Defender is one of the novels I picked up at February’s Headline Blogger Evening, and one that I’ve been looking forward to reading since then.
It is a post-apocalyptic novel in which the cause of our demise isn’t entirely clear. Eight years ago, people began hearing voices. Whether real or a mass auditory hallucination, the voices caused the majority of people to kill themselves, leaving behind a few individuals who now fend for themselves as well as they can.
Lacey is sixteen, and was shielded from much of what was going on eight years earlier by her grandmother. Now alone, she now wants to travel from her home in Texas to Mississippi to find her sister, who she hasn’t heard from for years and who may or may not have survived.
Pilgrim, as his name suggests, has spent the last eight years travelling and avoiding other people, his only company the voice in his head. But when he comes across Lacey, he is encouraged by this internal voice to help her, and the two set out on Lacey’s quest, falling into a whole world of trouble along the way.
Given Lacey’s age and the recent trend for post-apocalyptic novels to be aimed towards the young adult market, you might expect Defender to also fall into this category. It doesn’t. This is a dark and often brutal story which very much satisfied my need for a bleak apocalypse to sink my teeth into. Given the lawlessness of the world as it is presented here, there are those who seek to take advantage of those weaker than themselves, and Lacey and Pilgrim run into some thoroughly bad people on their journey. It’s not all doom and gloom, however, and Todd throws in a bit of dark, wry humour along the way to lighten the tone.
Even now that I finished the novel, I’m not sure how I feel about Lacey. She’s young and has been sheltered from much of what has happened in the world, and so comes across as being extremely naïve, and she seems a little too pure and wholesome to survive in a world such as this. Survive she has though, which suggests an inner resilience, and whilst I personally prefer protagonists who are a little more kick-ass, she was certainly an original character and quite different to the sort you usually find in novels of this kind. She’s in for some rough times, however, and whilst the reader knows that there’s something special about her, it’s not clear what it is at this stage. I think it will be interesting to see how she develops as the series progresses.
If I didn’t really warm to Lacey, I made up for it in my love of Pilgrim, however. Pilgrim is exactly the kind of lone wolf style character that I like – someone who doesn’t look for trouble, but is more than capable than dealing with it if, and when, it comes looking for him. Ha also has excellent taste in books.
Defender is a novel in which the cause of the end isn’t explained, at least not in this first instalment. No one knows where the voices came from or why the result was as it was, and the little that people do know is largely rumour and hearsay. Whilst some people may find this a little frustrating and may want to know the how and why, I thought that this was reflective of how it would be if such a thing were to actually happen. With no communication infrastructure left, we’d have no way of knowing what has happened elsewhere, or how, or why, and we’d have to try to piece things together from the snippets of information that we came across. And this isn’t really a novel about the end of the world – it’s a novel about how those who survive it manage to deal with the aftermath, and I think that Todd did a brilliant job of exploring how such a world might look, and what people would need to do to survive, and that is exactly why I love this kind of novel so much.
Defender is the first novel in a planned series of four, and as such it poses a great many questions whilst answering very few of them. There is clearly a bigger story to be revealed, however, and I’m expecting another fantastic read when the sequel, Hunted, is published in January 2018 – I already have it on pre-order! 😃
Many thanks to the publisher, Headline, for my copy of Defender, and to Gemma for taking the time to talk books and things with me at the blogger event.