Partials, a Review


This spoiler-free review is in three parts: the overall opinion for those who haven’t read the book, the review for those who have (still spoiler-free), and a what-we-have-learned section at the very end, full of tricks I learned too small for individual posts.  I encourage you to read the whole thing, read the book itself, then read the review again to see if you agree.

Partials, by Dan Wells, was extremely good.  I bought it on a whim last Friday night, and finished it just before midnight on Sunday.  Partials is a post-apocalyptic science fiction (also known as dystopian) in which almost the entire human race has been destroyed by a single virus known as RM.  This came at the end of the war with the Partials, a race of super-soldiers manufactured to win wars who eventually turned on their makers.  The last surviving humans, immune to the RM virus, have barricaded themselves on Long Island, NY, constantly fearing an attack from the Partials or the rebel group known as the Voice.  Unfortunately, because of the RM virus, any newborn babies will die within minutes of birth.  Humans are going extinct.

It was extremely well-written.  There is no beating around the bush; the author quickly introduces a strong conflict and good characters.  Humor is excellently spaced, enough to keep readers cheery without destroying the macabre feeling of the book.  The pacing isn’t overly fast or slow, but the intriguing concepts kept me involved in the story.  I would highly suggest this book to people looking for a less depressing Hunger Games (though there is almost no similarity between the two).

However, I must give a slight content warning: since the plot of the book revolves around the ability to reproduce, they’re going to talk about it a lot.  There is some language present as well.  This is for upper YA, not those just coming from middle-grade fantasy.  Also, the author’s first trilogy was horror.  There will be blood, guts, and quite a few dead people.  It isn’t quite on the scale of the Hunger Games, but people do die occasionally.  The main character is a medic in a cursed maternity ward, after all.  I recommend it to anyone who has made it through a high school biology course without throwing up.

All that being said, I really did enjoy the book.  The main character is a girl, but that doesn’t mean it’s a girl book.  It doesn’t mean it’s a boy book either.  It’s a good book.  That’s all.

On to the more in-depth stuff.  The way information is introduced and held back in this was well done.  It seems a little cheesy at first, with all the characters describing that which, surely, everyone knew by now.  But that doesn’t mean we get enormous infodumps– most of the time, we get half of what we need to know, and the other half fills in later.  It was a little tricky getting the right idea about who the Voice were and how they were different from the Partials– I thought the Voice were the Partials at first.  Though it wasn’t quite clear at the beginning, things became clear when we needed them to be clear.  I’m still debating whether or not this is a good tactic or not.

The characters, as I said before, are excellent.  One or two characters are witty, and one of them is always there in the scenes that need a wisecrack.  In the serious scenes, however, only the main character is present, and she only rarely makes jokes.  I didn’t think the humor variation was bad, though.  If there was more humor, it might seem like a lighthearted dystopian, and that’s an oxymoron.

The plot was twisty enough for my liking, though the big twists were predictable.  I won’t say which ones, but they were a little obvious.  I think I even know the twist for book three.

The romance level was good.  Instead of procuring its own suspense through love triangles, it was tied in knots by the plot itself.  I enjoyed that much more than a simple, self-sufficient romance plot walking alongside the regular plot and the two never crossing paths.

Now, what we have learned:

Dialogue tags are less effective than a sentence of action before the dialogue.  He threw up his hands.  “I don’t know what to do with you.”  (That isn’t a real line, by the way.)  There is no need to do both, as long as it’s clear who the paragraph belongs to.

It’s okay to write sentence after sentence of subject openers– just vary the sentence structure in other ways.  This might not mean much to you, but I’ve been struggling with this a lot.  Someone told me that sentence opener after sentence opener was bad, and I’ve been trying to justify ignoring them.

The Hollywood Formula works in books too.  This was the main reason I wanted to read this book.  Sort of.  The author is one of the panelists on the Writing Excuses podcast, and I wanted to see if he incorporated the formula in his own writing.  Turns out, he does.  As I said before, there were a lot of questions in the beginning of the book.  That’s the way the formula works– halfway through the story, it goes from asking questions to answering them.  Three quarters through the story, there is a low point.  (This was thirty-two pages late, but I didn’t mind.)  And at exactly one quarter into the story, the characters take their first steps to fix the conflict.  In fact, the book is conveniently split up into three parts, and they translate roughly into the three acts of the Hollywood Formula.  It’s pretty amazing– almost as if the author knew what he was doing.

That’s what I think of the book.  Have you read it?  What did you think?


172 thoughts on “Partials, a Review

  1. Nope, I have not read it, and from what you said I don’t plan to. 😛 Considering my stomach and the fact that I’m not at the “upper YA” level yet.

    Good point about the “sentence of action,” though. Somewhere else I’ve read calls them “action beats,” and I agree that they work better than dialogue tags and we definitely do not need both, for goodness’ sake. I’ve been trying to get better about using those instead of dialogue tags. I think that’s going well. 🙂

    1. With all those tips going around saying dialogue tags should be simple as possible, with no adverbs, then critiques saying my dialogue should have tags with adverbs and strong verbs… I think I’ll just stick with this.

