Monday, September 15, 2014

Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells

Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells is what 2001: A Space Odyssey would’ve been if the monolith had actually talked to the crew.

NASA has known about an alien spaceship parked in the Asteroid Belt since the 1960s but has kept the information from the public.  All efforts to establish radio contact have been met with silence.  In the early 21st century, NASA finally develops the technology required to send six astronauts to the ship to discover its secrets. 

Dr. Jane Holloway is a linguist and a reluctant astronaut recruited by NASA to communicate with any possible aliens.  As soon as their capsule docks with the mysterious ship, she begins to hear voices.  She not only has a hard time convincing herself they are real, but most of her crew as well. 

When the mission takes a disturbing turn that not even the highly trained astronauts are prepared for, it’s Jane’s connection to the ship that becomes their only hope for survival.

Fluency was a finely written derelict spaceship story.  Wells’ style and language are beautiful and descriptive without relying on clichĂ©.  Wells does not overly explain the science behind the ship's gadgets, but gives us just enough to make them all seem plausible without bogging the story down. 

I liked how the alien cultures that the ship reveals to Jane Holloway sounded very different from one another, even among individuals within a species.  Too many sci-fi stories depict aliens as one monolithic culture where all individuals share the same values.  I prefer my aliens to be, well, more human and unique between individuals.  Besides drone-like insectoid aliens, that just seems more realistic to me and Wells does a fine job of it in this book.

I only had some minor nit-picks.  The main characters ruminated too much for my taste, making me skip pages at a time to get back to the action.  I also thought the ending was too abrupt; I got the feeling I had just read the opening chapter of a longer work rather than a complete work in itself.  Fluency's sub-title is "Confluence Book 1," so this was obviously by design, but I'm not a fan of the style.

Fluency is Wells' debut novel and an impressive effort that I enjoyed.  It hit all the right notes that a derelict spaceship story should hit.  The novel only hints at the strange galaxy awaiting humanity, so I look forward to the alien wonders that Wells introduces us to in the sequel.

Fluency is available on Amazon as an ebook and paperback.

[Note: Fluency was purchased by the reviewer.]


DED said...

Beautiful cover art!

DED said...

Now available in audio.