Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: Partials

I've been seeing a lot of hype lately about Partials by Dan Wells, and given how much I loved his I Am Not a Serial Killer trilogy, it's no surprise that we bought it on Kindle. (Did you see the book trailer? Amazing.) (Also: Yes, yes, I know I'm about 2 weeks late on this review.)


So, big question: does it live up to all the hype?

Kind of yes, kind of no. I loved the basic premise, and I thought a lot of the plot twists were awesome, but I also had some issues with a few of the key plot points.

Partials is set in post-apocalyptic Rhode Island. The back story is that there was giant war, and humans engineered partials (part human, part robot, essentially) to fight for them. After the war was over, the partials rebelled against being given crap jobs and getting shafted right and left, so they rebelled. Things got a little out of control, and most of the human population was wiped out with a virus. Of the 40k people left alive, not one of them is capable of producing a child that lives more than 4 days. Long, slow death sentence to the human race.

Like I said, it's a really cool premise, and it leads to some interesting questions about personal survival vs. survival of the human race, putting your own wants/needs first vs. putting the needs of the society's survival first, governmental control "for the good of the human race" vs. personal freedom, etc. There's no clear cut right or wrong answers, and I liked the fact that Wells did not try to make it black and white.

My biggest issue with the novel is that out of all the people in charge, scientists and politicians both, the only idea they can think of to fix their problems is to have as many babies as possible. All women are required to get pregnant as soon as they turn 18 when the book begins. Now, I can see how this may be a viable strategy at first. And I can definitely see why politicians would cling to it long after it is abundantly clear that it's not accomplishing anything (and even when the law's mere existence is tearing apart the society).

What I can't understand is why none of the adult scientists we encounter can accept that this is a complete waste of time and resources. It takes our main character all of two seconds into the book to recognize what a stupid idea it is. My opinion of the head researcher guy plummeted rapidly when he did not at least acknowledge that something different needed to be tried. He, of all people, should have known better. This could have been addressed more satisfactorily by exploring some psychological differences in how plague babies viewed the world vs. those who were adults when the virus swept through and killed most of mankind, and we did get a bit of that, but not enough to overcome my initial reaction that all the adults were idiots. (To be fair, that's a lot to ask for in one book, but still. Why are they so dense?)

That was really the thing that bugged me most. The novel has a bit of a slow burn at first, but at around the halfway mark it takes off and never looks back. It has tons of cool plot twists (including the kind where you look back and it all fits perfectly but you never suspected as you read the bits leading up to the twist) in addition to presenting ethical dilemmas without easy answers. The science-y bits made sense too (at one point I wondered how the fetuses made it to full term only to catch the virus immediately after birth if the virus was present in everyone's blood, and it was addressed literally within a page of my wondering).

Overall, a great read, and I have high hopes that the sequels will be even better. We've caught glimpses at a complex world outside of Rhode Island, and I'm excited to see more of it - and I don't doubt there is much more than has even been hinted at so far.

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