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Defenders Paperback – May 13, 2014
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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. Through the narratives of only a handful of characters - Oliver, Kai, Lila and Dominque - we are able to get a well-rounded sense of the culture and climate of the situation. It's interesting to watch their relationships evolve over the years, and to see how the events of the war has influenced their individual beliefs and perspectives.
Of the two novels from McIntosh I have read now, I think Love Minus Eighty still remains closer to my heart, but Defenders isn't far behind. Both are eye-opening works, and are simply excellent books. I've said this many times before, but this author deserves A LOT more attention!
This book is written from the view points of several main characters and jumps around a bit temporally. At the beginning these jumps tend to go all over the place but McIntosh is careful to include plot sign posts in them to let know you, for the most part, where you are on the timeline. However, as the story moves along, these temporal jumps resolve into only heading one direction.
This is not the most original of story ideas. As soon as the ultimate solution was presented early on in the book, it brought to mind many stories like Blade Runner or The Matrix, where humanity creates a sentient species, AI or genetically, and having to deal with the aftermath. There's also a healthy dash of District 9 and Falling Skies sprinkled in as well. However, the story is very complelling. I'm pretty sure it was giving me a mild anxiety attack as I neared the end! If there was a message of this book, it could easily be about humanity having difficulties learning their lesson as much as it could be about humans' individual ability to forgive, adapt, and survive. In any case, a very enjoyable book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was wary of another alien invasion story, but DEFENDERS is a really fresh take on the idea and imaginative from...Read more
McIntosh's work has a lot of heart.Read more