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I went into this book already loving the concept of the story. I was pleasantly surprised that even though I thought I knew where the story would go, but there were plenty of twists, turns, and surprises in store.
Summary with very, very minor spoilers (How else can I describe the storyline):
The book focuses around a female linguist with extensive experience in field and emergency situations (although she tries to suppress those life experiences). As an expert in the field of languages and communication, a former leader of a team in a first-contact situation with an isolated human tribe, and possessing a demonstrated ability to manage stress and react to emergencies, she is the first candidate chosen by NASA for a top secret mission.
As part of the story, it is revealed that the Roswell crash was actually a shuttle from a much larger ship located in the asteroid belt. The huge ship has been seemingly abandoned for decades, now floating dead in space. After recently discovering that a comet is on a direct path for the ship, NASA sends a mission to the ship before the comet can destroy it. The mission is meant to be the first of two. The first is to survey what is there and report back so that the second mission will be prepared. The main character is along to take charge in the event of a first contact situation with anyone still left on the ship.
After arrival, a single survivor makes contact with our linguist... in a rather unconventional way. We also come to find that the entire crew was killed by some kind of bio-weapon. Only the navigator, a somewhat different being than the rest of the aliens, survived alone for the past several decades.
Without giving too much of the storyline away, we also eventually learn that the aliens in question are members of a coalition of intelligent life that are united against a single threat, and had originally visited earth in search of allies.
The book did end, as I expected, with a cliffhanger... It is definitely set up for another book to follow. Although I am always irritated when there is more story to be told past the end of a book, but it will make me look forward to the next one (PLEASE let there be a next one!).
As I said, I went through the book thinking I knew what was around the next turn, only to be gladly proven wrong.
The narrator does a pretty good job as well. While isn't the best narrator ever, the narration felt believable enough for a 5-star rating, although I probably would have given a 4.5 if possible.
I think that there were a few issues in writing style and execution in a few small places, but I loved the rest of the book so much that I couldn't warrant giving anything less than 5 stars. I almost couldn't stop listening, and that's what I want in an audiobook.
36 of 44 people found this review helpful
When NASA’s secret small team of specialist experts reach the derelict alien BDO (Big Dumb Object) in Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama”, the reader got a fabulous tour of soaring wonder and possibility. When it happens here, we instead get the inner monologue of an adolescent girl-crush which is frequently interrupted by some space opera. There is a heavy dose of romance in this debut novel, and a lot of wish-fullfillment that makes far too much of the plot predictable as our protagonist, expert (and civilian) linguist Dr. Jane Holloway, overcomes a series of challenges that stem from the less capable (and military) men that accompany her. I found parallels with Gary Gibson’s “Stealing Light", which also features a heroine in psychic possession of an alien derelict starship, as well as James Cameron’s “Aliens”, which had similar survival-horror action scenes. Here in “Fluency”, Jane is too consistently successful for the dramatic tension to build sufficiently, and the other characters seem accessory. The pacing is greatly improved by a second flashback narrative alternating with the main one, providing both exposition into the mission as well as depth for the character. I felt like the opportunity was missed to create a wildly alien culture, finding instead a slightly varied flavor of humanoid Star Trek style beings, although a wider field of cosmic players is alluded to. Foehner Wells’ forthcoming follow-up novel, “Remanence”, will hopefully delve into these more imaginative possibilities, and downplay or even forego the romance altogether.
20 of 25 people found this review helpful
I felt slightly bothered by the story through out. I had the feeling I was reading a story written by a bright high school student rather than that of an adult.
The male characters were particularly badly written. One character is clearly meant to be genius bad boy and so constantly thinks about six and acts dumb when it comes to understanding relationships but then is written to have thoughts and feelings that are totally at odds with his established character such as reading to the body language between two people and noticing exact shades of cosmetics. It seems unlikely to me that the two would coexist and it seems more likely that he's simply ended up being written as internally as a rude, sec obsessed lesbian because the author really doesn't understand men.
The technology also has a distinct feeling of sci-fi magic. The book even makes reference to the "Clarke quote" about "any sufficiently advanced technology..." but it feels abused here to simply explain away any inconvenient plot problems.
Overall these problems spoilt a story that was never all that interesting anyway. The ending is meant to be a cliff hangar but I'm profoundly uninterested in what may come next in any case and don't think I'll be listening to any further books in this series.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Page turner type fast developing "near future" action. A women as the hero with that issue being well developed in current context. Great storytelling. Can't wait for sequel.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
A really interesting and compelling trilogy about telepathic alien squids, intrepid deep space travel and first encounters with alien cultures. I very much enjoyed the pacing and the sci-fi elements of Wells' work. She clearly has researched and thought out all of the concepts (from culture to society and science) she introduces. I also like the idea of humans being the legendary and mythic race in galactic history.
Unfortunately, it does suffer from an obligatory romantic sub plot that frankly drags down and distracts from the interesting stuff. The main romantic interest is written like a jerk who calculates every move to get into bed with the protagonist, and sulking when he doesn't get his way. Also I got tired of the protagonist throwing 'tremulous smiles' at him. Disappointing, as her relationship with the alien squid is far more nuanced, proving that Wells can write complex relationships. Just apparently not between humans.