Review: “Fragments (Partials #2)” by Dan Wells

13170596Title: “Fragments (Partials #2)”

Author: Dan Wells

Genre: YA, biopunk, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, UF

Publication Date: February 26, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Kira Walker has found the cure for RM, but the battle for the survival of humans and Partials is just beginning. Kira has left East Meadow in a desperate search for clues to who she is. That the Partials themselves hold the cure for RM in their blood cannot be a coincidence–it must be part of a larger plan, a plan that involves Kira, a plan that could save both races. Her companions are Afa Demoux, an unhinged drifter and former employee of ParaGen, and Samm and Heron, the Partials who betrayed her and saved her life, the only ones who know her secret. But can she trust them?

Meanwhile, back on Long Island, what’s left of humanity is gearing up for war with the Partials, and Marcus knows his only hope is to delay them until Kira returns. But Kira’s journey will take her deep into the overgrown wasteland of postapocalyptic America, and Kira and Marcus both will discover that their greatest enemy may be one they didn’t even know existed.

The second installment in the pulse-pounding Partials saga is the story of the eleventh hour of humanity’s time on Earth, a journey deep into places unknown to discover the means–and even more important, a reason–for our survival.

☆: 4.5/5 stars! A great follow-up to “Partials”!

Summary: While I do think that there was a nice chunk that wasn’t really quite needed (or needed to be edited out) in this follow-up to “Partials”, I really, really, really enjoyed “Fragments”. Seriously. This is some bold biopunk YA going on right here – daring to bring issues like apartheid, slavery, bioethics, and other such matters to the table when most YA is still stuck in contemporary or PNR-only zones. The “Partials Sequence” series is definitely in the realm of the next frontier for me when it comes to thinking of the future of YA, so I can only hope that we get more authors to be just as daring. If you liked “Partials”, you’re definitely going to love “Fragments” if just for Wells getting bolder in his storytelling.

Okay, so biggest issue with this installment: one, the editing. I feel like a lot of the journey across the country could have been cut down a fair amount (at least 50 pages) and the book wouldn’t have suffered for it. While I do understand the need to show the external journey to Chicago/Denver and the internal journey that Heron, Afa, Samm, and Kira are making within themselves, I just feel like there was too much of the external journey to deal with.

Two: Afa. I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be autistic (somewhere on the spectrum, since he was high-functioning enough to run ParaGen’s IT department at one point, or if he’s supposed to be a regular guy with some severe PTSD issues, or if he’s a savant. Or all of the above? He was a bit hard to get a read on, and while I do feel he was very important to the story, I wish we could have gotten a bit more detail on him. What hinted that he might be autistic was the thing about touch and the savantism re: IT and computers, but at the same time, he obviously was pretty damaged (but wasn’t everyone?) after the Break. So I wished Wells would have made him a little bit more declared/obvious in his description of Afa, since it was starting to gnaw at me after awhile. Maybe we’ll get a late reference to him in book three? I hope so.
The other technical areas in this book were more or less flawless, so I won’t be examining them too much instead in favor of exploring some of the themes that Wells more heavily asserted in this installment of the “Partials Sequence”.

I literally could not put this book down. There are so many issues (and two main storylines eventually converging into one) that are talked about in here, all very mature and serious – apartheid (kids, look it up on wikipedia if you don’t know what it is), bioethics, slavery, self-identity and more. There’s also the question of can these two species co-exist, or if one needs to die so that the other can live, which is pretty heavy stuff. To put it one way, this is not the light, fluffy feel-good book of the year. There’s a lot of heavy issues which overcome the “tough stuff” genre of YA (more like blows it out of the water), but it does come around to one of the most common themes of YA books: who am I? What am I? Am I human? What makes me human? All of these are explored slowly but surely throughout the book, mostly throughout the journey to Chicago/Denver, by a lot of internal reflection on Kira’s part, and through talking with everyone else on the journey along the way.

There’s also the very important question for all literature that’s hidden in here that works so easily within the sci-fi genre as a whole – what makes us human in a post-human age? What does it mean to be human in a post-human age? I can safely say that with the ridiculously explosive growth of the internet and devices post-year 2000, we’re in a post-human age, and Wells really digs into these questions, using them as a large part of the heart of the “Partials Sequence” series as a way to really explore the idea of humanity in the face of something perfectly engineered and synthetic, and to compare the two. The answers that come up in “Fragments” specifically may really surprise you – I know I was really surprised by some of the Big Reveals in that arena of humanity versus “the other” throughout the book. And while there were some Big Reveals I saw coming thanks to some very heavy foreshadowing at the end of book one, when you gather them all together as a whole, it makes for not only very compelling reading, but a good reason for navel-gazing (a negative term, usually, but here it needs to be used) for humans right now as a whole. We’re growing and evolving at such a rate digitally right now…well, I’m not sure we were ever made to go this fast in all areas of life. We text people, but not call them. Email but not write. We’re forgetting the old ways of things, and “Fragments” asks us through comparing us to the Partials, talking about the Partial War and the Break itself – is this for the best? Is growing so digital and so…well, almost arrogant with our hold over nature for our greater good?

Or, instead, is Wells warning us – with our pride comes our fall, just like the RM plague (which we’ll be getting some very interesting answers about in this book) and the Break itself? Is it time we get “reset” as a society, a planet, a species as a whole?

So, yeah. A lot of thinky-stuff in this book, though there is romance (and very well done – light, gentle, and almost sneaky until it hits us at the end), and other stuff. There were times where I was wondering if Wells was channeling James Kirk through Samm’s views on “no-win” scenarios, and that was a nice little surprise that made my fangirl heart skip with glee. This is a compulsively readable sci-fi piece, but it’s also a very philosophical bit of YA that seems almost too mature for the genre – but that’s not a bad thing. We definitely need more books in this vein, and soon.
Final verdict? Definitely a must-read for 2013, I can’t wait to see where Wells goes with this series next. I’m definitely dying for book 3 now, and hopefully we’ll get another novella thrown in the mix soon, too. “Fragments” will drop in North American stores February 26, 2013, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!

2 thoughts on “Review: “Fragments (Partials #2)” by Dan Wells

  1. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: Week 37 | birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: Book Review: “Fragments” | The Cheap Reader

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