When they started hearing the voices, chaos ensued. People turned against their friends and families, then turned on themselves. Not everyone hears them, but Pilgrim does and he’s found an uneasy truce with the voice in his head. Him and Voice get by on their own OK until the day he stops to buy lemonade from a girl on the side of the road. A rare occurrence in this new, hostile world.

I picked up Defender as I was interested in the idea of the voices but it didn’t quite deliver for me. The arrival of the voices is only covered in a few passages here and there, but somehow, they brought down society. They encouraged people to commit suicide and take their families with them. What I wanted to know was, why? Could the voices not bear sharing a head with humans? Why would the voices want to kill themselves along with their hosts? It is part one of four, so maybe it will be expanded upon in the next book.

Pilgrim is a loner forced to share his head with Voice. Voice has a distinct personality and often argues and manipulates Pilgrim, but for some reason they haven’t tried to destroy each other. It could be a mass hallucination but something does happen during the course of the book to show the voices are something other.

Pilgrim wanted to tell Voice to shut up, but he’d learned early on that engaging with him at times like this only made him worse. He’d get tired of talking soon. He always did.

Lacey’s not a loner but she has been alone. She is full of optimism, having been sheltered from the worst of what happened by her grandmother. She wants to find her sister who she hasn’t heard from for eight years. She’s in denial about what has happened to the world. Pilgrim begrudgingly agrees to help her get to her sister’s house and along the way he starts to soften, becoming a protective father figure.

It felt quite long and had a bit too much dependence on action over character development. Lots of descriptions, especially of abandoned places, so if that’s your thing you may like it more than me. I did keep reading, so it has some merit as a post-apocalyptic thriller, but I was willing it to come up with something special. I guess I would probably classify it with The Road as not the right tone of apocalypse for me.

She wanted to say again that she was sorry, but she was so sick of those words. Sick to death of them. They tasted hollow and dusty in her mouth.

I’m uncomfortable with a fact one character gets kidnapped by sadists twice, like this is her only purpose in the novel, to be abused, with no exploration of what this does to her. Then there’s the attempted rape of a teenager, and whilst an effort is made to show it affected her, it wasn’t really necessary to the plot. I don’t like sexual abuse being used as a world-building tool, it doesn’t say the world is any worse than it is now.

Defender is published by Headline and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.