Thursday, June 28, 2012
Curmudgeon's Corner: Science in dystopian YA and Review of Partials by Dan Wells
One of the books on the Dark Days tour is Partials by Dan Wells. I've had this on my to read list for a month before I had heard about the tour and saw that it was getting mixed reviews. I can understand this sentiment as I award this book 3 stars.
Partials is about Kira, one of the last remaining humans, after a terrible war that they've lost against Partials, which are mostly robotic creatures with some human DNA. What really decimated the population was not the war, but a devastating virus that has rendered humans incapable of reproducing-- babies die within days of birth after getting the virus. Kira is a young scientist, and with a band of her friends take on the government and the Partials to try desperately to find a cure.
There are some really great things about this book-- Kira is a headstrong and engaging protagonist, although I at times sided with Marcus, her boyfriend because I can understand his desire for self preservation over a 1% chance Kira's crazy plan is going to succeed. Samm is a Partial that Kira meets and without giving too much away, their interactions are fascinating and moving at times.
The strong aspects of this book are overshadowed by some of the odd science elements. Perhaps because I'm a scientist, I can't get past bad science in books. Kira describes different forms of the virus as Blob and Spore. Yes, exactly those names. The use of Spore in viral transmission is just so wrong on so many levels. If we are talking about mold or fungi, fine. Just for kicks, I looked up "viral spore" on Google, and my first hit was Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki, and the definition was as follows: "Viral spores were developed by the One Sith scientist Vul Isen during the Second Imperial Civil War as a means of pacifying rebellious worlds without committing substantial Imperial forces. They were capable of poisoning all living organisms on a planet's oceans within days, effectively rendering it uninhabitable. These viral spores were deployed in canisters and were used to great effect as part of the Final Protocol as part of the Genocide of Mon Calamari on Dac. Later, Sith-Imperial bombers of Squadron Quad Victor deployed these during the destruction of Da Soocha."
OK, so I don't know who any of those people are (where do Star Wars fans come up with this stuff?) but I digress. My point is, the science in this book is bad, and I couldn't really get over it.
*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD* So one of the big reveals is that a pheromone is the cure for the virus and that a small amount in a syringe has the ability to interact with the virus and cure the child. What?! First of all, hormones don't cure viruses, our own immune system does. Second, hormone injections are given over a prolonged period of time to give the desired effect. Not to mention there is a high rate of allergic reactions to these things. That was kind of the last straw for me.
This is not the only book that had these issues. Sometimes even books I really liked had this issue. Case in point, Lauren Oliver's book Delirium, showcased the illness Amor Deliria Nervosa. I get where she's coming from, but defining love as an illness was just too much for me-- and these people are basically getting a frontal lobotomy? Who would ever pass this law? That said, she writes beautifully, and at least she named the illness properly, versus Blob.
OK, nuff said. :-) Have any of you been frustrated when there is bad science in dystopian fiction?