Not A Review | Defenders – Will McIntosh

About the Book

When Earth is invaded by telepathic aliens, humanity responds by creating the defenders. They are the perfect warriors–seventeen feet tall, knowing and loving nothing but war, their minds closed to the aliens. The question is, what do you do with millions of genetically-engineered warriors once the war is won?

A novel of power, alliances, violence, redemption, sacrifice, and yearning for connection, DEFENDERS presents a revolutionary story of invasion, occupation, and resistance.

512 pages (paperback)
Published by Orbit
Published on May 13, 2013
Author’s webpage 

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

Dear publishers,

2014 is killing me. I seriously think this year will melt my brain with all the awesome that has crossed my doorstep. Publishers, you guys are doing the impossible. You keep putting out these books that just absolutely alter me on some sort of fundamental level. They make me live incredible lives, and look at the world around me, and my relationship to it, completely differently. They speak to me and move me. They leave me gasping and short of breath and leave me a different person than the one who started the book. I’ve pumped out more Not-A-Review’s this year alone than I have in any of my previous years running this website, and all for good reasons. Something must have been in the water recently that triggered some intense and fantastic creativity in authors, and publishers are gobbling it up and mailing all the results to me.

Thank you for that.

And damn you. Do you guys have any idea how much sleep I’ve lost due to you?

Ah, the life and times of a reviewer…

I reach a point with some authors where I have to stop reviewing their books. It gets to be impossible, either because I always love them or always hate them. With these authors, neutrality is an absolute impossibility. Usually it takes quite a few books to reach that point, but Will McIntosh has officially crossed that line with the second book of his that I’ve read, Defenders.

Last year I was astounded with Love Minus Eighty, a book that I still think about quite frequently. McIntosh set himself up to be one of those rare writers who knows how to explore the depth and scope of the human psyche, and how all of that relates to the world around us all. I expected something impressive with Defenders, but what I got was something that I didn’t expect at all.

Defenders is told with the same basic style of Love Minus Eighty, from different, but specific perspectives from a few select characters. I appreciate the fact that this style of story telling really allows the writer (and thus, the reader) to really flesh out and fully explore all the dirty details that make up each character. Defenders few perspectives really allows readers to get a much more intimate understanding of a complex situation than we’d otherwise get. This proves to be the very thing that makes Defenders as much of a mind trip as it is an exciting, fast paced read.

The back cover blurb is a little misleading, as it makes the reader believe that the war is over and now we are reading about how humanity (and the aliens and etc.) clean up the mess. That’s not really the case. The novel opens during one war, and then quickly moves to another, and then another. The interesting thing is that all of these wars are reactions to assumptions and misunderstandings. No one is trying to understand anyone else, they are all just reacting. And this is really where the novel gripped me. Defenders is incredibly fast paced, and very action packed, and full of emotion that absolutely grabs your heart. It’s raw and real and bloody and visceral, but it is so much more. Often the thoughts and beliefs are directly opposite of the actions that those same people undertake. Those actions, and all the levels of thought and personal experience that go into that action is just as fascinating as the war itself, and often that’s where the true adventure and exhilarating experience of Defenders lies – all of the levels.

Love Minus Eighty was obviously a deep book, full of emotions and self-exploration. Defenders is a little more deceptive about how deep it is. While there are some themes that are absolutely obvious (and absolutely interesting for so many reasons), like the philosophies that the Defenders themselves develop as a result of how they are created and treated – there are others that are quite a bit more subtle. This makes Defenders one of those books that is nicely balanced between the deeper notes and the more obvious fast-furious-fun plot themes. It’s also a book that I can read over and over again and glean new details and ideas each time.

That’s what is so damn great about this novel. There’s so much here that readers will love. Tight SciFi with realistic future developments abound. There’s more than enough action (but never too much, always just right). The characters are easy to love and sympathize with. But what’s even better is that it is true to form McIntosh. There is just so much here to love and enjoy. This book asks some of the most important questions that a book can ask, and it forces readers to analyze our human nature and our relationship to each other, reactions, actions, assumptions, beliefs, in some very uncomfortable ways that really resonate.

I read a lot of books.

A lot of books.

Tons of books.

I read constantly.

And it is so damn rare that I read a book that rocks me to my core this powerfully. Defenders is just as profound, just as moving, and just as powerful as Love Minus Eighty, but completely and totally different. Defenders has a very different feel than I expected, but it thrives from it. McIntosh has this way about his writing that just does it for me on every conceivable level. I love and hate his characters in equal measure, which is so realistic to how I approach humanity in general. The situation(s) are grand and huge, and surreal, but the epic scale of events in Defenders just makes everything that is happening so much more powerful, and the themes that McIntosh toys with that much more intense. The tiny details are incredible; the thought that is put into this novel is astounding.

Honestly, this is one of those books that kind of pisses me off because I only get to read it for the first time once.


This book is too good to rate.

5 Responses

  • Wow! Hell of a recommendation. Guess I’ll give it a shot shortly…

    • I hope you like it. It took me a little more effort to get into this one than it took me with Love Minus Eighty, and I think the reason is because the fighting stuff. I have a hard time grasping battles and etc. However, I got over it very quickly.

  • High praise indeed, Sarah. High praise.

  • i skimmed your review because I didn’t want any spoilers, but this line

    “this is one of those books that kind of pisses me off because I only get to read it for the first time once.”

    has got me HOOKED. Also, I’m kicking myself for not diving into Defenders when it first showed up on my doorstep. It’ll be one of the next books I pick up, that’s for sure.

    and oh hell yes has 2014 been a great year for books so far!

  • Kristijan R.

    Hi, Sarah! I love your Not-A-Review’s and every one of them has gotten me so excited and hyped…

    Thanks for that.

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