Author: Dan Wells
Genre: YA, dystopian, science fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.
Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what's left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she's not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.
Dan Wells, acclaimed author of I Am Not a Serial Killer, takes readers on a pulsepounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in question—one where our humanity is both our greatest liability and our only hope for survival.
This book really put the science in science-fiction! The main character is a medic and researcher, and there are a lot of medical terms and discussions involving virology. I'm really glad that there are so many more biotech/biopunk dystopias cropping up, and that they aren't all just about genetic engineering. Sure, the Partials are genetically engineered, but there is a lot about nanotechnology and virology too. My inner science geek was enthralled (what else would you expect from a bioengineer in training?):)
Partials is about a post-apocalyptic world where most of the world has succumbed to a deadly virus called RM, said to be released by the Partials. Partials are factory-made humanoid creatures that were manufactured to fight wars but eventually turned on the humans that made them. The Partial war that decimated most of the human world has been over for over a decade, but the Partials are still at large and the humans are still reeling from the repercussions. The RM virus attacks as soon as babies are born, killing them within days. This leaves the remaining survivors with a terrible time-bomb - will they find a cure before all the remaining people on earth grow old and die?
You can imagine that this sort of situation would bring out desperate measures. The Hope Act is one such measure, one that demands all women over a certain age to have children every year in hopes that children with immunity like the survivors will be born. Of course, the age for pregnancy continues to drop as more babies succumb to RM. It's a painful situation, made even more so because you see it through the eyes of Kira, a very compassionate and dedicated medic.
When Kira takes it upon herself to do more research and find a cure for RM, she discovers that she has bitten off way more than she can chew. There are a lot more conspiracies and a lot more danger than she bargained for; by the end of the book, her whole worldview has been turned on its head more than once, and each time the revelations are even more shattering.
I really liked how serious the author was about showing not only the biological effects of the virus, but also the effects on morale and the human spirit. You see what happens when people are desperate, and the author doesn't flinch from showing the uglier side of what people do to protect themselves.
The government for one stages attacks on its own citizens to pull everyone together against a "common enemy" - the scariest thing is that the people involved firmly believe they are doing the right thing! It's the sort of twisted logic that I first encountered in Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood, and I love when authors are able to pull this off.
Another thing I really appreciated about this book was the diversity of the characters (mostly ethnic and a bit of socio-economic). Most novels are about a bunch of white people, with an obligatory background character of another race. If not, the story uses the characters' race or culture as a plot point. Not so here - almost everyone is multi-cultural, and it's just a fact of life. That was refreshing!
Speaking of characters, I really liked Kira. She really was a strong protagonist, and I never felt like the author was trying to beat me over the head with it (unlike some other "strong" YA protagonists...cough cough Katniss cough). Not only was she intelligent and determined, she was incredibly compassionate. She has the sense to see that she's not ready to get married yet, even if the government keeps dropping the pregnancy age. She has an open mind, and is willing to listen even if she doesn't completely believe what she's told. And best of all, she doesn't spend half her life choosing a guy to be with in the face of greater calamities. The greater calamities always got preference (yay for sensible characters and sensible authors!).
I admit I raised my eyebrows more than a little when Kira came up with her brilliant plan to cure/study RM. I mean really? No one else thought of that? It's also very unrealistic that she discovered so much in mere days - that kind of research takes years when hundreds of people are working on it. It was also a bit unbelievable that Kira never had the smallest inkling about her heritage...you would think with all the paranoia there would have been some form of testing as the community was formed. Ah well, these were minor enough that I can slide them to the back of my brain and not think too much.
All the other characters were really interesting too. They all had their flaws, but they were all so lovable too (with the exception of some of those government officials...)! Especially Samm - I'm really interested in learning more about his story.
Wow this review got really long. Anyways, I'd recommend this series to anyone who's not afraid of the science in science fiction, and anyone who loves a good dystopian novel. I am looking forward to reading Fragments!