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An Exceptional Tale

By Monique Lomino, member

Jun 4, 2019: Too Many Humans drew me in on the very first page,from there it was the wildest of rides. Each chapter had me completely enthralled,had my adrenaline going at full force. The suspense,the gore and the excellent writing is what makes this book an exceptional tale of horror and mystery. I couldn’t get enough of this story and I know for sure,anyone who chooses this book to read,will not walk away disappointed.

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Grim, but creative and engaging.

By Sharkerbob, author of Graven

Oct 13, 2018: Two hundred years from now, scientists unlock the secret to superhuman powers. Those powers immediately end up in the wrong hands, and a generation of Ultrahuman criminals conquer and devastate the world. Since that time, there have already been four failed attempts to overthrow the brutal regime of the tyrant Prevailer. Now, after years of careful planning, a group of rebels manages to position themselves within the ranks of Her chosen champions. But can even an enemy from within defeat a monster with the power to end the world?

(Note: I have reviewed this work previously, but decided to do an update since the story has come along quite a ways since.)

The Fifth Defiance is a fascinating and engaging read. This is not truly a superhero story, but a post-apocalyptic adventure that focuses squarely on a brutal society of superhumans, and the desperate champions that struggle to survive and overcome impossible odds. There are very few truly good characters in the setting; even among the main five protagonists, one is outright evil, and two are mainly just trying to survive. The two "good guys" of the main team are still forced into brutal, morally compromising situations in their quest to overthrow Prevailer.

Even still, while this is a dark, dreary world, it is filled with creativity. The lore is fascinating, with a very creative system for the super powers, and we’re constantly learning more about the world as the characters travel through it. The powers on display are a clever mixture of your standard physical enhancements combined with a wide array of esoteric abilities with a lot of creative applications. Fight scenes are often brutal, but well done, and make great use of how different powers clash.

Beyond all the lore and powers, though, the series’ biggest strength is its use of constantly rotating perspectives to both really dig into the minds of the characters, and get a much fuller view of all sides of the story. Interpersonal struggles are seen from all sides of the conflict. The world has been reduced to a simple set up of three warring countries in a delicate balance of power, but each nation has their own internal struggles on the large and small scale, which we see through the perspectives of side characters.

Adding to this, between each character perspective chapter, there is a "lore article" that does a lot to further flesh out the world. Almost all of these are flavored in such a way as to feel natural to the setting; they take the form of interviews, military reports, diary entries, propaganda readings, etc.

If I had any complaints for the serial, it would be the following points: While I do really like the aforementioned "lore article" segments, there are a couple times when I really feel these short bits could have been expanded further into full chapters. There is at least one pretty major event that just gets glossed over in the form of a brief battle report, and might have been better told in a full character chapter. Likewise, while I personally like the format of the chapter-article-chapter-article, it is a bit jarring at first, so some readers might find that format a turn off.

Otherwise, there is the occasional chapter that I feel is unnecessary, either because it feels like its stalling the action by having the characters sitting around talking or contemplating things for longer than feels necessary, or when a chapter seems to serve only to reiterate a point that’s already been made about a character before.

This is also one of those web serials that just mass-dumps tons of side characters into the mix, only for them to be relevant for just a couple of chapters, then they disappear or get killed. While this does perfectly suit the type of story this is, some readers may find this meat-grinder effect a bit exhausting, and it can be a little disappointing when a really cool character is introduced, only to get shuffled off shortly after, never to be seen again.

All and all, though, I highly recommend this work. I’d say that so far, its my favorite web serial, one of those stories that I didn’t know how much I wanted to read until I happened to stumble across it.

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Bumpy, but compelling.

By Rhythm, author of Touch

Feb 12, 2018: Disclaimer: This review was written as part of a swap.

The Fifth Defiance is not your standard superhero story. I mean this neither as a compliment, nor an insult. I simply mean that while it does conform to several of the more common tropes of the superhero genre, it has a few twists that serve to categorize it somewhat uniquely. I will go into these further in a moment, but first, a brief synopsis.

