Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fragments by Dan Wells

Dan Wells second installment in the Partials series is long but well worth the effort. Wells picks up the story of Kira and Samm and the remnants of humanity at East Meadow, Long Island. Kira has left East Meadows on her own and returned to Manhattan in an attempt to find some answers about who she is and why she was created. Part of what prompted Kira to undertake her journey was a picture she found of herself, with her father, Armin Dhurvasula, and Nandita Merchant, the woman who raised her. The picture is disturbing because it was taken before The Break in front of ParaGen in Manhattan. Someone has written "Find the Trust" on the picture.

Kira's mission is to find out what ParaGen was doing with the Partials, with the RM virus and what their plans for her were. She is a Partial, but obviously a different model from the soldier Partials who have destroyed humanity. She also wants to locate The Trust - the Partial leaders.Without the Partials who have the antidote to the RM virus, the humans will die out in a generation. Without the humans who hold the key to the deactivation of the expiration date, the Partials will die out in three years. Both groups need one another and Kira hopes she can find the answers to save both humans and Partials.

Kira treks back into Manhattan and manages to locate the ParaGen building. During her search of their offices, Kira discovers that some of the computers have been removed, specifically those from the office of someone named Afa Demoux, who was in charge of the IT department. Her reconnaissance of nearby electronics stores indicates that someone has been removing generators and ham radio sets. Kira tracks this person and discovers that it is Afa. She befriends Afa and he takes her to his booby trapped building where he now lives. Afa appears to have suffered some sort of mental breakdown, alternating between childlike incoherency and mad genius. Kira learns that Afa has managed to salvage information on how the Partials came to be as well as the history before the Break and the war with the Partials.

Meanwhile in East Meadow, after the trial of the Senators for the death of Shaylon, the humans are undecided about how to obtain more cure for the RM virus. Kira's boyfriend, Marcus Valencio, along with other medics have been attempting, unsuccessfully, to synthesize the RM cure - the Partial pheromone. So the Senate and the Grid want to capture more Partials to study and to learn how to make the cure. However, the point becomes moot because Dr. Morgan has sent the Partials she controls via the link, to invade Long Island. She is looking for Kira whom she wants to study. She believes that Kira's body contains clues to solving the problem of the expiration date of the Partials.

During this time, Samm and Heron track Kira to Manhattan and find her hiding with Afa. Kira explains to both what she has learned so far from Afa's files. A hostile China invaded Japan. The NADI attempted to retake Japan in the First Nihon Invasion but were unsuccessful. The government then requested that ParaGen create 250,000 soldiers - the Partials. These soldiers were referred to as "weapons" and never really considered humans. The Partials after winning the war, in the Second Nihon Invasion, wanted equality and to live normal lives. But they were denied this and so began the war.

When the government asked ParaGen to create the "biosynthetic" soldiers, Kara's father Armin Dhurvasula knew that he could not stop their creation. He saw the development of Partials as making humans obselete. So he and a group of other scientists formed the Trust to try to tweak the outcome. The Trust was comprised of Graeme Chamberlain, Kioni Trimble, Jerry Ryssdal, McKenna Morgan, Nandita Merchant, and Armin Dhurvasula.

ParaGen initially did genetic modifications on humans, eliminating diseases or certain undesirable traits. The Trust scientists gave themselves Partial genetic modifications as well as the link and then used it to control the Partials. Because the Trust trusted no one, it appears that they kept secrets from one another and even directly worked against one another. It is the beginning of a world that will be fragmented beyond repair. Kira was a part of that plan and was created at ParaGen. She is a special model of a Partial - one that doesn't have an expiration date and isn't on the link, but also a human that is immune to the RM virus.

Kira learns from Afa that the majority of ParaGen's information was stored on a server in Denver. Initially Kira wants to travel to Denver but Afa suggests that they go to Chicago first since much data was stored on servers there. Heron believes this is a waste of time and tries unsuccessfully to convince both Samm and Kira that they should return to East Meadow. Samm believes Kira and trusts in her motives.

