Dan Wells’s Partials

Let us consider Dan Wells’s new book Partials. As you know, I a huge fan of his John Cleaver books. We also work together on Writing Excuses. So on the one hand, I am predisposed to like anything he writes because I like the John Cleaver books. A lot.

On the other hand, there’s a lot to live up to. I go in with high expectations. I like the main character in his first series and his new main character, Kira, has to reach that same bar to make me satisfied. Because we record Writing Excuses together, I also expect Dan’s books to be smart. I expect the plot to be well-structured and I expect an emotionally satisfying ending. And, darn it, I expect to cry at least once. That’s a lot of expectations to lay on a book.

So, how does Partials do?

Very well. Oh, yes. Kira is a sixteen year old girl in a world that is collapsing in on itself. There are only 40,000 humans left on the planet. It’s the only world she’s ever known, so the idea of shopping by visiting abandoned malls seems completely normal to her. Her world is utterly alien to me, and yet she reminded me what it was like to be sixteen.

The plot is smart and does not go easy places. What I find particularly interesting is the way Dan is playing with various SF tropes. This is a world in which there are no new children. Other writers have explored that idea, but Dan pairs it with another idea — that of engineered artificial humans. Through the course of the book, which is action packed, he gets into how one defines self and how the Other shapes that definition of ourselves.

There’s political intrigue and explosions and a recalcitrant camel. Seriously, this book has everything but the kitchen sink.

And did I cry? Yes. Yes, I did. You’ll know the moment, when you get there.

The only problem that I had with the book is that Partials is the first book in a series. Darn it. I want Book Two now.

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