Sunday, 17 February 2019


4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK

How I discovered this book: recommended by a friend

In a Nutshell: Post apocalyptic, seven years after civilisation collapse, in Texas

Seven years ago, society broke down after lots of folk went crazy, killing themselves and others, because of voices in their heads.  The population is sparse.  Defender tells the story of lone survivor-on-a-motorcyle Pilgrim, and sixteen-year-old Lacey, who has spent the post-apoc years living with her recently deceased grandmother, safe from the horrors of the world.  Pilgrim agrees to take Lacey to a town several days' travel away, to find her sister and niece.

What I liked:
  • The characterisation in the first 20%.  I thought it was terrific: the alternating chapters of Pilgrim and Lacey, their backstories and inner worlds.  I thought, 'this girl can write up a storm'.  Loved it.
  • The first encounter with baddies, a gruesome brother and sister waiting in a motel for unsuspecting travellers.  Brilliantly done, horrific, as dark as you can get, and riveting.  At this point I had five stars lined up, all the way.
  • That atmosphere of bleakness, generally.
  • The evil rednecks.  What's a post-apoc book without a tribe of 'em?
  • The ending.  Sad, but satisfactory, tying ends up but with plenty of room for moving forward to the next episode.
  • The fact that an English author has written a book set in the US and made it totally believable.  For that, I take my hat off.

What I was not so sure about:
  • The length of time in which petrol deteriorates actually makes the whole plot unfeasible.  But perhaps one can suspend one's disbelief over that; I did so for The Walking Dead, after all.  Ditto dead body deterioration; they seemed to stay unstinky and not beset by rigor mortis when necessary for the plot.
  • The food.  Aside from the odd can of peaches or alphabetti spaghetti, there is little indication of them ever eating anything, or where they found food or fresh water.  I don't require a prepper survival manual, but the survival itself is part of what I find interesting about this genre.
  • The whole 'Voice' thing didn't really work for me, but this is personal preference, not a criticism.  It was well done, and often amusing.
  • I didn't find the second half as compelling reading as the first, although it picked up again in the last ten per cent.

To sum up, when I first started reading it, I was blown away and thought, oh brilliant, I've got a new post-apoc series to get my teeth into.  Couldn't put it down.  Although I didn't continue to feel this strongly about it, and although I think the publishers have done the author a disservice by hyping it as the next The Stand, which is bound to invite derision, it's a good book.  Ms Todd is clearly very talented, with the elements I liked less more to do with decisions made by the editors than the author herself; perhaps they can suspend disbelief more easily than me!

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