Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells.
A few months ago, I cannot remember how, I learned about a new author, Jennifer Wells, was working on a new novel that was based on space travel. I followed her on Twitter and friended her on Facebook in hopes of getting some idea on what the book was going to be about, and when it might be released. A few weeks ago, I learned that the book had been released and immediately put it on my Amazon wishlist with the intention of reading it yet this summer. A few days ago, Jennifer mentioned that her book was available for the Kindle at a very reasonable price so I snagged it since I was getting to the end of another book I was reading.
So I purchased Fluency on Monday and finished it this morning, Wednesday. It isn’t because the book is short, it is about an average length, but when it comes to quality, in my opinion, it is well above average, especially for a new author.
A NASA craft called Providence is on a mission to Mars with a crew of five. At least that is the story for the public. Actually, the crew is on a mission to a huge spacecraft that was discovered in 1964. It seems that most of the U.S. space program has been geared toward studying this mysterious ship that is just hanging, apparently not functional, in the asteroid belt near Mars.
The story revolves around one astronaut on this mission in particular; a linguist named Jane Holloway. Jane is at the top of her field and was at the top of a very short list of linguists that NASA considered for the mission. Being someone who can quickly understand languages, spoken or written, it is her job to act as an ambassador to whomever may be residing on the “Target” as the ship is called.
After a year of travel from Earth, the crew of the Providence reaches the Target. Suddenly the heretofore thought to be a possible derelict ship comes to life. Jane is inundated with images of her past as a child and soon hears a voice in her head from the navigator of the ship, Ei’Brai the last sentient inhabitant of the craft. The remainder of her the Jane’s crew worry that she is being manipulated by the voice of the ship. Some want to leave immediately while others want to stay and learn as much as they can.
As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Jane is being groomed by Ei’Brai for an adventure that no human has ever experienced before.
Jennifer has written one of the strongest female characters in science fiction, since Ellen Ripley of Alien fame. Jane’s character is compassionate and maintains her humanity while establishing herself as a hero. Jane doesn’t use violence as her tool for being heroic, but rather uses her intellect and wits to analyze and resolve the obstacles that are thrown her way.
Another prominent member of the crew, Alan Bergen is an engineer/astronaut that tries to aid Jane along the way. Bergen believes in jane and somewhat reluctantly follows her lead to keep the rest of the crew on track.
Ei’Brai, the ship’s navigator was one of the most interesting characters written because as I read, I felt that at some points he was benevolent, while at others he was the real enemy to be feared and beaten. It isn’t until the end that we find out which. This was one of the most fun parts of reading Fluency
If there is a weakness to this story, it might be that the author, while doing an awesome job of developing her main characters, but I personally would have liked to known a bit more about the other members of the crew, particularly the motivations behind Walsh, the mission’s commander.
This story is a tapestry of action right from the opening lines. It never lets up with exception of some interludes and images of flashbacks caused by the ship’s navigator in the minds of some of the crew The situation on board becomes desperate and seemingly hopeless a few times, but thanks to Jane, Ei’Brai, and Bergen’s level-headedness many of the situations are solved in some very interesting ways.
This story is very open-ended and would seem to be begging loudly for a sequel, which would be fun, but I personally think this story stands very well alone. I wonder if Jennifer didn’t intend for the reader to use their imagination to continue the story.
Fluency is a real page-turner; I really hated to stop reading and found that even though I had other things I should have been doing, I kept drifting back to see what happens next.
I recommend this story for sci-fi fans that enjoy a good book that deals with humanity and how we might behave during an encounter with an unknown. Jennifer has a good grasp on how a situation such as what is in the story might shake out. I am very much looking forward to her future work
Well, there it is…