Everyone has their favorite tropes and plot devices. In romancelandia we call this "romance cat nip," but readers of all genres have certain elements that will make them pick up a book no matter what. When it comes to sci fi, many of Will McIntosh's stories contain everything I look for in a SF novel, and I'm honestly surprised his work isn't more highly regarded. His upcoming May release, Defenders, just about blew me away. I wanted to email him and ask, "Did you write this story just for me? Be honest, Mr. McIntosh." Of course he didn't, but the book contained nearly every element on my Perfect Sci Fi Novel checklist.
1. It was accessible.
Let's be real here, I understand science on a basic 10th-grade biology level, at most. I'm not going to be upset if your fictional science isn't completely perfect. In fact, I probably won't even notice. I feel like a lot of SF/F readers get hung up on the plausibility of science and magic in their stories, and rightfully so, but I'm already going into a SF/F book suspending my disbelief, so chances are I'll accept whatever science an author throws at me, proven that they've actually worked through all of it before crafting their story.
Defenders is definitely accessible in its language and science. Much like John Scalzi's work, you don't have to be a card-carrying reader of the genre to understand and appreciate McIntosh's stories.
2. It was near-future.
I know a lot of people are getting tired of post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories, and while McIntosh's tale wasn't exactly either one of those things, it definitely explores the downfall of humanity and the end of the world. Like Love Minus Eighty, Defenders is a near-future story that is entirely possible, which makes it that much more terrifying. Humans have created an entirely different species as a global weapon without completely thinking things through (which, in the middle of an alien attack is totally understandable) and now they must deal with the consequences.
3. It wasn't unnecessarily long.
Fun fact: I don't read high fantasy because most of those books are too damn long for my taste. I don't care so much about a family's entire tree or a quest that spans several years (I read The Hobbit in middle school and quit when Frodo eventually met the dragon. I was done.). It's not that I'm done reading at page 300, but I don't care about every single unnecessary detail of a fictional world (and, ok, maybe that one random detail will matter 3 books from now, but I will have moved on before then).
Defenders is about 500 pages, which is long-ish, but it doesn't drag. I was expecting the story to start right as humans create the defenders, but it begins well before then. And in this case, that's necessary for the story. What helps break up McIntosh's story is the perspective of multiple characters. Defenders was completely absorbing (I wanted to story to keep going, and it did!) and I could've easily finished it in a day or two.
4. The main character is a big ol' nerd.
Defenders has a large cast of characters, but in my opinion Oliver was the most compelling. He doesn't quite get social cues, he's sympathetic because of a failed marriage that is partially the fault of an alien (and also his own insecurities), and he continues to collect comic books to maintain some sort of normalcy in his crazy life. I don't want to go into too much detail because of spoilers, but trust me, he's great.
I'm not the only one who think McIntosh's stories are filled with awesome. Both Love Minus Eighty and Defenders have been optioned for film — heck, Defenders, was optioned last summer. I hope both of these films end up happening, because they would be glorious on the big screen. In the meantime, you can read an excerpt from Defenders here.