      1. Yeah, I hate how stuff tends to conflict like that. It drives me crazy! I eventually just throw up my hands and pick something to go with.

      2. *shrugs* Whatever. Keep going. Maybe I’ll find a couple of unrelated authors so I can join you.

      3. News flash: Liam has connections with a dead Greek storyteller and Bill Cosby.
        You must be psychic!

      4. Whoops. I meant Robyn. 😛 Sorry, Liam.

        Because Robyn said that was probably the only time the two of them would be in a sentence together.

      5. Yes, you like debate when you are right and I like it when I’m right.
        But I was right about that. 🙂

  2. I liked this book, too! (Though at times the story dragged a bit.) I didn’t think it was drop-dead amazing, but I liked it enough that I think I’ll read the second one. And I’m glad Dan Wells didn’t make the novel completely serious (as many dystopian novels are), and added in a bit of humor here and there.

  3. I don’t plan to read this. I do not care for “Upper YA” or depressing stories… not that the story itself is dpressing, but details like babies instantly dying… I can’t take that.

  4. Hmm, I might give this one a shot. It sounds a little dark and adult for my usual taste, but so are some of my own story ideas.

    Agreed on the “action, then dialogue” thing. It reads better AND it adds to the word count.

  5. I thought about reading this.

    But then I thought about how I recommend books and you usually say you’re not going to read them.

    So I won’t. 😛

    But good review.

    1. That’s a bad reason. I tell you, I don’t read books unless they are recommended from more than one source. Partials was recommended to me by several sources. All Men of Genius, which I haven’t quite written off yet, has only come up once. I’ve never heard of it from anyone other than you.

  6. You’re insecure
    Don’t know what for
    You’re turning pages when you walk through the dooooooooooooor
    Don’t need make up
    To cover up
    Being the way that you are is enough

    Everyone else in the room can see it
    Everyone else but youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

    Liam you light up my world like nobody else
    The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed
    But when you smile at the ground it ain’t hard to tell
    You don’t know (oh oh)
    You don’t know you’re Head Phil!
    If only you saw what I can see
    You’ll understand why I want you so desperately
    Right now I’m looking at you and I can’t believe
    You don’t know (oh oh)
    You don’t know you’re Head Phil!
    (Oh oh)
    That’s what makes you Head Phill!

    So c-come on
    You got it wrong
    To prove I’m right I put it in a soooooooooong
    I don’t know why
    You’re being shy
    And turn away when I look into your eye eye eyes

    Sorry, I’ve wanted to do that for a while.

      1. It was risky, Engie, but for sheer cheek I’ll let you have that comment. Though, it isn’t quite true– I’ve never been in any doubt of my Head-Phil-dom.

      2. Never were we in doubt about his knowledge of being Head Phil. Unfortunately, this title sounds like it will get him into a bit of trouble later.

      3. *loud mechanical breathing* I find your lack of faith disturbing.
        Would I make a horrid parody about the illustrious Head Phil? I just have to find the correct song…

      4. Oh dear. Sorry. I’m not entirely sure I have faith in you, though, because of the way you said it. 😛 Sorry.

        (I apologize a lot, in case none of you have noticed.)

      5. Though truthfully, I suppose I was considering a good parody to a song the Head Phil would not like.

      6. Haven’t written it yet. I did consider a different song by “They Which Shall Not Be Named”… but decided against it.

      7. Amanda, I just used the opurtunity to sound like Darth Vader. You don’t have to apologize. 🙂

      8. Any suggestions for a song to parody, Liam? One that is not in Latin, preferably.
        Or shall I surprise you?

      9. That’s okay, Amanda. I sounded like The Grinch, too, up there, if you noticed. 🙂

      10. Oops, yes, I did see the comment 😛 I just didn’t get the reference.

        I don’t get a lot of references people make…

      11. We could. Don’t want Liam to come back to find we’ve had tea here again. 🙂

      12. Maybe I’l write it up and give it to you for your birthday or blog-aniversary. Or I’ll just forget it.

      13. How does the Head Phil feel about Ross Lynch/Austin and Ally– the music, not the show? Or “When Can I See You Again” by Owl City– it’s in the credits of Wreck It Ralph?

    1. OMG, neville, that song was , , , well, words can’t describe how–how SOMETHING that was. O.O

      I’ll never be able to listen to that song the same way again.



  7. I’m just going to ignore all the comments I have just read through and say in all seriousness that yes, I have read Partials, and yes I agree with you Liam. The biggest plot twists were sort of predictable and I could probably predict the main characters’ personal lives for a while. However, I did like the touches science and research added. It made the whole thing believable.
    I know exactly what you mean with the subject opener sentences. Maybe I have a tendency to write subjects as openers because I read this book.

      1. (Although, as I stated earlier, the posts are pretty spectacular themselves. Completely NOT trying to offend Mr. Head Phil, here.)

      2. Right, thank you, Robyn.

        How’s the editing/writing/procrastinating coming along? 😉 I really ought to do some writing myself…

      3. Oh, the writing is coming along… slowly because I have the computer open. Procratinating is going wonderfully… but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I need to open my MW document and get editing. Or turn on the Kindle and get editing.

