Review: Partials by Dan Wells

Publication Date: February 28th, 2012
Balzer + Bray / Harper Collins
Format: ARC, 472 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with partials–engineered organic beings identical to humans–has decimated the world’s 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. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out.
When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.
Combining the fast-paced action of The Hunger Games with the provocative themes of Battlestar Galactica, Partials is a pulse-pounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in question–one where our sense of humanity is both our greatest liability, and our only hope for survival.

Imagine this: humans are on the verge of extinction; our survival hinges on perhaps the same reason we were going extinct in the first place. Desperate to re-populate, the remaining seat of government edicts that women of child-bearing age be pregnant or face conviction. The Hope Act established that age to be sixteen. Kira is an idealist frustrated with the choices a girl her age was given. On the one hand, would she be willing to just lay down and hand over her right as a woman to give life to another when the world does not give much hope for the child she would bring forth? On the other, are her rights more important than the urgent need for life to go on? Kira chose to find a cure for RM – a fatal disease that kills newborns upon breathing the pathogenic air. For the last several years, scientists have searched for a cure to no avail. Kira believes that the cure is in the hands of the Partials – a genetically manufactured breed of soldiers created with an immunity to the RM virus. Kidnapping one would involve treachery and bravery, especially if they have to infiltrate their dangerous territory. But it would be all worth it if Kira finds a cure, consequently saving the next generation.

This full-bellied book did not leave any stones unturned. It’s heavy on the details and especially particular with the biological research aspect of the novel. On the same token, it was not beleaguered with jargons that could cause headaches to the readers. The simplified step-by-step explanation of how a virus infects a single cell was very educational. I never thought I’d say this about the text book Science element of this book but it was highly engrossing. Dan Wells either did his homework well or has a background in Virology because he managed to make Kira, a sixteen year-old, a very convincing virologist.

He also did a phenomenal job in painting the vivid world described here. People were not starving yet. There were still bounty to be had but it doesn’t mean that there was a lack of desperation typical of a post-apocalyptic read. The desperation comes from the imminent extinction that everyone was dealing with and from the attacks of the ‘mysterious’ Voice.

The author took his time in revealing the identity of the Partials. No one knew what they looked like nor had any idea at all and since I’ve not watched the book trailer prior to reading this book, my expectations of their appearance was akin to those of mutants. Deadly wrong, I’ve never expected Samm – a picture perfect male specimen who could demolish a small platoon of soldiers with a blink of an eye. There was a distinction between Samm the Partial and Samm the human that Dan Wells did his best to show. Behind his armour and his seemingly robotic, stoic facial expressions lies the hopelessness that his kind faces. He never fought back nor complained not only because he knew it was futile but because deep inside he knew how far their hatred go and that to some extent, justified. There was a tangible loneliness to Samm and it had nothing to do with his containment.

The romance in this book was subtle; and for the first time, I was glad. It’s hard to get romantic when the government is at your back practically telling you to go ahead and procreate. Where is the romance in that? But can I be honest and say that I was more…er, partial (pardon the pun) to Samm over Marcus? And no…there isn’t a love triangle in this book. I’m just saying that if there was, I’m all for the genetically engineered Samm.

Partials is the perfect study of humans playing gods and the nightmare resulting from the rebellion of their own creation. The author somehow found the right balance of YA Science Fiction at its best and post-apocalyptic at its tamest. There wasn’t a lack of suspense or action which made for an entertaining and surprisingly, a highly educational read.  Considering how it ended, this first book has me convinced that the best of this series is yet to come.


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