Audiobook Review: Fragments by Dan Wells

6 03 2013

Fragments by Dan Wells (Partials, Bk. 2)

Read by Julia Whelan

Harper Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 20 Minutes

Genre: Young Adult Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: Fragments didn’t just tickle my Post Apocalyptic obsession but full on assaulted it. Wells blends a dark Apocalyptic road trip with the claustrophobia of a military siege creating a moody adventure novel with well constructed action and fully realized characters. By expanding the story and offering just the right number of answers Fragments is the rare second novel in a trilogy that improved over its predecessor, while still leaving enough on the table to get readers excited for the final installment of the trilogy.

Grade: A

It seems that we are coming to a very interesting part in the history of humankind where science and technology may very well redefine what it means to be human. This of course, will not come without speed bumps. Our bodies have been indistinctly tied to morality, both in how we treat it, and in what choices we can make as individuals. There has always been a sort of emphasis of purity of the body in many religions. Our bodies are seen as the temple of god, made in God’s image, and anything from tattoos to imbibing alcohol can be seen as a violation of our bodies. Yet, as we explore more about what can be done with out bodies, assisting the disabled and augmenting out natural skills, we will see more and more questions on what it means to be human. Fiction has already begun postulating this question. Just over the past year we have seen books about genetically enhanced super soldiers, physical augmentations and even cloning, all which ask how far is too far, and how much of our natural humanness are we willing to sacrifice to technology? I find the questions fascinating. It’s often so hard to reconcile philosophies from thousands of years ago with modern technology and social mores. How tough it going to get to discuss the sanctity of human life when we have the ability to alter and manipulate the essence of what makes us human? I love science and working with people with disabilities makes me intrigued by the potential we have using technology and science to alleviate suffering. Yet, I also worry about just how far is too far. We are a society obsessed with profit, and I can’t help but wonder what exactly we are willing to do to increase profits. Are we ready to sell out own humanity?  Were do we actually draw the line.

After the events of Partiasl, Kira, unsure whether she can fit in with either Humans or Partials, sets out for answers, while those left behind on Long Island must deal with pressures from within as well as the encroachment of a desperate Partial faction. Kira’s search for answers will take her on a cross country journey, through devastated cities, and toxic lands, in search of answers she may not really want. While Dan Wells fascinated me with Partials, I was blown away by Fragments. Let’s face it, I’m a sucker for a good Post Apocalyptic road trip, and Kira’s journey through a changed America was harrowing, and darkly brilliant. Wells understands the hazards that runaway nature and neglected technology could cause, and embraces it throwing one situation after the next at our unlucky travelers. Although I felt we were on somewhat comfortable ground, I’m not sure I was prepared for the level of devastation, and the truly dark poetry of the journey. Add to the journey the desperate situations of those left behind, where they must deal with the hopes that a cure for the devastating plague that kills infants will be found before humanity is eradicated from the planet. Wells takes us deeper into Partial territory where he shows us the stunning horrific nature of a Partial battle, told in a highly choreographed action sequence that will leave you breathless. While there was so much to like about Fragments, what really affected me the most is Well’s handling of tricky moral issues. Wells never talks down to his audience, but takes on issues of bigotry, the value of life and the very nature of humanity with a brutal honesty that allows the reader to immerse themselves into the discussion.  Wells never feeds you a philosophy, telling you the proper way to think, but presents an intelligent dialogue with thought provoking arguments on many sides of the issues. At times, I did become frustrated with Kira, but then I had to remind myself she is 16 years old, and when I was 16 I was so sure of what was right as well. In fact, when I remembered that the major characters of this story were teenagers, it really allowed some of these issues to hit home. Now, Fragments isn’t all thinky stuff, there’s plenty of action, adventure, and even a touch of non-oppressive romance. In fact, Fragments didn’t just tickle my Post Apocalyptic obsession but full on assaulted it. Wells blends a dark Apocalyptic road trip with the claustrophobia of a military siege creating a moody adventure novel with well constructed action and fully realized characters. By expanding the story and offering just the right number of answers Fragments is the rare second novel in a trilogy that improved over its predecessor, while still leaving enough on the table to get readers excited for the final installment of the trilogy.

Once again, Julia Whelan handles the narrating duties and I feel she did an excellent job. She brought the right amount of youthfulness to the reading while displaying the maturity of the characters. There were plenty of characters for Whelan to voice, of all stripes, and each one came alive in performance. Whelan definitely had a strong grasp of the story, and it showed in her reading. Her pacing was brisk and pristine, giving just the right level of urgency and tone to each situation faced by the characters. The action really came alive, with the many elaborate set ups created by Wells presented to the listener in a manner that made it easy to picture in their heads. Whelan’s narration captured the breathtaking storytelling of Wells, never allowing the listener to miss a step. Fragments is probably my favorite Young Adult listen in a long time, and I know the wait for the final edition of the series will not be an easy one.

Note: Thanks to Harper Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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