Partials by Dan Wells

Partials by Dan Wells(Cover picture courtesy of Dan Wells’ site.)

For fans of The Hunger Games, Battlestar Galactica, and Blade Runner comes the first book in the Partials Sequence, a fast-paced, action-packed, and riveting sci-fi teen series, by acclaimed author Dan Wells.

Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. But sixteen-year-old Kira is determined to find a solution. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that that the survival of both humans and Partials rests in her attempts to answer questions about the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.

Playing on our curiosity of and fascination with the complete collapse of civilization, Partials is, at its heart, a story of survival, one that explores the individual narratives and complex relationships of those left behind, both humans and Partials alike—and of the way in which the concept of what is right and wrong in this world is greatly dependent on one’s own point of view.

I’ve had my eye on Partials ever since it was on NetGalley as an ARC.  I couldn’t get it because requests were not open to Canadians, so being the cheapskate that I am I waited until it was out in paperback to actually buy it.  So I guess you could say I’ve been greatly anticipating reading this book.

You know what?  It’s actually pretty good.  For YA, it’s quite science-intensive, even if that science is slightly simplified (particularly the virus talk).  I was very impressed when Dan Wells actually took the time to show the long, laborious process of research as Kira tries to discover what’s killing all of the human babies.  It’s an interesting dilemma from a science point of view: How are these babies dying in a sterile room?  If they really are dying in a sterile room it means that the virus is transmitted to the fetus from the mother.  And how on earth does a sixteen-year-old new doctor fix something like that?

Kira is an interesting main character because her generation has been forced through adulthood very, very quickly.  She’s already trained as a doctor and she’s only 16 years old, so she’s fairly mature.  At the same time, she feels like every other sixteen year old would when the rumours in the community are that all women will have to be pregnant by 16 now.  (Since a certain percentage of adults survived the initial virus eleven years ago, they hope that the more people being born, the greater the chance one of them will be immune.)  She rages against it, rebels and eventually commits treason against the Senate, the rather dystopian ruling body of the community.  Trust me on this: Kira is no shrinking violet and will do whatever it takes to save humanity.

The plot was both fast-paced and incredibly interesting.  For me, it was the characters that I was more interested in, but Dan Wells did an excellent job of creating a believable but unpredictable plot.  It twists and turns constantly; I did see the big reveal coming but only because it was used in a few other similar novels and movies.  Of course the cliffhanger on the end ensures that I’ll most definitely be reading the next book, but Partials was so good that I wouldn’t have needed such a cliffhanger to keep reading the series.

What surprised me most of all, aside from the fairly heavy science, was the world-building.  Eleven years ago, most of humanity was destroyed by a war with the Partials and the virus they supposedly unleashed and now the only remaining humans (as far as they know) are struggling to survive.  Everyone scavenges in empty homes, there’s farming but not always enough to live on alone so everyone scavenges old food.  Apparently expiration dates in the future will be longer.

There are no pharmaceutical manufacturing companies any longer, so some of the most important missions are scavenging for medicine in old veterinary and medical clinics.  It’s a harsh picture of what an apocalypse would really look like, even if there were pockets of survivors: they’d be highly concerned about the basic necessities like medicine and food from scavenging, but also about the remaining energy.  Gasoline destabilizes after a few years so humanity has reverted to the good ol’ horse and cart.  It’s a very realistic picture of what would probably happen in the event of most of humanity dying out.  Most post-apocalyptic YA novels don’t put this much thought into the day-to-day survival needs of their narrators.

So we have realistic and interesting world-building, a pretty cool main character and a reasonably paced plot.  Even though I still say this book was over-hyped in the blogging community, I can’t really criticize it.  It was a very good read.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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