Taking Afa with them, Kira, Samm and Heron embark on a journey across the remnants of the continental United States in search of answers that will hopefully lead them to discover how to develop the RM cure, how to deactivate the expiration date for the Partials and to understand the reason for Kira's creation. Will Kira find the answers to her questions? Will the humans in East Meadows be able to survive long enough for that cure to matter?

Readers may be put off by the whopping 564 pages and the sometimes slow pacing of the novel. There's no doubt that some parts could have been better edited (for example, was it really necessary to have five pages describing how the three manage to free a barge to use in crossing the Mississippi?). Wells has a lot of story to tell in this book and he does so by alternating between Marcus and the humans in East Meadow and Kira and her group as they travel westward. This of course builds suspense throughout the book, as each group faces challenges in their own part of the world.

In Fragments, Wells does a fine job of developing the relationship between Kira and Samm. Although both are Partials, Kira has more human characteristics and is able to display emotion. However, we learn that Samm like other Partial soldiers has been built to care - they have empathy for others. As the two struggle to understand each other, they develop empathy for what it means to be Partial and human, mirroring the struggle and the understanding that must come about by Partials and humans,  if both races are to survive.

Once again I found it hard to piece together the backstory of the Partials and the development of the RM virus. The story is told in bits and pieces and is complex. Below I've summarized what is the remaining story told in Fragments so that when the next book arrives sometime in 2014, I won't have to reread all 564 pages!

I loved the cover and felt it effectively portrayed the post-apocalyptic world of Samm and Kira. Can't wait for the next installment of the Partials series!

Book Details
Fragments by Dan Wells
New York: Balzer & Bray An Imprint of HarperCollins    2013
564 pp.


 When Kira and her group travel to Chicago they find the city largely flooded. Kira is impressed by the technology of the old world that was able to keep the lake out of the city and reverse the flow of a river. In Chicago they manage to power up the server for a short period of time and locate a hand held device to load information. From this they learn that the Failsafe - the safety feature built to be enabled should the Partials go rogue, was the RM virus. The virus was meant to kill the Partials but instead killed the humans. Ironically the only antidote is the pheromone produced by the Partials.

After fighting off an attack by gilled Partials who can swim underwater, Samm, Heron, Kira and Afa set out for Denver. Afa has been badly wounded in the attack and is drugged. Their journey to Denver sees them struggle to cross the poisonous Mississippi and travel through the vast wastelands of the Midwest where acid raid falls. Afa dies before they reach Denver.

On the outskirts of Denver, the group sights the black spire of the ParaGen tower. Heron decides to go on ahead of Kira and Samm and soon disappears. Meanwhile Kira and Samm discover an entire community of  two thousand healthy humans including many children living in the shadow of the ParaGen tower. They are taken to meet Dr. Vale but Kira feels that he is hiding something from them. When her and Samm sneak into the ParaGen building, Samm is incapacitated and Kira makes a shocking discovery. Vale has ten Partials captive and comatose and is using them to manufacture a cure for the human babies that are being born. When Kira questions the ethics of doing this Vale asks her who she would save, the Partials or the humans? He has chosen the humans.

From Vale we learn more about what happened to cause the demise of the human population on Earth and the rise of the Partials who are also dying. Vale it turns out was an unknown member of the Trust.

Dr. Vale explains to Kira that the Trust realized the government and ParaGen would build the army of soldiers and that these engineered soldiers would never be considered what they really were - another form of human life. The government wanted an expiration date but to a group of the scientists, this was wrong. It was wrong to create a whole new species of beings and then engineer them to die.So the Trust tried to find a way to make both humans and Partials need each other.

The Trust had a plan "of mutual annihilation - to force both species to work together or die apart".  They built two FailSafes - one for the Partials which was the RM virus that kills humans. And a second Failsafe that actually does kill Partials. This one was put into new models without the Trust's knowledge. They thought these models were never made but they were and Kira is one of them along with her sister Ariel and Isolde Kessler. This Failsafe has not yet been triggered. These Partials grow, learn and are not sterile. It was the one made to fool ParaGen but the ParaGen board embedded it into the new prototypes without the Trust's knowledge.

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