Thursday, 21 March 2013

Fragments (Partials #2) - Dan Wells (Advance Review!)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Author: Dan Wells
Pages: 564
Source: Netgalley
Published: March 29th, Ireland/UK
Genre: Post-apocalyptic, science fiction
Rating: 5 stars +

I was incredibly delighted to receive Fragments for review. Any readers of my blog will probably know how much (too much, I mention it all the time) I loved its predecessor Partials. I’m so happy to say that Fragments more than lived up to it, and finishing it has left me in a state of mourning. Partials finished spectacularly, with so many subplots pulling together at once in a thrilling action sequence, and somehow that huge momentum was kept up into the sequel – and I’m very impressed.
For an introduction to the trilogy, read my review of Partials (the first book). I’ve often found that the middle book in a trilogy isn’t as well executed as the rest, but Fragments joins Catching Fire on the list of those which keep the action alive. And Fragments is – dare I say it – even better. I’m finding it hard to order my thoughts about it – the feels. Too much.
Tension and drama are ever-present. Every other chapter ends in a cliffhanger and not just ordinary ones, killer cliffhangers. Sneak-up-and-eat-you-in-your-sleep cliffhangers. You feel breathless in parts, seriously.
The characterisation is just too brilliant. Kira’s character develops so much during this book. In Partials she goes from trainee medic to daring scientist, and here she becomes a bonafide heroine and leader. She’s not too perfect either; she headstrong and a diehard rebel. We learn at the end of Partials that she is *SPOILER* a kind of Partial *END SPOILER*. But she’s different. We find out so much about her during the book, as well as the incredible revelations about the creation of the Partials, RM and the Failsafe. And this was expertly woven in with the action scenes. It impressed me that part of her journey is to discover who and what she is, but it’s done with no introspection.
There is a variety of character types as well, even among the protagonists. In Partials Marcus was forgettable, just ‘the heroine’s boyfriend’ but in Fragments he had the narrative without Kira for almost half the story. I heard about this before reading and was wary; I didn’t think Marcus could have such an interesting, fresh perspective, but he did. He does a very important, intimidating task, but with him Wells shows that you can be a strong protagonist without being reckless. When he comes up with his plan, it’s presumed that he’s being foolhardy ad throwing himself into danger with a vain hope. But he replies ‘Who am I – Kira? I’m not doing this alone, I’m going straight to the Senate.’ He then mobilizes the state to do what nobody has dared to before, and without needless danger. I think that’s such an inspiring message – the smart scientist-medic gets to be a hero at last!
I fell so in love with Samm during Fragments. He’s intrigued me in Partials but here we saw so much more of his personality. Wells also poignantly shows the strengths and weaknesses of the Partials, making them seem both more and less human. Here’s a spoiler, but you know it had to happen: Samm realizes nearing the end that he’s fallen in love with Kira. But he’s unable to express it, because Partials show emotion through the pheremonal Link Kira doesn’t have. The link is used instead of body language and tone of voice, so although Samm is a quick learner, it’s still tragically difficult for him to show the oblivious Kira his feelings. I felt like screaming, because Samm deserves her after all they’ve been through together. He’s loyal, kind, smart, soldiers on against impossible odds and defies the bounds of his genetically engineered nature to love her. The heartbreaking part is that *PARTIALS SPOILER* Partials can’t procreate, and Samm is designed to die from his expiration date in a year. *END SPOILER* He’s so noble and self-sacrificing – why must Dan Wells give me all these feels? One of the great things is that there’s just a hint of romance and it’s between characters that have been developed enough that you care for them. Even though I was waxing eloquent about Marcus earlier, maybe he can die a heroic death so Kira and Samm can be together. That’s how much I love Samm – I’m willing to commit or condone fictional murder so he can be happy. It’s going to be a nasty shock for Marcus when he finds out the truth about Kira anyway. Revelations like hers were unfurled with breathtaking finesse, to the point where I was left shaking my head in wonder at how Wells does it.
The quest has a blessedly clear aim – cure the expiration date and RM. I love the power balance; both Partials and humans desperate for a cure for their respective diseases and torn apart by war. Wells shows extraordinary expertise on things from war tactics to genetics to chemical poisoning. I was so afraid that one of those dull, protracted camping trips would happen, but thanks to the superior, witty, badass Heron and the alternating of perspectives between Kira’s quest and Marcus’ mission, momentum was never lost.
There is also a hint of black-and-grey morality, which Vale shows Kira is necessary for post-apocalyptic survival. She is trying to do amazing things, and learns that she has to make some sacrifices. There is lots of philosophizing, but it’s done so well that it enriches the plot instead of interfering with it. There are no stereotypically good or bad characters, and plenty of thought-provoking ones – like Heron. An espionage Partial model, she was literally designed to be better at everything, but that is a technical specification instead of a lazy Mary Sue and reminds us of just how expertly her DNA has been engineered, like when she says ‘I’m an espionage model, and we’re designed to beat everyone at everything.’ Partial society is divided into strict castes, according to their design specifications, and nobody disagrees because they know that that’s simply their design.
There are many poignant moments, like when Afa joins their group as the IT expert. He is a computer genius, but he lived in isolation for twelve years after the Break, believing himself to be the only human left in the world, and has halfway lost his mind. In a rare moment of lucidity, he says ‘I know what I am. I do my best.’ And it’s so heart-wrenching. Add to that the tale of how Marcus survived as a five-year-old when his parents, like everyone else’s, died from RM during the Break, making himself cereal every morning until the milk ran out and he had to venture out into the world alone to find someone, anyone to explain why his parents were dead, and it leads to an emotional and intensely thought-provoking read. 
There was a great authenticity to the world-building. The layers of mildew and rot in buildings after twelve years of disuse, the shattered glass in every window, the blown-up bridges, remnants of the Partial War.  And especially the lack of knowledge the Plague Babies – people like Kira, Marcus, Maddie and Xochi – who  were young children when the world ended and didn’t remember computers or the internet, things that are second nature to teenagers today.
I am giving this my very highest recommendation. It comes out in a week, and it (along with Partials) should be the first thing you buy. But beware, it has probably the most evil cliffhanger I've ever seen that's sure to lead to an action-packed third book.
It’s a well thought-out, thrilling, touching and far-reaching post-apocalyptic read, and it’s honestly amazing.
And now I can’t bring myself to read any other books because they can’t possibly live up to Fragments. Help me.
- Rose


  1. Woo, congrats on snagging a copy of this one!! I am also impressed that this one was actually better than the first because I'm usually let down with second books, too! Also really good: the characters sound fantastic and well developed. An all around winner! You've made me so excited to read this series now, Rose!! Such a fantastic review.

    1. Thanks, it was brilliant! Everything was developed so much more and it managed to not get bogged down, yay. Oh thanks! You should definitely read it, and then tell me what you think of Samm, who I am considering marrying. Or just kidnapping.


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