Review of “Fluency” by Jennifer Foehner Wells

FluencyThis was a difficult book to read. On the one hand, the prose is well written and flows nicely. The characters are also well drawn and have a lot of depth. Unfortunately, however, there isn’t a consistent plot.

In the book: For decades, NASA has known about a large alien ship parked in the asteroid belt. They’ve been keeping it a secret, preparing for the time they could send a mission to investigate.

The book follows two of the specialists on that mission: Dr. Jane Holloway, the language specialist in charge of deciphering the aliens communications; Dr. Bergen, an engineer. Both of whom are harbouring crushes on the other.

Which is the ideal setup for a realistic sci-fi book mixed with a romance. And that’s what we get at the start of the book. However, about halfway through it takes a sharp turn and we’re suddenly in a galactic battle between good and evil.

Which threw me off and damaged my confidence in the book at that point. It was still well written enough, though, that I kept reading. Unfortunately, it was just a sign of things to come. At around the 85% mark in the book, all of the problems are solved with a Deus Ex Machina that required no input from the heroes. Then the romance isn’t resolved satisfactorily either.

It all just seemed to fall apart in the end, and I have to admit skimming the last 7% just looking for anything close to a real ending.

Which is a shame. As I said, the writing style was excellent and there were good characters. While they didn’t have the realism of The Martian, I was very much enjoying the story that was being told until the whole thing started getting silly.

I’m also reading The Story Grid at the moment, and one of his explanations seems to fit here. Genres are like “Knock, knock” jokes. If you start a knock, knock joke, you have to continue to use those conventions. You can’t say:

Knock, knock

There was a young man from Kentucky,

Whose parents thought he was lucky.

Then there was a punchline. I don’t really know.

Overall, I give Fluency 1/5 stars (2/5 on Amazon) meaning that it wasn’t for me. It underscored for me, at least, the monumental importance of a good ending. A good beginning without an ending just leaves the reader feeling disappointed and a little betrayed.


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