Fragments by Dan Wells
This YA dystopia is a sequel to Partials, which I remember liking when I read it a long time ago. However, it seems to be a pattern I’m noticing lately that I don’t like the second book in a series as much as the first. Maybe my tastes are changing, maybe series are harder to continue than to begin.
This book has a lot of action. Kira is trying to uncover the conspiracy that created the Partials (genetically engineered soldiers) and the disease RM that wiped out most of the population. She teams up with two Partials and travels mostly on foot from Long Island to Colorado, through a toxic wasteland. The challenge before our heroes is so huge as to seem impossible, but somehow they make it through, of course. It strains credulity. The emphasis on action and the lack of depth makes me wonder if this series would have been better as a movie or maybe a TV series. The descriptions of ruined cities and poisoned landscapes would certainly be visually striking on a screen. The book is really long, and probably didn’t have to be. Several of the obstacles encountered by Kira and her friends could have been removed, shortening the book without losing much gravitas.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This post-apocalyptic dystopia is terrifying, ghostly, and fascinating. 99% of the world population dies in a rapid, unstoppable flu pandemic, and survivors are left in the ruins of a civilization without electricity or law. It’s like The Walking Dead without the zombies: brutal armed conflicts between untrusting groups of survivors who scavenge necessities from houses guarded by skeletons. I found the descriptions of the rapid deterioration of life as we know it utterly realistic. If there’s a villain, it’s a religious fanatic who calls himself the Prophet, who takes child brides and preaches that those who died of the flu deserved it. The narrative is not chronological, but told in flashes between several characters’ loosely connected lives before, during, and after the pandemic.
This is the kind of book I can’t stop thinking about. The haunted world twenty years after the death of everyone continues to spook me. And yet, the story is not bleak or without hope. The efforts of the survivors to not only cooperate and live, but to find meaning in their altered lives through curating a museum, presenting Shakespeare, making music, writing a newspaper, were inspiring.