On Partials by Dan Wells

Character Foils1

*Mild Spoilers (Visit Spoiler Ratings and Guidelines for ThinkyRead’s spoiler policy).

I bought Partials by Dan Wells approximately six months ago. And it’s been sitting on my bed, staring at my face, judging me… for six months. NO MORE! I finally picked that sucker up and READ IT! And, you know what? It was pretty good.

Dystopian Fiction

I’ll admit, I was a little afraid that I wouldn’t like this book. Dystopian fiction is… hard to get right. Most of the time the crazy societies that authors come up with are so utterly ridiculous that you might enjoy the book while you’re reading it, but once you step back and think about it for two seconds, the whole story is ruined forever. There’s just so much to plan out in dystopian fiction, so much background history that isn’t necessarily covered in the book, but is necessary to create in order to have a well-rounded story.

However, Dan did a pretty good job at pulling this off. I still have some fundamental questions (if humans were the ones to originally created Partials, why did they know so little about them? Was the mission that secret? Isn’t someone alive who knows more information?), but I’m holding out before poking holes. It’s looking like Dan will answer all my questions come books two and three.

Who Can You Trust?

One of Kira’s main struggles in the book is knowing who to trust, which brings up some interesting commentary. She has a hard time because, not only is she rebelling against the aggressively almost-totalitarian government, but she’s doing it almost completely alone. Even among her own circle of friends there are disagreements as to what (or who) is right and what is wrong. The thing is, when you’re fighting a war (even a cold one) , there’s only a clear Good Guy and a clear Bad Guy once you align yourself with one of the competing parties.

It’s only once you step outside of your own culture and gain understanding of the whole affair that you’re able to see that there are no good guys and bad guys at all. There are only people who see the world differently and can’t agree on which way is “right.”

This posed a challenge for Kira as she navigated her way through a broken, beaten down world that wasn’t very open-minded when it came to her wild ideas, even if it was only her wild ideas that had any chance of saving and human race. Who could she trust? Was her enemy evil? Where her friends good? How easy it would be to stab someone in the back to get your way! How tempting to become your own boss in a world already descending into chaos.

The Definition of Humanity

The partials themselves, like other sentient non-human creatures we see so often in science fiction, bring up their own questions: What makes someone human? Is it their body? Their mind or soul? Perhaps is it the fact that they were born to a mother and father? If a human is useless, is it wrong to take his life for the greater good? Similarly, if something that isn’t human is useful is it right to spare them and treat them with dignity simply because you need them?

The question of defining humanity isn’t one that’s prevalent, or even necessary in today’s culture because we have some pretty upfront indicators. Nothing is sentient but humans. But what happens when you live in a world with two types of sentience? One “natural” and one artificial? Does one trump the other?

This is one of the stronger messages underlining Partials. Where does one draw the line? When we’re at war against humans, we think of the other side as the faceless enemy. Perhaps that’s how the partials and humans thought of each other after the Break. Or perhaps there was more to it. Perhaps the humans thought of the partials as things and partials thought of humans as evil. They both looked the same, talked the same, had similar physiology, thought things, felt things, created things, learned things. The only difference being that one race created the other. Is that enough to justify bigotry and racism?

On the Prose Itself

As much as I’d like to stay away from writing “reviews,” there is something about the prose I simply cannot get by without mentioning. Poor Dan got screwed by his copy editor. I know, every once in a while in books a comma will be missed or a letter won’t be capitalized. I’m okay with little mistakes. We’re only human. But Partials is simply full of them. Dan’s writing is brilliant, as always. He has quirky dialogue and the prose is snappy, his visuals are beautiful and his pacing is great. But there are a great many times when I got thrown out of the story because of a mislabeled dialogue tag or a random period in a sentence where it was obviously needing a comma. Maybe there was a time crunch, maybe it’s because this is the longest thing he had put out so far. But with beta readers, editors, friends, and Dan himself combing this book edit after edit, I find it hard to figure how so many textual mistakes still made it through.

I don’t want to be “that person” who likes to make fun of the “20 Items or Less” sign when it should read “20 Items or Fewer,” but I thought it was worth mentioning, especially if I’m going to recommend the book. And I do recommend it.

In Conclusion

This is a good read. The questions it poses about society and humanity are interesting, even if they’ve been asked many times before all throughout Science Fiction. The story is fun and the characters are lovable (even when some of their names are… odd). It did take me until Plot Turn 1 (Chapter thirteen) to really get into the story, however. The whole first act was okay, but this book took much longer to draw me in than Dan’s other books. However, the story itself seems to encompass much much more than the rest of his books. It was as if he wrote all three Hunger Games books as one still promising two additional books to come!

All in all, I’m not disappointed. It’s a fun book.

Enjoyed this post? Why not support the blog by picking up a copy of Partials by Dan Wells from Amazon.com? I thank you. And your brain, which will increase in size with every word you digest, will thank you too.

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site