Thursday, April 18, 2013

Fragments by Dan Wells

Dan Wells is the only YA author that I read with any regularity. Sure I read the Hunger Games so I could be conversant with the throngs of acquaintances and friends who thought Collins' trilogy was the second coming. Honestly, I much prefer Wells' work, though there are shades of Collins' formula present in his Partials Sequence. I found the first volume, Partials, to be a good if not stellar start to the series, but decided to continue the series based on my experiences with the excellent John Cleaver books. Wells doesn't disappoint at all, with his second installment. Fragments succeeds on every level, easily ratcheting up the momentum from Partials and improves by leaps and bounds leaving me anxious for the continuation of the series.

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 postapocalyptic 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.
Wells ups the ante with this volume, immediately removing Kira from the familiar surroundings of East Meadow and her circle of friends. Away from familiar surroundings, Kira begins her exploration of the unsettled areas of Well's post-apocalyptic setting. While the landscape offers very little new to genre readers familiar with similar dystopian settings, the internal monologue that accompanies Kira's exploration is fresh and revealing. Even with the problem of the RM virus, partially solved Kira is surrounded by mysteries both about her own history and the history of the Break that left both the humans and Partials on the edge of extinction.

Removed from the medical setting so prevalent in Partials, I found Kira to be a much more relatable character. Her youth made her proficiency in virology a bit of a strain of credibility, though Wells' manages to shore that up with the revelation of Kira's heritage at the end of that novel. As she explores the mysteries of her own identity and faces not only the perils of travelling in the blighted remains of post-Break America but the complications brought on by her travelling companions.

And what companions they are. Between the mentally unstable tech wizard, Afa and the Partials; Samm and Heron, Kira is pulled in multiple directions for most of the narrative. Afa, in particular, provides an almost bottomless well of story beats and complications. Samm is far more well developed here, as the attraction between he and Kira is further explored. Wells' wisely gives him more screen time, and develops him beyond the more machine than man archetype that he filled in Partials. Heron is an excellent foil for the idealistic Kira. Her pragmatic, 'the end justifies the means' attitude is often at odds with the rest of the companions, and comes to head in the final chapters.

Wells' wisely keeps readers abreast of what is happening in East Meadow, with almost all of the secondary characters from Partials making appearances. Marcus gets the most screen time, and he seems to benefit from being out from under Kira's shadow. I found his deadpan humor and his complete averageness, much more appealing this go around. The twin plot lines, keep the tension well balanced and give Wells plenty of room to explore the various mysteries of both the nature of the Break and the organization and motives of the Partials. I never felt the urge to rush to get to the other section of the novel, with Wells balancing the action and suspense equally over the various plot threads.

The slowly unfolding mystery of the Break and Kira's role in the schemes of ParaGen is the real strength of Fragments. Through this plot device, Wells reveals more and more details not only about the world the cast travels through, but the events leading up to the Break and how those events shaped the current landscape. We are treated not just to New York and it's immediate environs, but to the whole of the Midwest, which is now toxic due to the after effects of massive fires in the Texas oil fields. But more important than the trials of the road, are the moral and ethical puzzles that permeate Kira's internal monologue and much of the conversations between her and her travelling companions.

All in all, Fragments barely feels like a YA novel, especially in terms of its handling of the subject matter. Wells' never turns away from the hard questions, and resists the urge to provide the pat answers. Sure there is a definite lack of realistically described violence, so fans of Abercrombian grit need not apply. There are a few places where I found the sheer young-adult friendly dialogue a bit cringe worthy, as real teenagers would have cursed a blue-streak, but these quibbles are largely forgivable. Wells continues to mature and the intricacies of his plot and nuance of his characterization promise more rousing adventures in this fascinating setting.


  1. Thank you for your review! I only skimmed it because I haven't really started the series yet, but you have convinced me to try it again! I started with Parials as my first Wells book but didn't get into it. I read the first John Cleaver next and was suitably impressed. Your review has given me hope for this series and so I will revisit it. Thanks!

  2. Fragments is definitely better than Partials, though as a whole I enjoyed the John Cleaver books a hair more. Definitely worth the read. Thanks for stopping in.