Book Review: Partials by Dan Wells

Partials
Dan Wells
Balzer + Bray
February 28th, 2012
Reviewed by Michael Howie

Synopsis: The world is in ruins. In order to battle China during the Isolation War, the United States created a vast army of humanoid robots known as the Partials. The Partials end up turning on their creators, and when a virus is released that kills a majority of the world’s population and prevents newborns from surviving, they mysteriously disappear. The only known human survivors form a community in New York. Years pass, and a small group of young men and women seek to save the human race, but to do so they must deal with the deadly virus, a rogue rebellion of humans, government enforcement of a mandatory pregnancy act, and the threat of the Partials. A teenager named Kara leads the charge and sets out to solve the riddle of the virus known as RM, but the challenge proves even more difficult when she realizes that the solution lies in seeking those who are immune: the Partials.

Review: Dan Wells writes good fiction, or at least the kind of fiction that refuses to let you stop reading. Dan Wells has written compelling fiction that is essentially dark in tone and this continues in one of his recent books Partials.  As the first book in a promising and ongoing series, Partials is set in a post-apocalyptic future Earth that suffered from an outbreak of a virus that killed 99.96 percent of the world’s population. While this description has a familiar tone to it, Wells works his own unique characterizations and plot-line into the world of the Partials. It is interesting how Wells uses New York as the backdrop for an apocalyptic dystopian future in which the real obstacle for the hero comes from both robots and humans.  The heroes of the novel are threatened not only by the Partials, but also by each other and their community. They’re surrounded by threats, and their adventures lead them to question who the real enemy is. This core plot device creates a unique dynamic that works well for Wells. Characters, plot, and so many other aspects kept this reader reading.

Dan Wells creates a very intriguing universe that raises some thought-provoking questions for the reader to ponder over. At times, the main characters discuss moralistic issues such as the imposed Hope Act which requires young girls to be impregnated yearly (the community’s governmental council found this act necessary to improve the chances of producing immune children) as well as the rightful role of government. Kara, the central character, holds strong opinions on these subjects, and is driven by the desire to control her own destiny and to allow others to do the same. Kara is against the Hope Act because it infringes on human rights, and this leads her to question the motives of the government. These questions encourage the reader to mentally participate in the discussions, and thus become immersed deeper into the narrative.

Partials also contains central themes that, like the cherries on top of a banana split, enhance the experience.  One  theme seems to be encouraging youth to also take charge of their world and do what they can to change it. The main character is Kara, and she is a teenager who steps up. Another theme seems to warn governments that too much control can lead to rebellion as seen with the book’s rebel group The Voice that opposes the Hope Act and the government that enforces it. A third theme asks about what makes us human, and in the setting of the book, the characters are forced to ponder what separates them from the Partials who look, act, and talk like they do. These themes propel the book forward and creates an experience that is not only entertaining, but encourages thinking as well.

Partials has what makes YA novels great. It has believable characters that are relatable to readers, the interesting setting of New York, and a narrative that keeps you glued to your seat and your nose buried in the pages.Most of the characters have unique motivations that propel them to do what they need to. Some fight for love and some for their beliefs. The book has an even pace that keeps the reader engaged by rotating action with character development, and Wells incorporates a good dollop of humor to help break the tension. It also has a love story that becomes complicated when Kara sacrifices her comfort and happiness in order to do what she believes is right, and in the process discovers something crucial about herself. Dan Wells successfully creates a world that is believable and well-worth exploring in Partials and in novels yet to come.

About the Author: Dan Wells was born in Utah and is a writer of young adult horror. His work as of late includes the trio of books, I Am Not a Serial KillerI Don’t Want to Kill You, and Mr.Monster all of which focus around a young a protagonist who carries a dark burden that makes him want to kill. Dan Wells is also one of the four contributors to the writing advice podcast Writing Excuses along with other writers Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, and Mary Robinette Kowal.

Links: Website (Fearful Symmetry) | Twitter | Writing Excuses | Goodreads
Buy PartialsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Books

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One response to “Book Review: Partials by Dan Wells

  1. Pingback: Why so Dystopian? | The Underground Treehouse·

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