Review: ‘Partials’ A Novel by Dan Wells.

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Bought on my kindle for 99p, I had just finished a series I had loved and delved into fully, when I started this book. So I was battling an on-setting book hangover that was quite powerful, and my feelings towards the look and feel of this book were mixed. But for 99p, I didn’t complain, and I needed something to fill the hole left by my previous reading obsession.

The beginning started solemnly; the first scene opening to a young medical intern struggling with a dying new born on the maternity ward of an old and ill-equipped hospital. This was distressing, actually, and not what I expected of a book catering to 13-17 year olds. The depiction of four frantic midwives taking blood samples and notes, while a screaming mother hammers the dividing glass between her and her baby, ignored, is clinical and harrowing, and sets the story up as one with a background tale of heartbreaking loss. This first chapter captures the fear and frustration and the overall sadness of the protagonist, Kira, and provides a first glimpse into her driver, her motive, for taking the reader through to the end of the book.

Kira, we discover, is only 16 years old, and like most of her contemporaries, has been accelerated through school due to her community’s need for a workforce. In this futuristic world, there has not been a baby born, that has survived past three or four days. This is because of an airborne virus, RM, released 11 years ago, which caused the death of 99.996% of the world’s population, and which still affects any one born without natural immunity. Kira is one of the 36-40,000 people scraping an existence on Long Island, the last known human strong hold.

Outside Long Island, there are only wild lands; reclaimed by nature, Manhattan has become a jungle, Central Park it’s most dangerous recesses, as 11 years of no one to maintain the land and buildings has left it over grown and crumbling. Wild animals have moved back in, and humans are no longer top of the food chain.

Especially not when the Partials are around.

Partials, originally named ‘bio-synths’, or ‘bio-synthetic humanoids’ are the partially human superrace of ideal beings created and grown in a lab, and originally intended for use as an undefeatable army. After humanity had won and lost the last big war, the Isolation War in the 2050s, the Partials asked for their freedom, which they were denied, and so they rebelled, in one last great war which mankind was doomed to lose. This was The Break. Straight afterwards, RM broke out, killing off most of anyone the Partials didn’t destroy in their revenge.

But RM doesn’t effect the Partials at all.

Now, Kira has grown tired of delivering new born after new born, only to see them perish within days. She decides to go on a mission into the wild lands, to capture a Partial to experiment on, in the hopes of finding out what makes them immune, and to discover a cure.

This adventure starts only in part two of the book, which some might say, is pretty slow going. The book is around 500 pages, and it feels longer than most young adult novels out there, and it is exceptionally more meaty. There is no floundering teenage romance, no unlikely allies from rival high schools uniting against one petty enemy. This book intended for teens is actually very adult. With the obvious omission of any language or sex (other than the very business-like attitude everyone seems to have about it, given that everyone over 18 is charged with repopulating the human race at all costs).

The actual science behind the science-fiction in this book is totally and wonderfully captivating, and actually believable. Although it talks about bio-synthetic humans in a world were gene modification is just as normal as customizing a pair of jeans, you can’t help but get very comfy in this futuristic but dilapidated world the book brings you into. It seems as if this depiction of life 50-odd years from now is strangely reach-able, that we could one day be in this situation. So we’d better pay attention.

The overall pace and timing of the book is well put together and the combat scene are truly thrilling, happening just when you have a reason to really be rooting for one side on another. The only annoyance in a couple of these scenes is when two characters are seemingly running full pelt for their lives, under a barrage of gun fire and, often, a wild panther or two, can still somehow very comfortably have the kind of witty conversation which might take place in a Bond film from the early 2000s. By following this conversation, it’s not hard to lose track of what is actually happening in the rest of the scene.

Characters are as follows:
Kira: our protagonist, set on discovering a cure for RM and would go to great lengths to find it. Quite the feminist.
Marcus: Kira’s boyfriend. The book’s resident funnyman, and conservative peace keeper. A calming influence on Kira, but doesn’t want her to go on her mission to save humanity if it means costing her life. This obviously upsets Kira.
Samm: The Partial. I really don’t want to include more spoilers than necessary here, so I’m going to keep quiet about this one. The epitome of the strong and silent type.
Madison: Kira’s best friend and adopted sister. When Madison falls pregnant, it’s Kira’s last straw, and the final prompt to send Kira on her mission.
Haru: Madison’s husband. Military leader. Goes with Kira to help capture a Partial.
Jayden: Madison’s brother. In this world there are not many blood relatives still around, after RM, so these two are pretty special. Hayden is another military man, and Haru’s second.
Mkele: Senator in Long Islands make-shift government. Short-sighted, perhaps, or just fearful, as he does everything in his power to stand in Kira’s way and even to sabotage her mission.
Slight spoiler:
Dr. Morgan: Partial scientist and all round baddie. Everyone needs one.

The book twists and turns and is generally very unpredictable. The ending, and the revelation that comes with it, is actually quite shocking, but has a lovely bittersweet taste as you look back and realise there have been clues all along, hidden by the action and thrill of the book.

Although it seemingly caters to girls on the outside, this is, in the general template, a “boy-book”, with depictions of war, army-type action-men everywhere and a scientific save-the-world theme. But the humanitarian storyline, with coming-of-age twists and a journey of self discovery is something, I think, any one could get into. I found it often unputdownable, and suffered a grumpy morning at work once or twice after having stayed up half the night reading. So take that as testament to its addictiveness.

For lovers of a great adventure with a futuristic spin: Treasure Planet, Terminator, World War Z, The Lost World, or anything sciencey, with guns, and a heartfelt reason for survival.

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