Dr. Jane Holloway, an internationally respected linguist, has been asked to act as Earth’s ambassador on a journey to an apparently abandoned spaceship that’s on a collision path with an asteroid. The ship is far from abandoned, however, as Jane begins to communicate telepathically with a creature that insists that the fate of humanity (and beyond) is in her hands. But can she trust this creature that can only speak to her? And what will she do with a crew that’s becoming violent and mutinous?
When writing science fiction, it’s easy to get so caught up in a plot that everything else falls by the wayside. Aliens are great, but things like good dialog and character development are necessary for a novel to transcend its genre. Author Jennifer Foehner Wells focuses as much on these details as she does on the stranded Ei’Brai and the space slugs, making Fluency a novel as interested in the complicated history of its characters as it is in fighting bloodthirsty aliens. The dialog is natural and entirely believable, making it easy to get caught up in the action without being distracted by characters that speak like they’re in a made-for-TV sci-fi flick.
What might be the most impressive part of FLUENCY is the attention paid to each character, making them not one-note stock characters (there are no Red Shirts here!) but interesting, complicated individuals. We spend the entire novel questioning where our loyalties should lie, and this unreliability on the part of Ei’Brai and Jane makes for some wonderful tension in the novel. Her supporting characters are equally as compelling, and there are few (if any) that seem like an afterthought or, worse, nothing more than a sacrifice for an angry alien.
Refreshingly, Wells resists the urge to let the love story between Jane and Bergen overshadow the greater issues in the novel: Jane’s journey to self-discovery and, of course, her quest to save the Speroancora. While their affair is interesting and gives each character greater depth and development, never does it seem cheesy or overpowering. And, as a bonus, neither does it serve to undermine Jane as a strong female protagonist. Her longing for Bergen is equal to his longing for her, and he often assumes a more submissive role in their relationship (a breath of fresh air for the often male-dominated world of sci-fi).
FLUENCY is a great read for sci-fi fans and general readers alike. A smart concept, natural dialog and great character development make this a page-turner.