Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Partials by Dan Wells

Partials tells the story of a post-apocalyptic society in what was the eastern seaboard of the United States in the year 2076. Mankind has been destroyed by the Partials who are genetically "engineered organic beings identical to humans". The Partials were built by a company called ParaGen to fight in the Isolation War, which they won handily. Five years later, they turned on humans. Faster and stronger than ordinary humans, linked to one another and highly efficient, they easily wiped them out. The Partials released the RM virus, a specially designed virus that quickly killed virtually every human being on the planet. Only a small percentage of humans were immune and survived the pandemic, but any children born afterwards, continued to die.

The survivors of the war and the virus, retreated to Long Island where they found food and shelter. There they organized a government consisting of twenty senators and built a Defense Grid to protect themselves. Meanwhile, the Partials disappeared, retreating inland. No one has seen a Partial in eleven years.

Since the Break, every human baby born has died from the RM virus. The youngest child, Saladin, is now fourteen years old. To try to counter deaths caused by the RM virus, government enacted the Hope Act which required women of a certain age to have babies in the hope that some might survive. Instead, all babies have continued to sicken at birth and to die hours later. It seems that there is no hope left for the remnants of humanity.

When sixteen year old medic, Kira, learns that her friends, Madison and Haru, are expecting their first child, she is determined that she will find a cure for RM. Up until now, researchers have been studying only the babies and she feels that there is something they are missing. Kira discovers that the virus has been studied from all possible angles, except the source - the Partials who are imimune. In order to do this, Kira realizes that they need to find a Partial and take samples or bring one back to study. She believes that somehow there is a connection between the two. When she approaches a senior researcher with her idea, she is told this is impossible. Undeterred Kira, organizes a group to go out to the mainland - to Manhattan,  with the intent of capturing a Partial.

The sortie is successful and Kira manages to capture a male Partial. Although furious with her for doing so, the government gives Kira permission to study the Partial, named Samm, with the stipulation that after five days he will be destroyed. She begins her studies on him, but when the government attempts to use the captured Partial to gain total control over the society, Kira realizes she must free Samm and take him back to the mainland. Samm reveals to Kira and the Senators, that the Partials are dying off. ParaGen designed Partials with an expiration date. At twenty years of age, the process that halts their aging begins reversing and the Partials literally rot alive. Because of this Samm claims that he and his company were on their way to the human settlement to offer a truce, when they were attacked.

However, when the Senator's learn of the Partials predicament, they want no part of helping them. Instead they decide to publicly execute Samm and let everyone know that the Partials which were created twenty-one years ago will all be dead within three years. In an attempt to bring a group of rebels known as The  Voice back under government control, the Senators want to use Samm as the scapegoat for a bomb attack on Kira's lab.

As we might expect, things don't go according to plan and Kira is captured by a group of Partials intent on experimenting on her to try to find a solution to their expiration problem.  During her capture, Kira not only manages to piece together the information she needs, but encounters a shocking revelation that directly affects her future.

Partials is an exciting novel, packed with action, suspense and multiple twists in the plotline. The main attraction of this novel is the human-like organic beings, the Partials, who are essentially engineered weapons. Despite having human DNA, they are considered non-human and treated with fear and disgust by society. But when Kira finally meets a Partial, Samm, she begins to understand that in many ways he is very much like humans. As she beings to understand him and know him better, her views on Partials change.

The novel has a strong female protagonist in Kira Walker, a courageous, take-charge young woman who is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save humanity. Kira is supported by a large cache of unique characters; Marcus her boyfriend, Jayden who is the brother of Madison her best friend, and Partials, Samm and Heron. While Kira and Samm are well rounded characters, many of the secondary characters are not, a weakness of the novel.

Partials has a well described post-apocalyptic world. Wells portrays a world ravaged by war fought only too effectively by genetically engineered soldiers. The reader is presented with a harrowing view of a society where every single baby dies. It is a society without much hope and no future.

There were a few things I didn't like about the novel. The idea of the RM virus is incredibly complex and because it is gradually revealed throughout the story, it was difficult to follow Kira's eventual deciphering of how it works. I also found the way the novel was divided into disparate time chunks confusing. The first part is the present, followed by Part 2 which takes place three months later, followed by Part 3 which is titled Four Hours Later.

Despite these minor flaws, Partials is one of the better dystopian young adult novels. It touches on the issue genetic engineering and the difficult problems that might arise from engineering new human-like life. The dramatic conclusion of this novel suggests an exciting second novel in the series.

Book Details:
Partials by Dan Wells
New York: Balzer & Bray 2012

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