I know life is quite depressing and en route to dystopia as it is, but sit down a second. I need to talk to you about a really great book.
Defender, the first of a new series of novels by debut writer G. X. Todd, takes a spin on apocalypse genre by changing up pandemic narratives. Moving away from the killer flus of Station Eleven or The Last Of Us (the Rob Ewing novel, not the game), Todd presents us with an epidemic of audible hallucinations.
In the interest of honesty in this review, I’d like to state I have experienced audible hallucinations and in reading the premise I was intrigued and a little nervous of how they were going to be handled. I am relieved to say that I needn’t have worried. I don’t want to give away too much to do with the voices as Todd carefully spoons you tidbits of information as the novel goes, but be reassured by my personal experience tinted review.
Defender’s lead characters follow the commonly-seen-in-video-games trope of crusty, morally-grey man and naive ingenue girl who can really wield a gun – The Last Of Us (now I mean the game) and Telltale’s The Walking Dead spring to mind. Pilgrim is a mysterious man on a bike who has a voice; in a world where many of the people who heard have died, he is somewhat of a minority, having coexisted with Voice for seven years since the world went to hell. Lacey has been living alone since her Grammy died in their house, and decides that she needs to find her sister Karey and niece Addison in Vicksburg. Upon tricking Pilgrim into buying some lemonade, Lacey decides he will be the man to escort her to her sister.
Pilgrim and Lacey have a great chemistry and a genuine affection for each other, which is a joy to read. Their friendship and care is a lightness and hope in a dark world.
And when I say dark, I mean The Road levels of dark. When you pick up Defender, don’t think it is a novel to read before bed (yes I made this mistake frequently). I’ve popped content warnings at the bottom of the page to be specific for those who want them, but this novel is very violent, bloody and grim.
I loved it. I really loved it. The mystery of the voices thrilled me and the plight of Lacey, Pilgrim and Alex (who they rescue from absolutely blood curdling circumstances quite early on in the novel) gripped me until the last page. Todd’s writing is intricate, weaving complex graphic action scenes through seamless construction, setting your heart racing and your mind screaming oh god did that really just happen oh god it did.
Interested? Get it here in hardback or preorder the paperback which is out in August. If you use any of the links on my website, I get a small percentage of what you pay which helps me come up with more recommendations!
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Thank you kindly to the team at Headline Books for sharing this copy with me.
Content notes: rape, violence against women, graphic violence, references to suicide and self harm, discussion of audible hallucinations.