Just when I thought that YA dystopian fiction with decent world building was a myth akin to a Unicorn, Dan Wells' Partials rekindled my faith and happily Fragments confirmed it. Wells' carefully crafted a world that was both visually and descriptively solid and realistic in the first of his series and Fragments picks up where it left off never once letting go of the reins with another stunning and compelling instalment that left me breathless by the end.
Partials ends on a hopeful note as our protagonist Kira has returned to East Meadow, triumphant with the cure for RM, saving the life of her beloved adopted sister's baby. However when Fragments begins, all is not well in her world. It is as brutal and harsh as ever as the last humans' left deal with betrayal from those elected to protect and defend them. With power still up for grabs and riots breaking out as fear of extinction still pervades the air; peace is still a ways off.
The story is told from two perspectives, Kira whom we know well from Partials and her on-again, off-again boyfriend Marcus. This was a great move by Wells' as it allowed the reader to always have a keen perspective and knowledge of what was happening first hand, both in the human world and the partial world. Kira, who was devastated to learn that her origins may not be as simple and clear-cut as she has always believed, leaves East Meadow looking for answers, both for RM as her "cure" is unable to be synthesised and also as to who she really is, where are her parents and how did she really come to be a part of the East Meadow community. Her journey takes her to New York where she meets up with computer genius and ParaGen tech, Afa Demoux, who has believed for 12 years that he is the last human on earth. With his help and that of Samm, a Partial with whom Kira feels an inexplicable connection and Heron, a covert Partial model, Kira sets off on a perilous and harrowing journey across the rough and wild terrain of an America that has forgotten who used to be in charge.
I love how Wells' drops us right into the action with little back-story to weigh us down. In the world he's created, it is so richly vivid that it isn't needed. Partials was still very clear in my mind as I read Fragments which allowed Wells to expand on the scientific and technological aspects of this brave new world. As in Partials, at times, the "info-dump" can be a little overwhelming, this time it is computer knowledge whilst in Partials, it was genetic science. However it is all extremely interesting and any fan of Michael Crichton or Battlestar Galactica will be in heaven. I certainly was.
The addition of Afa was brilliant; his sweet, complex character highlighted the compassionate side of Kira and added an extra layer to the emotional aspects of the story. Samm made a welcome return; his quiet, affable nature always complimented Kira's more emotional and fiery character. Their relationship grows in complexity throughout this story and was one of my favourite aspects of the plot. Heron was at times the most human of all characters despite her cybernetic origins. Feisty, opinionated but above all loyal to both her race and her friends, she was a welcome addition to the core group of characters. At times, Kira's journey through the wastelands of what remains of the US was a little slow paced at times and hampered the action. My only gripe with the whole book was its length, at over 500 pages, it is a hefty weight and it was at these junctures that the length was truly felt.
Marcus's journey however was more action packed as the Partials bring war to the humans' front door. It was fascinating again to read about the ease in which society can be destabilised and how utterly terrifying it is when power breeds corruption. As the humans battle to save themselves from RM, the Partials are facing an equally terrifying fate, an expiration date, which they believe the answer to lies somewhere in the human world. As both races battle to save themselves, they foolishly allow emotion to get the better of each other rather than realising that the answer to their prayers lies in trusting each other and working together. Again as in Partials, Humanity and its treatment of its "children" comes under scrutiny and we see how en masse, the race is fragile and utterly incapable of saving itself from it's own destruction. The sub-plot of the "Failsafe" highlights this and was one of the more sinister aspects of the story. Marcus teams up with Ariel, the mysterious sister of Kira's who left her home as soon as she turned 16 and together they search for answers to Nandita's identity and what her role in Kira's background truly is. While Marcus attempts to save the world by bringing the fight to the Partials, Kira feels its weight as she follows the endless clues to the true reasons for the "beginning of the end of the civilisation."
The book is in four parts and it is in part three that the action really excels. The sense of hopelessness and fatigue as the journey towards the answers they seek grows more perilous comes flooding through the words and the pace picks up as the race against time grows shorter. The final part of the book was a thrill ride from start to finish and the tension as both Marcus and Kira get closer to the end of their missions was unbearable at times. A new threat, Kira's true and terrifying fate, the progression of new relationships are some of the things we have to look forward to in the next book as Wells' leaves us with a cliff hanger that is seriously mind-blowing and will be a wrench to wait for. An amazing addition to the series, Wells' once again gives us a glimpse into a terrifying future that awaits humanity with just a few simple yet misguided choices. Unmissable.