It’s been quite a while since I’ve bought and read any new science-fiction by any but a select circle of writers. My favorites have been Jerry Pournelle (who doesn’t write much any more, unfortunately), Lois McMaster Bujold, David Sherman, and Dan Cragg (who has completely retired). But completely by chance I happened upon a new writer, Jennifer Foehner Wells, who has a first novel out: Fluency.
Now, not everyone with a first novel is a Tom Clancy, whose first, The Hunt for Red October, was an instant classic. But Wells’s book is in that league, I feel. Think I’m exaggerating? I will admit to only being slightly less than halfway through the book, but I am finding it a very worthy read, and hard to put down. Since I have it on Kindle, this means I can carry it around and read it any time, so this isn’t a bad thing. But this book is fascinating, and I am looking forward to its conclusion! I understand Jen is working on a sequel already, and this is good news.
Fluency is a “first contact” novel, meaning that it is about first human contact with an extraterrestrial race. And it’s near future as well. Pretty much current technology, so it isn’t hard to relate to. Let me repeat the first part of the story synopsis:
NASA discovered the alien ship lurking in the asteroid belt in the 1960s. They kept the Target under intense surveillance for decades, letting the public believe they were exploring the solar system, while they worked feverishly to refine the technology needed to reach it.
The ship itself remained silent, drifting.
Dr. Jane Holloway is content documenting nearly-extinct languages and had never contemplated becoming an astronaut. But when NASA recruits her to join a team of military scientists for an expedition to the Target, it’s an adventure she can’t refuse.
The ship isn’t vacant, as they presumed.
I am so glad the author didn’t choose to start the book on earth, and painstakingly delve into the assembly of the crew, and all the technical details. She gets pretty much right into it, and leaves whatever background information for a few quick flashbacks — which do not at all detract from the plot. The crew is wonderfully human, and not a bunch of perfect jocks (like you expect astronauts might be). They have realistic characters, and are developed pretty much “just right”.
I recommend this book for those of my readers who are looking for a good SF read. Buy it Here.