Kay, cliff notes. In the near future, someone invents a technology capable of harnessing hidden human potential and turning regular human beings into the superpowerful ‘Ultras.’ This went really really well for all concerned, right up until it didn’t, and one particular Ultra decided to destroy a vast swathe of the human population, claiming America and some of Canada as her domain, occasionally getting bored and picking fights with whole countries at a time.

In the slightly less near future, our story opens, with Jane Trent, a ‘Troubleshooter’ tasked with acting as an enforcer to the ‘Prevailer’ (The woman who broke the world) roving the Mad Max style, post apocalyptic wastes of the United States and making sure that the remnants of the surviving cities stay relatively in line and obedient. Except she’s also secretly a rebel sympathizer, and is searching for ways to help make America somewhat less awful again. You can call this a spoiler, but its in the first chapter, so honestly, I’m spoiling nothing.

As a premise, this works very functionally. Our protagonist has to pursue open objectives, while at the same time pursuing an entirely different, somewhat more subversive set of goals without her companions noticing. Its an interesting bit of counterplay, and I like it. This is as far as I will go into the story itself, as I would regard the rest as something of a spoiler. Suffice to say that if you like what you’ve read thus far, go take a look, it’s worth your time.

Now, back to that whole "Not your standard superhero story" business I was babbling about earlier. Point number one, our protagonist is elderly. This might sound like a small thing, but I think it allows the story to explore a very different perspective to the standard superhero arc. This is not about discovering powers, how they are supposed to be used, or coming to some kind of apotheosis. No, this is about an old, jaded woman trying to make a difference in the world with a power she very well understands, that she also knows isn’t really powerful enough to make that big of a difference on its own. This strips away a lot of the optimism from the story. It’s not about someone trying to win, but about someone trying really, really hard not to lose yet again. Second interesting thing, the system whereby superpowers are granted is tilted towards women, as they have a stronger chance than men of surviving the process of empowerment and becoming ‘Ultras.’ This allows the author to explore a very underexamined part of speculative fiction; A might makes right society in which women hold the lion’s share of power. This is not a complete trend, and there are male characters of importance and power, but it allows for some dynamics that may be considered rare in other examples of superhero fiction. Thirdly, and, perhaps, least interesting, the author devotes a great deal of time to worldbuilding, to the degree that every chapter, near enough, has a sub chapter dividing it from the next segment of the plot that contains some relevent segment of information on the world’s history, geo-political state, or whatever else the author felt like covering at the time. This makes the piece feel very explored and grounded, but I cannot call it a definitive positive because it also drags the pacing to a fairly slow burn, which some may find not worth the extra effort.

What I considered good: The writing is strong, and the characters well rounded. The author makes functional use of many literary systems to bring the reader in, and the end result is highly engaging. I would go so far as to say that the first few chapters got me hooked enough that I would have kept reading even if I didn’t have to for this review. The plot is interesting and the explorations of social systems and powers is thought provoking. The writer has something of a gift for finding inventive powers to give characters, and the strategic methods used and thought out are a pleasure to partake in.

What I considered bad: I will state straight up that my first concern may not bother you as much as it did me. The author has some issues with grammar (Lots of missing commas) in the early chapters, and that, coupled with a few editing mistakes, messed with my head a bit while I was reading it. This gets better as time goes on, so if you aren’t bothered by it as much as me, then by all means, feel free to ignore it until it isn’t there anymore. The story, while interesting, has a trend towards the bleak, and while I myself didn’t find this to be a concern, some of you may find it a tad depressing at times. Thirdly, and I put this in the negatives column not because I consider it bad, but simply because it seems the most appropriate place to put it, is that the story deals with a number of heavy duty issues, such as racism, wanton murder and instances of rape. It would be unfair, and hypocritical of me to judge the author for this, as my own story also contains some of these things, but it is the sort of thing that a prospective reader deserves to know about in advance, which is why I put it in the review.

Overall: I have quite a few good things to say, and not very many bad things. It did not stimulate me quite as much as some of the other things I have read, but also possessed fewer overall flaws than them as well. If anything, it is well executed, and Walter is to be commended on that.

Note: I have yet to complete my reading of the story as it is quite extraordinarily lengthy, and will be providing my full score when I get further into it. The score I provide for the moment is provisional.

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