The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

I'm on my Knees, Looking for the Answer (review of Fragments by Dan Wells)

Fragments (Partials, #2)Fragments
Dan Wells
Harper Collins 2013

Fragments is the second book in Dan Well's Partials Sequence.  This review contains spoilers for the first book FROM THE FIRST SENTENCE.  You have been warned.

Having returned victorious from her sojourn to the world of Partials, Kira is being hailed as a local hero.  Finder of the cure for RM, she should be able to relax a little, bask in the glory…  Yet Kira knows now that she is more different to the rest of East Meadow than she could possibly have imagined, she’s no more human than the Partial, Samm. Additionally, she knows that the ongoing failure to synthesise the cure for RM is leading in only one direction: war.  With only a vague message from her missing guardian, Nandita, and her own gut instincts, Kira sets out to investigate RM, the Partials and the company at the root of it all, Paragen.

Kira remains as likable in Fragments as she was in Partials.  She remains stubborn, but despite the lack of first person narrative, her often impulsive (sometimes disastrous) decisions always seem understandable.  Her inner battle with the knowledge of her true nature is underplayed but ongoing and provides an interesting landscape on which to build her tentative (and, for the most part, pragmatic) friendship with Samm, not to mention relative newcomer, Heron.  She tries hard to understand them, while still struggling with the fact that they are not human and that nor, in fact, is she.  It makes for some interesting moments.

Heron herself is a bit of an enigma.  Different from other Partials by design, her motives are endlessly unclear.  Despite this, she is often the voice of reason in difficult situations, and oft times the saviour of the group that she and Kira find themselves with.  The third member of this group is the lumbering Afa Demoux.  An odd man-child, Afa is the erstwhile IT director of Paragen and has lived alone for 12 years, believing himself to be the last human on earth (a belief that alters not a jot when confronted by Kira).  He’s a character who engenders pity and fear, as well as a fair bit of respect.  The situation he is placed in by Kira is difficult and unfair, yet heartbreakingly necessary and he adds a welcome new dynamic to the storyline.

The final member of Kira’s gang is Samm.  Interestingly, Fragments starts from his perspective, which is both coolly remote yet oddly emotional.  He, more than even the strange Heron, is often almost robotic in his lack of emotion yet his fierce belief in Kira betrays deep waters under a still surface. As he slowly learns to emote via vocal and facial expression he becomes accessible to the reader at much the same time he becomes accessible to Kira herself.  He’s a solid character, who becomes more interesting as the story progresses.  By the end of the book he is by far the most compelling, despite spending much of the story as an observer, as he steps to the fore in an act of both bravery and possible sacrifice.  Elsewhere, we see East Meadow through the eyes of Marcus, another character who comes to the fore in Fragments.  While he still has a fairly laid back view of the world can come across as dangerously flippant, Marcus emerges here as the best kind of character – one who regularly exhibits a practical bravery despite the fact that it makes him want to pee himself.  He’s incredibly likable and adds an additional, often slightly lighter, component to what is essentially a pretty grim story.

The plot of Fragments is fairly straightforward.  Kira and her merry men set off across America to find both the heart of Paragen and hopefully a workable cure for both RM and the issue of the Partial expiration date.  As they set off, they are aware that Partial leader Dr. Morgan is busy waging war on the small group of humans on Long Island and that the answers they search for may be the only chance of avoiding out and out annihilation of both species.  Back at the ranch, Marcus teams up with the military to find answers of his own both about the mysterious Nandita, Kira and the various factions with in the Partial ranks. It’s all fascinating and nicely written, if a bit predictable. The answers are ultimately uncovered have been hinted at previously but they way in which they are found does lend itself to the odd twist.  

The writing is a great improvement on (the perfectly enjoyable) Partials, with the sections set in the toxic Badlands particularly arresting.  In general, Well’s physical vision of a world in ruins is striking (if not original for anyone who’s read I Am Legend or suchlike) and his series veers more to Sci Fi than out and out dystopia – not a bad thing when YA dystopia is an increasingly overcrowded arena.  The end of Fragments is pretty brilliant, with cliff-hangers abounding and promises of a thrilling final chapter in what has turned out to be a very clever series.  Recommended to those of you looking for something a little different in your dystopia, certainly we’ll be looking forward to finding out what happens next here at Mountains of Instead.

This review was brought to you by Splendibird. Fragments published in the UK on 28th March 2013.  Thanks to the publisher (via NetGalley) for providing us with this title to review.


Heidi said…
Hmm, I'm SO TORN. I wasn't sure I was going to continue on with this series after Partials. Though I did find the story interesting, I had issues, particularly I found the writing lackluster. But having you say that it's greatly improved, and knowing that we get to see things from Samm's PoV (which I was really hoping for) have me seriously debating picking this one up after all.
I actually read the two together recently and while the writing in Fragments is still bland in parts, the middle/end sections show real promise and the depiction of a toxic wasteland is particularly compelling. Worth a look.
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