Partials by Dan Wells

12476820Partials is a powerful post apocalyptic drama about life and what one might be willing to do to save it. It is brilliantly written and told with the kind of heart breaking tension that only a parent could appreciate, with a few minor aberrations to mar its apparent perfection.

Fourteen years ago ParaGen created an army of genetic soldiers, called Partials, to fight wars for the United States. They quickly won the Partials War and came home and rebelled, unleashing a virus that wiped out the entire human population. So virulent that it caused nearly instant death, the virus struck down the entire world until only a few thousand people survived, somehow immune to the virus. However, their children are not. For fourteen years not a single infant has lived more than fifty six hours. The human race is running out of gas.

This is where Kira comes in, she is a trained nurse in the maternity ward of the hospital where the survivors have banded together. Every day she watches mothers giving birth, hopeful that theirs will be the one that lives. Every day she watches infants struggle to live and then collapse and die from the virus.

Kira vows to change things and then goes about doing just that.

This is a strict departure from Dan Wells’s former style. There is little of the horror sensibility that his John Cleaver books had but I think this is a much stronger book than those ones were. For one thing, nobody does dark like Dan Wells. This is a future that is bleak and horrifying and astonishingly gripping. The prose is much improved. Dan Wells has always been eminently readable but this book passes into another, even deeper layer (that’s exactly like the first one).

There are a lot of characters, but they are all distinct and diverse and have a variety of skills. The characters never got confusing and their actions were always reasonable.

I have three complaints. One is incredibly minor.

I’m kind of tired of the kind of story where the protagonist is the only person in her society who sees something wrong with what is going on and is willing to do something about it. It’s sort of a trope that has been played ad nauseum. However, that very quality about them is what makes them a protagonist instead of a sidekick so it’s kind of inevitable.

The other two complaints are about things that happened at the end. I’ll try to explain without spoiling anything.

First there is an event toward the end of the book where Kira discovers something about herself. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be a great surprise and really shocking — if I say any more I’ll give it away — but it really wasn’t. The reason for that was because earlier in the book Kira does something completely unnecessary in order to not discover that thing about herself yet. I’m being really vague here but the author’s fingers were all over the page turning Kira away from doing the logical thing so that the big reveal could come later.

My final complaint is about the very end and I’m going to go ahead and just give spoilers for this — though minor ones. After all the riots and government corruption and plots to create a totalitarian regime the people went ahead and reelected the same officials that had been plotting the demise of what was left of human civilization? I understand that you still need to have political intrigue in the next book but it felt so far-fetched I had a hard time believing it.

These are minor problems. The book is brilliantly written and powerfully told. It’s about trying to save life. It’s about the sacrifices that must be made along the way. It doesn’t get much better than this.


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