Maven is a smart science fiction romance set in an undersea research facility called Endure. For anyone from my generation, it will bring back fond memories of the television series SeaQuest, complete with dolphin tubes and the plural dichotomy of civilian scientists along side military personnel. The science behind the facility is introduced in bite-sized pieces and wonderful descriptions that will appeal to both hard science fiction lovers and those who may not be into heavy detail. The crew is introduced in small doses as well so they are easy to connect with, but you do get a real sense of the huge size of the facility and the vast number of people living and working there.
The female protagonist, Lydia, is a young, accomplished genius with a PhD and a Nobel Prize already under her belt at the age of twenty-one. She is a strong female character who cares deeply about her work. Her life's ambition, starting from age twelve, was to land a position on the Endure. Socially awkward at times, Lydia is easy for the reader to relate to despite her high level of intelligence and achievements. Her vulnerabilities make her accessible and her interactions with Daniel are fun to read.
Daniel, the male protagonist, starts with an air of arrogant, womanizing reputation of ill repute that clashes with Lydia's expectations. As a fellow child prodigy, she had hoped that Daniel would be someone she could relate to. Daniel, who lacks motivation to do anything beyond what is minimally necessary, suddenly has all the motivation he needs to get his life in order when Lydia offers him a challenging pursuit. I would have liked to have seen more challenge, however, as Daniel is very quick to turn himself around for her and everything seems to fall in line rather easily. I suppose I was hoping for a bit more conflict or missteps between them before Daniel decided to put himself straight.
The main story line centers around a mysterious research project that Lydia and Daniel stumble onto that has global-disaster implications. They must work together to discover who they can trust and what can be done to stop it. The research is well done, it is a unique angle and I liked the technology they used in their research and sleuthing. There are times when the story gets a bit stalled by the details and explanations of technology and microbiology, but I know many readers will eat these details up and ask for more.
I did have one minor thing that irked me in regards to the research and Daniel's department - not one of the "Tech" people in Daniel's department (that we hear of, anyway) is female. Daniel, his assistant Carston and the two experts he calls in are all male. As a female who works in the computer and web technologies field, I found this a bit annoying. I think at least one of the computer experts could have been female. The computer technologies field is seen as a male-centric field still, and I was hoping that Maven would break away from this perception.
The pace of the book was well done. It kept me turning pages well into the night and I was excited to see what might happen next, both with the story line and between Daniel and Lydia. Some of the dialogue, however, felt forced at times, especially the first meeting between Lydia, the Captain and Dr. Gerardi. I just had a hard time picturing that line of conversation actually taking place, although it did serve its purpose in giving the reader an understanding or perspective into character motivations, which I believe was the point behind it. As a dialogue-reader, this unfortunately took me out of the story at times, but I don't think it will bother the majority of readers.
Overall, Maven is a unique and enjoyable read that I would recommend to both Science Fiction Romance readers and general Science Fiction readers. It is the start of a series and I look forward to reading the next book.