      4. And I think you have a point, Liam. Without the posts… no blog.
        Though, Amanda said that they were spectactcular…
        I might back out of this debate.

      5. I said they were totally amazing posts. I’ve sent several to my Kindle, not including Phil Phorce episodes.

      6. Thank you. 😉

        Yes, they are, Liam. And I come back to them and read them when I’m stuck–I just did two days ago with the outlining. Besides, why would I tell people about your blog just because of the comments?! Not everyone would even read them all, much less find them as amusing and awesome as some of us do.

      7. I did so, Liam!

        “(Although, as I stated earlier, the posts are pretty spectacular themselves. Completely NOT trying to offend Mr. Head Phil, here.)”

  8. OKAY. Clearing this statement up once and for all.

    Liam’s posts are absolutely outstanding and Robyn is right, there would be no wonderful comments without the blog itself. And the posts are what start the discussion, anyway, and are genius in themselves. The long comment discussions, spoon heists, and stories are just what makes it *unique*. I meant absolutely no offense to Liam or his posts or his blog, and besides, the comments wouldn’t even be what they were if he didn’t respond to them in the first place.

    And I’ll admit, there’s a reason this is my favorite writing blog (other than Go Teen Writers), and it’s not the comments. 😉

    Does that fix everything? Sorry about that.

    1. Amen! End of debate.
      This Page Intentionally Left Blank is my favorite blog. (insert lovely compliments about blog here that I have already said here and elsewhere).

      1. Well, I was going to write something else after the favorite blog part… but couldn’t make it work.
        And where would we be without the Head Phil? I wouldn’t be reading Les-Mis, for sure! And I wouldn’t know how to write a jerk people could be symapathetic with. And I wouldn’t have a very suspenseful enjoyable periodical to read on weekends. Shall I keep thinking of things like this?

      2. Ask Liam.

        And I would have had no motivation to try outlining in the least, not much of an idea of how to change my characters, and I never would’ve known how to associate with you fantasy writers…

        And I never would’ve heard about the chickens, Easter shoes, and the laundry basket! 😉

      3. I wouldn’t have known I was this crazy and more like Dr. Frankenstein than a dark-lord crazy.

        If someone asks about that, I’ll point them to your blog.

      4. Whose? Liam’s, I hope?

        I wouldn’t have known I was this crazy, either. Certainly not.

        I wonder where he disappeared to, anyway?

      5. True. Could be. Oh, well, the only reason I’m sitting here at the computer is because I can’t stand offending anyone or hurting anyone’s feelings. 😛 I suppose I’ll wait another couple minutes and then poof into thin air.

      6. Yeah, you should. GO EDIT, ROBYN! (Tempest, tell her she needs to edit.)

        I think I’ll stop replying to your comments now to make you edit. 😉

      7. OH! That’s who John Hansen is! I know now. Everyone, continue on with your lives.

      8. I do hope he won’t. I hope Liam would never stoop to insulting with a cliche. 😉

      9. Sounds similar to our discussion the other day…about throwing books. That seems more his style of insulting. Scarily enough.

  9. Totally unrelated and random note: if someone named…uh…Emma Martin shows up, don’t freak out. She’s my alter ego. Very long story.

      1. Define “weird”… and if you could look at my Google posts… that’d be great. 🙂

  10. Well, I read it anyway. Now I can make related comments.

    Honestly, I’m kind of scared too, considering what went on back last March…but here goes anyway.

    1. I have yet to throw up because of high school biology, but I haven’t hit microorganisms yet, so we’ll see. However, I did not throw up reading the book, nor did I even think about it.
    2. I agree about the romance aspect–it was nice to not have that be the focus, yet still be affected by the plot. I didn’t really like Marcus, though.
    3. I thought the medical details and stuff about the virus were actually pretty interesting. Definitely difficult to wade through, but cool.
    4. Agreed about the plot twists being a little obvious at times, the slight confusion over the Voice/Partials, and such.
    5. However, also agreed about it being well-written. Definitely unique in most aspects, although I have to say Jill Williamson’s Captives is similar in the whole “virus is killing everyone” aspect.

    There, how’s that?

    1. 1) That’s good. It was probably kind of extreme to say that about this one, but there are some sections. I’m glad you weren’t discomfited by it.

      2) Marcus, as has been acknowledged by the author several times, was a tricky character for whom he had to raise the likability in the second book. He kind of messed up with him in book one, I think.

      3) Indeed. I enjoyed the specialty.

      5) I’m pretty sure there are lots of Black Plague style books and movies. It’s not a new concept, but Partials takes it some pretty cool places.

      Excellent. Thanks for reading it. I’m glad you liked it.

      1. 1. Indeed, there are. Actually, by now I’ve decided perhaps there was a section or two that was somewhat disturbing, but I didn’t faint or anything.

        2. So far in book two he hasn’t done much. Ah well, I admire Marcus for trying, anyways.

        5. Very likely true. I suppose I just haven’t read/watched very many.

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