, a wild adult SF book coming in October. His novel Defenders was optioned by Warner Brothers for a feature film, while Love Minus Eighty, about women trapped in a cryogenic dating center, was named the best science fiction book of 2013 by the American Library Association, and was on both Io9.com and NPR.org's lists of the best SF novels of 2013. Will was a psychology professor before turning to writing full-time, and still teaches part time at The College of William and Mary. Originally from New York, he lives in Williamsburg, Virginia with his wife and their twins. He collects comic art and autographed classic rock albums, and is a movie and TV fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @willmcintoshSF, or on his website, www.willmcintosh.net.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Will McIntosh has a remarkable ability to write stories that reach deep into your mind and heart, raising questions about ourselves both individually and as a society. I enjoy his tightly woven plots and multiple narratives, but it's the messages in them that transcend the content and that's what ultimately makes reading his work so rewarding.

When you read Defenders, look for the forest, not the trees. Just as you weren't supposed to pick apart the minutiae of cryogenics in Love Minus Eighty, I realized very early on that I shouldn't get too hung up on the logistics of an alien invasion or the ins-and-outs of bio-engineering a whole new warrior race. This science fiction novel isn't so much about the "science" than it is a thought-provoking social fiction piece exploring how humanity might approach an "us vs. them" situation. Needless to say, if you enjoy "what if" stories, this would be the ideal book for you. But even in the face of implausible circumstances, Defenders was an enthralling and sometimes terrifying read, given how the speculation always remained grounded in human nature. Humanity has essentially created an army of living, breathing killing machines with only a swift and decisive victory against the Luyten in mind, and now they must live with the consequences of their actions.

What makes someone a friend or foe? Who can put a price on the cost of freedom? As ever, the scenarios in McIntosh's stories are enhanced by his characters; they are the ones who help expand our understanding of the dire things happening in the world, very important in books such as these. And in Defenders, that's no exception.
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There is a lot of fighting in this book, but in my opinion it is not really a typical military SF story.

It is written like a series of short vignettes that take place over a period of decades (following no less than 3 wars), every short chapter focuses on a character, much like the Game of Thrones books. Mcintosh does the personal & relational parts very well, you become invested with the people and their desperate struggles.

It begins (no real spoilers here) with a well written and suspenseful alien invasion theme, yet while most books would stop with humanity's successful answer to the threat, it is the aftermath that makes Defenders so interesting, the story explores the consequences and responsibility of creation. It is interesting to wonder if enemies are bad because they behave like we engineered them to be. Similarly the enemy's woefully inadequate attempts at art are a sad consequence of their character.

It's these well worked out implications that set Defenders apart from generic military SF and in my opinion turns it into a compelling read.

I must say though that towards the end I got a bit tired of all the warfare, for me the book could have been a bit more concise there and at the same time it could have expanded the final aftermath in more detail. Hence a solid 4 stars.
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Earth struggles to survive alien invasion, but with the aliens able to read human minds it seems a lost cause - after all, how can you defeat the enemy that knows your plans even before you do?

In this dark, seemingly final days a group of humans resorts to desperate measures to turn the tide of war.
But some doors should not be opened, and sometimes, the cure can be more dangerous than the sickness.

If you are looking for an alien invasion book that focuses less on the explosions and more on how humans cope with this kind of disaster, this is a book for you. It lacks the mystery of unknown approaching the earth - the book begins in the middle of an invasion already underway for some time, enemy is known. There is very little "Independence Day" vibe in this book, it's more akin to "War of the Wolrds" or "Falling Skies" - small groups of humans trying to survive and not large armies and nukes defending the Earth.

The book is quite well written, the characters are interesting, deep and certainly not two-dimensional. Psychology of the aliens and humans is believable and it's a real pleasure to experience how the story as well as individual character arcs develop.

There is a part of the book - a turning point, in fact - that slightly breaks the suspension of disbelief, and is sketched rather vaguely (possibly just to not draw the reader's attention to the weak part). It's not something major or breaking the book, but noticeable.

I recommend this book - with its depth, disillusioned and mature take on human psychology and social dynamics as well as the believable characters you should enjoy the read.
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With short chapters and quick cuts in the plot narrative, one would at first think "Defenders" is a light-weight pulp-style science fiction story. That would be a mistake -- author Will McIntosh has woven a threads of human xenophobia, desperation and the unintended consequences of human ingenuity into "Defenders," making it the sort of book that leads one to contemplate just how close to reality he has come. In my opinion, "Defenders" comes very close indeed.

Best of all, McIntosh has left the door wide open for a continuation of the story, and hopefully, he will re-visit the characters and tell us what comes next. Yes, there is a palpable denouement at the end of "Defenders," but at the same time, the door is more than cracked for a sequel. Here's one reader who hopes that it is written sooner rather than later.
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