Top critical review
4 people found this helpful
A good adventure story
on 11 April 2016
Fluency seems to be one of those books that polarises people. Either they love it, or they hate it. There's not too much middle ground. The criticism revolves mostly around the fact that the most active, problem-solving, point-of-view is a woman. It's not realistic! She's a special snowflake! It's all romance! The men are emasculated! Wah! Kick, scream, throw rattle!
Right, sure. Like it would be any more realistic if the main POV was male. Nobody would be complaining about a male hero's ability to communicate with alien intelligences or climb into battle armour and blow hell out of acidic space slugs. Get over it, fellas. Go back to your basements.
Fluency is a good First Contact adventure story. Not a brilliant one, but neither is it so terrible as to deserve all those brickbats. Wells has dressed her team of explorers with the trappings of a near-future hard SF tale, with references to PLSS and uncomfortable zero-g lifestyles. It's not always as successful as it ought to be, but the real objective here is to show how out on a limb they are, how isolated and up against it. The main focus of the exploration is on the problem-solving and the world-building, effectively setting up a massive interstellar conflict to be explored in future volumes.
Holloway is a decent lead character. She isn't the absolute Mary-Sue some of the reviewers have made her out to be, having realistic limitations and learning curves. Her opposite number, Alan Bergen, also the tentative love interest, on the other hand, is a contrary, moody bugger. There's an effective role reversal here and the gripers might well be complaining about that. My main issue is that the whole team itself, having spent the best part of a year in a tight space travelling to the artifact, just don't gel together at all. If I was Mission Control, I'd never have put those five in space together.
It's not entirely satisfying, but it's certainly a good adventure story, and I'm interested to see where it goes from here.