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Publisher's Summary

NASA discovered the alien ship lurking in the asteroid belt in the 1960's. 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.

A disembodied voice rumbles inside Jane's head, "You are home".

Jane fights the growing doubts of her colleagues as she attempts to decipher what the alien wants from her. As the derelict ship devolves into chaos and the crew gets cut off from their escape route, Jane must decide if she can trust the alien's help to survive.

©2014 Jennifer Foehner Wells (P)2014 Jennifer Foehner Wells

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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  • Story

Great Concept, Loved the Story... I Want More!

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.

35 of 43 people found this review helpful

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Hindered by romance angle, entertaining though

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

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Disappointing

What disappointed you about Fluency?

I looked forward to this series - a couple of friends male and female) recommended it but sadly I found it to be mills and boon in space. The amount of angst and the laughable character development of the males made listening to the end difficult. Good concept.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Poor

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Performance was good - considering what the narrator had to work with.

What character would you cut from Fluency?

Any to varying degrees

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I "drug" myself away as quickly as possible.

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Someone who knows little about SF and doesn't mind horrible grammar.

What was most disappointing about Jennifer Foehner Wells’s story?

The hero, Jane, is supposed to be a linguist. Apparently, Foehner doesn't know that linguistics is an analytical, structural science, not a savant talent. Jane is not a linguist; she is a polyglot. The concept is old: a linguist on a first-contact mission who translates and empathizes with the aliens. But in Foehner's novel, the alien AI communicates psychically--in English! So, a linguist--Jane--is useless; any other character could have filled the hero role. At one point, a character "drug his eyes away from" an instrument panel. I "drug" myself away from this novel by the end of chapter 4, and wish that Audible still allowed returns and refunds.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

Yes.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

An old, but excellent concept. Many SF writers have used linguists for first contact and made the stories exciting. Perhaps Foehner should have read more of them, especially H. Beam Piper who investigated the possibilities of General Semantics for solving human-alien communication problems.

Any additional comments?

I won't be buying the sequels. How could other listeners think that this novel is 5 stars?

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Matthew
  • SEATTLE, WA, United States
  • 11-19-14

Time to learn a new language!

If you could sum up Fluency in three words, what would they be?

Fascinating<br/>Rich<br/>Engaging

What other book might you compare Fluency to and why?

This was a unique take. Maybe some of Ben Bova's or Alistair Reynolds work. Why unique? Well, the proantagonist is a female, which is unusual in speculative fiction, generally speaking. Her take on the story line was certainly unusual as well.

Which character – as performed by Susanna Burney – was your favorite?

The alien was unique, and well crafted. A difficult character to bring to life, and she did it well.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Not extreme, but it certainly made me think about some of the issues raised in the back story.

Any additional comments?

This is one of those stories that really does both grow on you, and sticks with you. It is also seems to set up a sequel, which would definitely be welcome. It was a credit well worth spending, and as long as you are into alien oriented scifi, I recommend this with no hesitation.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

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Fluency is anything but fluent

I'm not the kind of person who will rate a book badly if I hate a character, find it too gory, or didn't like the ending. My sensibilities are not easily offended, and I understand not every book is for every person. However, I do rate books badly when they don't work. Fluency is a fine example of a book that does not work, for a number of reasons.

Do you remember the Hyperion series? I appreciated, but didn't love, Hyperion, because when it comes to sci-fi adventure novels, I'm in the &quot;don’t tell me, show me&quot; camp. Long, drawn out histories of peoples or characters I've never met and have no investment in? No. Just no. Give me space exploration, with some real-time and compelling action, maybe with some solid science as a foundation, and I'm good. Spend chapters spinning millennia of tragedy for random civilizations, and you're guaranteed to lose me.

Thus was the case in Fluency. The writing was off, the intensity fell flat, and the character development was charicaturish. There were back stories, but they were unbelievable and seemed to come from a 14-year-old's hero fantasies. And the telepathy-as-a-tool-for-telling-half-the-novel thing was B.O.R.I.N.G. It's hard to craft a compelling story when it's mostly one lonesome and whiny being revealing everything in one woman's mind. There were so many devices used in this book that didn't work, I can't and won't list them all.

Fair warning to those looking at the description: this is not hard science fiction. I live for good hard sci-fi, and this in NO WAY resembles it. I kept having to talk myself into returning to the book, and finally at halfway I remembered I have 200 books with actual potential waiting. Abandoning this meh of a novel was then a no brainer.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Drags

Telegraphs its punch, would have been better suited to a novella. I was looking for something other than a series, and this is not. At least so far.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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This is barely sci-fi.

