Partials by Dan Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I thought I'd rate this book more harshly than I did. The opening was a bit shaky, and it was my impression that it was padded. But, as the story wore on, the issues dropped off, and the pacing picked up. I also got a fuller picture of the intricacy of the future dystopia Dan Wells has written. I started off unimpressed, and am glad I gave the book a chance to change my mind.
Partials is the first in a trilogy about a future where humanity's remains huddle on Long Island, hoping for a cure for the disease that wiped almost everyone out. In the meantime, they try to overwhelm it with numbers, by legislating that young women must give birth as often as possible, in hopes that one of the newborns will have a natural immunity. They blame the disease's existence on the Partials, human-appearing superbeings who went to war with humanity after they were created to win a different war.
Kira Walker, 16, believes the key to curing the disease is in Partial biology, and sets out to capture one to run tests, despite having been forbidden by all of the adults she mentions it to. This wouldn't be a dystopia without her discovering all kinds of secrets about the world she thinks she understands along the way.
Unlike with most trilogies or series, she does solve the initial problem, at least partly, by the end of this book. There's no frustrating cliffhanger, no sense of narrative waste. What drives us on to the next book is the new complexity she's discovered, and the hundreds of questions that raises.
The book starts off slow, establishing the world Kira knows before we can see how different the rest of it is and where the cracks lie. It's a logical evolution, and the issues are understandable, though not always predictable.
There were two flaws early on in the book. First is the question of why Kira asks for a sample of Marcus's blood to test for RN. She doesn't even think of using her own. Her physiology turns out to have plot relevance, leading me to wonder even more why it never even crossed her mind. She could've saved herself some time.
The second issue is when Kira and her friends are discussing plans to go capture a Partial. Jayden tells her it'll take some time to set up, then she goes off to discuss it with someone else. Suddenly, she's talking about "tomorrow" as if that's when they plan to leave. I think the later conversation was initially written as having taken place the night before she left, but some shoddy editing missed the timeline issues. It was a relatively minor error, but it was jarring, and stuck in my mind when I thought of what to mention in my review.
Overall, I found Partials to be entertaining, and the worldbuilding to be far more complex than it appears. There are at least four opposing elements by the end of the book, each with a plan to save the world that makes sense to that group. I thought I'd be unimpressed, when I reached the halfway point, but I finished it looking forward to the next book.
I listened to this on audio, narrated by Julia Whelan. She's also the voice of Amy in Gone Girl, so it took me a while to settle down and start trusting the narrator, which may have colored my perception of this book. Her narration is clear, and she captures Kira's emotional range nicely.
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