Note: There are some spoilers for Book One in this series, Partials, but none for this book which is Book Two.
This book is the second in a post-apocalyptic dystopian trilogy, the first of which is Partials (see my review here). I enjoyed the first book, and eagerly picked up the second.
In Partials, we learned that eleven years have passed since the last war and the release of a devastating virus known as “RM.” Only some 40,000 people are left in the world, but there are also a a million or so “Partials,” biosynthetic soldiers created by the U.S. Government (contracting with the biotech company ParaGen) to fight in the great Isolation War. The Partials were genetically programmed to be stronger and faster, and to have an enhanced ability to communicate through pheremones called “The Link.” [In real life, humans have pheromones mainly associated with sexual attraction. They are naturally occurring odorless substances the body excretes, conveying an airborne signal that provides information to, and triggers responses from, the opposite sex of the same species.] In this future world (around the year 2075), the function of pheromones has been enhanced; Partials can sense each other’s presence through this link, and detect, for example, whether or not one of them is in danger. This aids both reaction time and stealth, not to mention survival.
After the Isolation War, the Partials were kept on in a subservient position, and they rebelled. In the meantime, the RM virus was released, and the human population was decimated. Not only were most humans killed, but no baby is able to live, since it succumbs within 3 days to the RM virus. Humans have not been able to come up with a cure, and in the first book, Kira, a budding scientist, decides the key to the cure is kidnapping a Partial to find out how and why they are immune to the virus.
But in the first book we also learn that the Partials are dying too. Apparently they were constructed with an expiration date, and after twenty years, they quickly deteriorate and die. They too are desperate to find the key to survival, and so they want to capture a human. At the end of Book One, we are left at an impasse between the two groups.
In Fragments, the heroine, sixteen-year-old Kira Walker, sets off across the country to locate the headquarters of ParaGen, because it is there, she believes, the answers will be found. Kira is determined to save the world – a little naive, you might think, except that she happens to be in a unique and believable position to think this way. She is also struggling to figure out just who and what she is: is she a human or a Partial, and with which group do her loyalties lie? She is accompanied on her journey to ParaGen by two Partials: Samm (of possible romantic interest) and Heron (a female who is possibly untrustworthy). Meanwhile, back home in Long Island, her sort-of-boyfriend Marcus is on his own campaign to save the world. Time is running out though; both the humans and Partials are dying at a rapid rate, not only for biological reasons, but because each group is also at war with themselves and with one another.
Discussion: This book has a lot in common with at least a big chunk of Stephen King’s The Stand. Much of the story consists of a challenging journey across what is left of a country devastated by war, disease, and toxic waste.
The characters are a veritable U.N. of diversity, representing many races, including Indian, Chinese, and Hispanic, and yet there is still one group that serves as a target for all the prejudice and hate mankind usually has to offer. This offers a rich mine for thought and discussion.
There is also an interesting complication discussed in this book about a modification made to the Partials, so that they would have overactive consciences. Understanding why that was so, and what the repercussions are, is also an intriguing addition to the story.
Evaluation: This series is quite thought-provoking, as the characters struggle with issues that concern us all, viz.: How do we determine what makes us human? How do we define morality in a complex world? How do you draw the line between “leadership” and “dictatorship”? And perhaps most importantly, how do we rein in our short-term desires for the long-term good of humanity and of the planet that harbors us? I liked this book, but I would definitely recommend waiting to read this until all three books are out. It’s a good middle child, but it is just that; it doesn’t actually end at all, and will probably be deemed unsatisfactory to readers without the third on hand.
Pubished by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2013