Dr. Jane Holloway is a professor of linguistics, approached by NASA to take part in a mission to a (possibly) derelict spaceship. The ship has been inside our solar system for decades but only now do we have the technology to explore it. And if there are still aliens on board, who better to act as a translator?
I like first contact scenarios, both in books and films. There’s something I find very intriguing about the whole premise. How would we cope with the introduction of an alien species and how would we understand a being that is likely to be completely outside our frame of reference?
Fluency focuses on the understanding part, literally.
With exception of a few flashback chapters early on, the bulk of the novel takes place either inside the expedition capsule or inside the alien ship, nicknamed the Target. And the claustrophobic atmosphere does work will with some of the chapters as the expedition is faced with unexpected perils and some begin to question each others sanity.
Small amounts of detail are given about the Target’s crew and civilization, although I suspect the bulk of that is being saved for the second book in the series. Based on the ending of this novel and the excerpt from the new one, I expect this universe will expand quite quickly.
One small downside is that the novel is told primarily from Jane’s perspective, with a few chapters focusing on one of the other members of the team. As such the other 4 members have limited character growth. Also while I didn’t find the notion of a romantic entanglement between Jane and the second narrator unrealistic or objectionable, it did seem to be a bit much at times.
But those are only minor quibbles. Overall, I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading part two, Remanence.