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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 May 2014
It is 2029 and first contact has arrived in the form of the Luyten. These large, star-shaped aliens drop from their vessels at a sprint, unleashing hell, driving people into the cities, always more than one step ahead of their human enemy because, it is discovered, they are telepathic. One careless strategic thought will race like wildfire, costing lives, many millions it is believed, spreading despair. When all hope seems lost, scientist Dominique Wiewell manufactures the Defenders - organic yet machine-like warriors, three legged for speed, giant in size, unable to procreate, stunted in imagination, always hungry, deadly. Humans watch in gratitude and joy as the Defenders tear the Luyten apart. One might have expected that this would be the end of the crisis. Far from it.

Defenders presents the story of mankind's fight for survival through the perspectives of four key individuals - Oliver Bowen, an increasingly important adviser to the American President who finds himself in the unlikely position of being almost a confidante to a captured, tortured Luyten known as Five due to the number of his remaining limbs; Kai Zhou is a child, so recently an orphan, in hiding from the Luyten but whose life one of their number bizarrely saved; Dominique Wiewell is the mother of the Defenders; Lila Easterlin becomes Dominique's protégé, a girl who has great cause to hate and fear the Luyten and is cherished by the Defenders.

All of them will have cause to re-evaluate their feelings towards both Luyten and Defender. All of them will experience the absolute terror that both Luyten and Defender inflict. There is a moment in the novel when Lila and a group of emissaries see a Luyten coming towards them. Each of them turns and runs. There's no explanation to the reader, no time for thinking, they turn on their heels and they run for their lives. This was one of the many moments in Defenders when I knew I was reading a book I won't forget. Another is when Lila hugs her Defender `Special Friend' Eric and he cries, wishing he had a mother. By contrast, there is the scene when a Defender is acting on stage and rips a man's guts out for laughing (at something else entirely) during his great speech.

The novel moves through years of struggle, one threat replaced by another, old enemies rehabilitated though torturous overtures, suspicion of all rife, everyone deeply frightened though years of violence, misunderstandings, carelessness. The reader doesn't expect to feel sympathy for a Luyten anymore than he or she might be expected to shed a tear for a Defender, but such is the power of Will McIntosh's writing there's a good chance that the reader will do just that.

Death is random, fear is constant.

The depiction of the relationship between humans and their created Defenders is fascinating but for me the highlight is the relationship between humans and Luytens. I think this is extraordinary. The difficulties of communicating can only make matters worse but when Luytens do try and talk to humans how far can they be believed? How far can humans be believed? The opening third of the novel makes it plain how aggressive these aliens are. Billions of humans are slaughtered. Can this harm be forgiven? Should it? Who is to blame is a major question of Defenders and our answer to it may shift and crumble repeatedly though these marvellous pages.

It is impossible for me to do justice to Defenders. Packed into its 500 pages is an explosion of drama, emotion, action, pain, thrills and questions - questions about who we are as people and our prejudices or acts of cruelty against the unfamiliar (expressed here in a Defender's matter of fact explanation of why humans made Defenders with three legs not two). Last year I was captivated by Will's Love Minus Eighty, an emotional mix of clever science fiction with social satire, and as a result Defenders was a priority read for me. I started it the day it was published as an ebook (ahead of its paperback release next week) and, despite its length, I finished it the next day.

Defenders is a stunning book and, without doubt, it is my favourite first contact novel. It is not only thrilling and exhilarating, it's painful and moving, extremely clever and rewarding, full of ideas and populated by characters you can't help caring for and feeling for, even those you feel you shouldn't. What a writer! More, please!
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on 28 May 2014
A bit far fetched, a good read, but I would have liked the characters to have been a little more believable. Giant starfish? Bionic three legged easter island heads? Apart from that a really good read, didn't leave me wanting to revisit but a good read.
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on 23 November 2014
I'm sure there are lots of in depth reviews elsewhere so i wont go into detail.After trying loads of samples recently and not going with any of them Defenders really kept my attention.Great pace and detail and a fantastically realised set of concepts,more please!
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on 16 February 2015
Despite the bland title and slightly silly sounding premise I was actually gripped by this book. The telepathic alien Luyten were well realised and the psychopathic (but poorly named) Defenders were also well done to the point where I had some empathy for them. What let this book down for me was the human characters - there were too many of them and their motivations were often not well thought out or explained. Some of their behaviour was frankly inexplicable such as the couple with a young child who keep leaving him with the neighbours every time fighting breaks out and rarely seem to be concerned about his safety, or to even think about him at all. That said the overall narrative delivered an engrossing tale of humanity battling for survival.
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on 6 July 2014
My problemis is I find the defenders implausible. They allegedly have an IQ of 140 whilst being seemingly easy to out-think. Sometimes.

I'm not really a person to review Mil Sci Fi as I'm not a big fan of the genre. It's very difficult to carry off well. And Defender didn't quite make it.

A lexagraphic complaint. It would have made life easier if the author had capitalised defender. The number of times I mentally tripped up when the defenders were attacking (see what I mean?). When the word is encountered does it refer to someone who is defending something or one of those genengineered thingies that might be behaving quite agressively.
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on 6 June 2014
thought it might be another one of these cheap sci fi stories in basic prose but its quite good actually - original concept, quite thought provoking,well written - better than the latest jo nesbo effort that i read!
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on 29 May 2014
The first time I have read this author. I was tempted when reading the reviews after Amazon recommended it. I couldn't put it down. I hope there is a sequel.
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on 13 June 2014
From the start this book is fast paced, intriguing and highlights the lack of thought humans give to military conflicts and the consequences of the aftermath.
The characters are consistent and evolve over the time line of the book.
I could not put this book down and hope this one is picked up by Hollywood as would make an amazing movie.
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on 4 May 2015
I enjoyed the concept. It's a great idea for a book but I felt the author could have done more work on the characters and their motivations.
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on 22 June 2014
Interesting idea but poorly developed and rambling narrative. Difficult to feel any empathy with the characters or understand their actions
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