Review: Fragments by Dan Wells

Fragments (Partials #2)
Dan Wells

Balzer + Bray
Releases February 26, 2013
564 pages
YA / Dystopia / Super Soldiers

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Kira Walker has found the cure for RM, but the battle for the survival of humans and Partials is just beginning. Kira has left East Meadow in a desperate search for clues to who she is. That the Partials themselves hold the cure for RM in their blood cannot be a coincidence--it must be part of a larger plan, a plan that involves Kira, a plan that could save both races. Her companions are Afa Demoux, an unhinged drifter and former employee of ParaGen, and Samm and Heron, the Partials who betrayed her and saved her life, the only ones who know her secret. But can she trust them?

Meanwhile, back on Long Island, what's left of humanity is gearing up for war with the Partials, and Marcus knows his only hope is to delay them until Kira returns. But Kira's journey will take her deep into the overgrown wasteland of post-apocalyptic America, and Kira and Marcus both will discover that their greatest enemy may be one they didn't even know existed.

The second installment in the pulse-pounding Partials saga is the story of the eleventh hour of humanity's time on Earth, a journey deep into places unknown to discover the means--and even more important, a reason--for our survival.

Partials was one of my favorite books last year because it didn’t treat me like I was dumb. There was a lot of science talk about genetics and medicine and virology that wasn’t written simplistically or with a lot of obvious hand waving, but rather in a way that assumed I could follow complex arguments. Toss in super genetically enhanced soldier Samm, who is equal parts awkward, adorable and badass, and I was completely sold, staying up until way past my bed time to read the book in just a few sittings.

So I was excited for Fragments, especially after the devastating yet mildly hopeful ending of Partials. In the end I was both satisfied yet also a little disappointed.

SPOILERS FOR BOOK ONE, PARTIALS

At the end of Partials, Kira discovers that she’s not what she always thought she was. Rather than one of the 35,000 human survivors, she’s a new type of genetically engineered Partial, one that grows and ages like a normal human with the benefits of greater strength, speed and dexterity. She ran away to the desolate destruction of Manhattan, hoping to find answers, while Samm – the Partial soldier she’d captured, freed, and befriended – starts digging for secrets to the expiration date that is quickly destroying his kind. They now both know there is a cure to the plague preventing human babies surviving for more than a few days that depends on the Partials biology and now assume that Kira holds the genetic answer to save Samm and his soldier family from extinction as well.

While Fragments starts with a five page first chapter of Samm spying on his former unit as they await the death of a higher officer. He then disappears for over 100 pages, leaving me disappointed and a little irritated. Kira spends those pages wandering around Manhattan, hunting down information about her and the other Partials’ genetic history. This crosses her path with an unidentified monster that might be part bear, part fuzzy Godzilla monster as well as Afa, a former IT professional at ParaGen, who has spent over a decade alone, paranoid and collecting any history and data that is even remotely associated with the downfall of society and the rise of the genetically created soldiers.

Fragments is another hefty book, hitting almost 600 pages, that meanders a bit and revolves primarily around a cross-country journey full of devastation and disappointment. The landscape discovered is scarily realistic with a flooded Chicago and cities underwater all down the Mississippi while the Midwest is all but death beneath a noxious cloud of smoke from a chemical fire that regularly brings down acid rain. While the genetics talk of the previous book isn’t as prevalent in the sequel, the destruction of the world being discovered and the imminent discovery of more of ParaGen’s disastrous fingerprints on the world.

It meanders a bit, mostly because it does revolve around an epic journey, where four characters are stuck together for long stretches of boring time in a dangerous land. Meanwhile Wells flashes back over to the human society on Long Island, where Partials are invading in search of Kira and her genetic secret. Kira's (former?) boyfriend has tasked himself with trying to save humanity by undermining the Partials who have taken everyone hostage. This leads him and a small band of humans to interesting places. I enjoyed seeing more of how Partial society works, how the genetic predisposition for loyalty can be tested, and how difficult that's going to make saving both the humans and Partials in this battle against time, genes and each other.

Kira remains a self-sufficient and dominant character, always taking chances as needed but not being stupid about it. The character of Afa shows off a little of her more emotional side, but as the journey moves forward, he's written off a little, pushed to the background like Wells found a point where he couldn't make the character useful anymore. And then there is Samm, who did not get nearly enough screen time, much less time with Kira. I felt starved of the chemistry that was so obvious during Partials, even when the two were at odds with each other. I know that the Partials are meant to be unfeeling or at least incapable of expressing emotion well, but the heart of the story was hard to find in this one. It also didn't help that Samm didn't have a lot of opportunities to be a badass.

The final few chapters were pretty epic with betrayals and surprises and huge choices having to be made. It sets up for a very interesting third book, though also foreshadows yet another hefty tale where the element that made me love this series - Kira and Samm being awesome and badass together - might not be very prevalent in the third volume either. It's disappointing, but the characters individually are still interesting and the world Wells has created is intriguingly creepy. Elements brought in during Fragments makes the world bigger, more complicated and exceedingly more interesting. 

I look forward to see how this series ends. I just hope I'm wrong about my prediction of a lack of screentime for Kira and Samm to be together, solving problems, kicking butt and being adorably awkward together. The science and world building is intriguing and keeps me engaged, but it's those character moments that made Partials one of my favorite reads of 2012.

 

I received a copy of this book through the Around the World ARC tours in return for an honest review. I have since shipped it off to the next person on the tour.