First up, I liked the narrator. Good work, good voice.
Spoilers ahead.

The story, however, I found really annoying. Poorly researched. Irrational and petty characters. Throw in a few cliches. Tech introduced merely as a story convenience rather than with any coherent planning. I wanted to see them all die in an explosion, but unfortunately I missed out.

This is a romance, mills and boon, bodice ripper, that happens to be set in space. But only 1 sex scene.

This is a story of trained astronauts who break rules and act like dicks. And then get infected with a virus that makes them act like dicks.

This is a race with scheming enemies who use nanotechnology to kill. But they only program their sneaky bots to kill 1/2 the species on board ship.

It's okay if you suspend disbelief and don't think too hard I suppose. This story just annoys me.

11 of 16 people found this review helpful

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If you are looking for a cerebral science fiction

This has happened to me in the pas and still I have no good reason why. The cover artwork caught my eye and then I had to listen, quickly adding to my audible wishlist. Then a couple weeks later Jennifer Foehner Wells decided to have me review it. I took it as a sign that this is going to be an amazing low tech science fiction spaceship exploration.

Fluency started off great. A NASA mission, sending modern astronauts to explore an alien spacecraft that they are hiding from the public. So many thing could be on the ship, awe inspiring technology, not to mention strange new life forms.

The summary says “The ship isn’t vacant, as they presumed.”, but really it almost is. There is one being, the ships navigator who just happens to be integrated into the ship, that only communicates via “telepathy”. Through this we learn of the alien race and why they have come looking for Earth.

If you are looking for a cerebral science fiction story, Fluency will be right up your alley. However if you are seeking a story full of fantastical technology and action, this will fall short.

All in all Fluency is story full of fully vetted characters. A little love, a little intrigue, and a lot of introspection. While I wasn’t full engaged throughout I am interested enough to see where the author will take this alien journey.

Susanna Burney’s performance left me wanting more. Characterizations were done, but barely different than the narration. I would have enjoyed it more if there would have been more distinct voices for everyone involved. Along with that it needed some emotions injected to everything. While this is a perfectly ok was to present an audiobook, I prefer more depth to the performances.

Even with all of that I look forward to hearing more from Burney. From the search I did on Audible it would seem that she is fairly new to the audiobook world. I have found, through listening to a ridiculous amount of audiobooks, that it sometimes takes a while for a narrator to find a solid voice or for my initial opinion to change.

Audiobook provided for review by the author.

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14 of 22 people found this review helpful

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One of the best sci-fi stories I've ever read!

Not only did I love the book, but I think Susanna Burney is the best narrator I've ever heard! I hope she performs the second book in the series.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Feanix
  • 06-26-15

Writing Feels Immature

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

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  • Marc
  • 01-24-15

Good Space Adventure

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

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  • vialde
  • 07-21-15

Didn't really like it

I found the characters reaction to their situation a little outlandish. Embodies some of the worst tropes in science fiction today.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Duncan
  • 03-31-15

Fast moving and refreshing.

I chose this title on a bit of a whim being both an unfamiliar author and narrator but I'm pleased I did. In some ways it's good old science fiction exploring a seemingly dead space hulk when sudden emergencies crop up, inimicable life forms appear and there's a good guy around but can they be trusted. The story moves on progressively and I looked forward to getting back to it each day. It was well read with good diction and performed believably. I look forward to a sequel.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Steven
  • 02-26-15

A bit simplistic

The story while interesting and engaging was a bit simplistic at times the writer more interested in gender role reversal than the science fiction story it should have been. It felt smug.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Leslie
  • 02-21-15

Unexpected entertainment

What made the experience of listening to Fluency the most enjoyable?

My first impression on listening was it’s a young adult book as the story unfolded it was more than that, although it unfolded with a slight predictability

Which character – as performed by Susanna Burney – was your favourite?

Jane Holloway

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. D. W. Wallace
  • 05-06-17

Wow, I love d every minute of this.

Great story, good cast of characters and very enjoyable. I look forward to the sexual.

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  • carl
  • 03-06-17

Hmmm not sure about this one

Not bad enough to return I'm half tempted to get the next in the series.. Kept me interested just, but mostly another one of those people act unprofessional (when they are professionals) and argue and fight and then the book ends...

Having said that if it was totally junk it would have one back, in slightly interested to see where the story goes.. The next in series is on my wish list maybe try it another day

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  • Kristin
  • 08-04-16

SPACE TRAVEL

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.