Isolation by Dan Wells
Two decades before the events of Partials, the world was locked in a different battle for survival: a global war for the last remaining oil reserves on the planet. It was for the Isolation War that the American government contracted the ParaGen Corporation to manufacture the Partials—our last hope in reclaiming energy independence from China. And it was on these fields of battle that the seeds of humanity’s eventual destruction were sown..
Of all the Novella / Novelette size stories I have read recently, Isolation is one of the better ones. Isolation is a prequel of sorts to Partials, centred around the actions of Theta-class Partial Heron (who we met at the end of Partials). Set during the Isolation War, we get alternating chapters between the infiltration of / battle with the Chinese army, and birth / training of new Partials.
The birth / training scenes provide some fascinating background knowledge and eventually insight into how the Partials tick, while infiltration / battle scenes shows how the Isolation War planted the seeds of self worth within the Partials – the realisation that they should be treated better than just tools in a human war for resources.
Heron is probably the best developed character in the Partials Sequence so far, and like all of Wells’ best developed characters, it probably has something to do with her non-standard brain. John Cleaver is sociopathic, Michael Shipman is schizophrenic, and Heron has been designed without an empathy module (which I guess makes her the Partial version of a sociopath). Wells just has a way of giving these characters strong conflict arcs with “normal” humanity, getting them to realise they aren’t normal, forcing them to try and be normal, and then watching what happens as they try to come to terms with not being normal and accept who they are.
Fans of Partials will love Isolation. For people who were lukewarm on Partials but really enjoy Wells’ other work (like me), I think you will enjoy this story much more than Partials. For those who haven’t read Partials… I think things are pretty well explained and there aren’t too many little in-jokes so there is a good chance you will enjoy it.
Ryan Lawler, 8.8
The terror of robots becoming sentient and realising just how mistreated they are, is an ever-present horror of my life. And while my spare-room isn’t packed with canned foods and a shotgun, that’s only due to my unhappy bank balance and general laziness.
‘Isolation’ by Dan Wells has only reawakened that horror, though this time I’m in perfect agreement with the robots, or Partials as they are called. Isolation is a prequel novella to ‘Partials’, the first in a trilogy of books that I simply have no intention to read at the moment.
Despite how much I loved Isolation.
Put on to the short story by my FBR Cast co-host, Ryan, I found Isolation to be a thrilling and fascinating read. Sadly, it is a prequel set well in advance of the primary story, a story that appears to have none of the hooks that Isolation did.
Isolation tells the story of one of the Partials in two forms; her birth and training as well as the mission which, presumably, kicks off the issues humans obviously had to deal with prior to Partials. It is a fascinating and haunting look inside the mind of a machine bred to kill; her thoughts, her desire, her drive.
Also, she kicks ass!
This is most definitely worth your time, whether or not you’ve read Partials.
Joshua S Hill, 8/10
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