Monday, February 6, 2012

Partial Extinction

In a land where technology has become the very life force that keeps us functioning, have we ever thought about how that technology could backfire? I am not just talking about how its absence will leave us vulnerable, but what if that technology which we made so very smart, turns on its maker. In Partials, Dan Wells explores a world where engineered "Partial" humans turn on the hand that created them and take over the world.

Kira is training to be a medic. She decides to work in maternity because there is no better place to fight the RM virus than where it strikes- in babies who never live to see a week. The Partials, engineered part-humans designed to fight wars for us, took over the world eleven years ago and released RM. It destroyed the human population leaving only about 40,000 people clustered on Long Island. The people left are immune, but in those eleven years, no immune baby has been born. Now there is a directive from the Senate that requires girls 18 and older to get pregnant time and time again, knowing their babies will die, just so the medics can record data about how the virus spreads and try to find a cure.

Watching babies die and finding out her best friend is pregnant is enough to motivate Kira to do something no one has ever done before- capture a Partial to study for a cure. She convinces a few friends and soldiers to go along with her, but it is clear as soon as they enter Manhattan that the Partials are closer than they have ever been. Kira and the others are immediately attacked, but they manage to bring a Partial home. Unfortunately, the Senate just wants to destroy it. Kira convinces them to give her 5 days to study it, but more takes place in the laboratory than just blood samples. Kira realizes the Partials, Samm, is just like her. He not only looks like a human, he talks to her, he clearly doesn't want to die, and he has a secret too. The lives of the Partials are in just as much danger as the lives of the humans. It seems extinction is not just a human threat. Now the Partials and the humans must work together to find a way to save each other, but how can mortal enemies ever get over their own feud to save their biggest enemy?

There are many scary scenarios for the future, but most of them deal with the elimination of the human race. We don't want to go anywhere! Whether it be by zombies or plague or half-human robots we created, extinction isn't a pleasant future. Wells created a world that was not only in dire straights, it was downright creepy. The government had good intentions in trying to save the few people left, but the way they were going about it with forced pregnancies was terrifying. Even the fight between the rebels on the island and the official civilization where the last humans alive were willing to kill each other over ideals and territory was scary. The scariest part? They weren't anything people don't do already! Maybe not to this extreme, but there are plenty of comparable instances out there that would make for interesting discussions with a student who read this book. 

The two main characters, Samm and Kira, were most interesting. Samm seems a little "blah" but I think it was an attempt to show the control and calculation of a being that is not human. It was a little too heavy handed at times (the term cyborg comes to mind), but eventually, you found yourself a cheerleader for Samm! Kira was a different story. I liked her a lot. She was that young woman who knew what she had to do and was willing to risk her own life to do it. You can tell Kira "no", but it won't do much good if she has set her mind to something. And she wasn't brash or impulsive, she just did what she needed to do without worrying about her own safety. Kira is a young woman you can be proud of.

This story has a number of military clashes and battles, human vs. human, Partial vs. human, and Partial vs. Partial. It isn't gratuitously violent, but violence is certainly a part of Wells' new world. The book is quite long and has a few slower spells (although as a whole it was quite exciting), so it might be best for a stronger reader. There is no sexual content or adult language. This is an exciting story, and you can almost see it translating to the Big Screen. I hope someone buys the rights and puts Kira out there, because I really liked this first installment of the series!

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