Title: Dalí by E.M. Hamill
Published by: NineStar Press
Genre: Queer SFF
Reviewed by: Alex
What to Expect: When we meet Dalí Tamareia, they’re like Princess Leia combined with Han Solo in that first moment they met, except with more drugs, more sex, more implants, and more time in emergency care than a Sol Fed Ambassador should have to endure. This sci-fi novel goes fast and, damn, is it good.
Dalí Tamareia has everything—a young family and a promising career as an Ambassador in the Sol Fed Diplomatic Corps. Dalí’s path as a peacemaker seems clear, but when their loved ones are killed in a terrorist attack, grief sends the genderfluid changeling into a spiral of self-destruction.
Fragile Sol Fed balances on the brink of war with a plundering alien race. Their skills with galactic relations are desperately needed to broker a protective alliance, but in mourning, Dalí no longer cares, seeking oblivion at the bottom of a bottle, in the arms of a faceless lover, or at the end of a knife.
The New Puritan Movement is rising to power within the government, preaching strict genetic counseling and galactic isolation to ensure survival of the endangered human race. Third gender citizens like Dalí don’t fit the mold of this perfect plan, and the NPM will stop at nothing to make their vision become reality. When Dalí stumbles into a plot threatening changelings like them, a shadow organization called the Penumbra recruits them for a rescue mission full of danger, sex, and intrigue, giving Dalí purpose again.
Risky liaisons with a sexy, charismatic pirate lord could be Dalí’s undoing—and the only way to prevent another deadly act of domestic terrorism.
Having come off a spate of great books lately, I started this one expecting very little.
Now I have the misfortune of trying to put words together after my mind has been blown. This is not an easy task, I assure you. Do I start with the world-building? The characters? The social issues? The pace? The twists and turns? Yes, I’ll start there because there is no question, this thing’s got more-curves-than-a-super-
Oh, yes. That’s right. There is a race of third-gender changelings in which their physical bodies take on different primary and secondary sex characteristics at will or, at times, at pheromone rush. Wow. So, as a genderqueer individual for whom this is the ultimate fantasy, this is simply so cool to see in print. Virtual print. Whatever. This would be so amazing.
Cut to bigotry. Of which there is plenty, thanks to the New Puritan Movement. Sci-fi, at its best, showcases the challenges and triumphs of the modern world and Dalí is no exception. In this case, it takes on human trafficking, queer bashing, reproductive rights, and corporate power. The writing could have easily descended into a lecture-bound space adventure. It didn’t. There wasn’t a single moment within the book in which the flow faltered thanks to having things explained. Hamill, it seems, is of the ilk that entertainment comes first and delivered on that premise.
Oooh. The characters. Oh, lord. The characters. From Dalí to Gor to Lord Rhix to to to. The characters jump off the page whether we get to spend five minutes or fifty pages with them. Take, for instance, the casual mention of the nostrils in the middle of Gor’s blue forehead, while giving it all he’s got to pull Dalí out of their long streak of self-destruction.
And speaking of self-destruction. Who knows if that—or if there’s something more altruistic—is the reason Dalí swaps up his ambassadorship for something a little more undercover. Where they meet Lord Rhix: killer, pirate, black marketeer, purveyor of silk wardrobes, sexpot. Um. I mean bad guy.
From there, all sorts of things happen. Can’t tell you what they are because spoilers. But when you get there, give Ouros a hello from me.
What you may not like: While there are several happy endings, the happily ever after is…well…sigh…the sexy pirate. And. Well. Can I just say I really, really hope this turns out to be a series? With Dalí Tamareia as the kind of non-misogynist non-gender-bound James Bond in space? Because never-ending bad-ass Dalí Tamareia stories would be really amazing.
Also…*trigger warning*…fade-to-black sexual violence and continuing threats thereof.
What you will love: This book is tighter than my grandmother’s wallet. It is so fast and so fun. Because there was so much happening with third gender rights, it could have easily fallen into the trap of going into lecture mode—you know, having too much purpose for the story. It didn’t. There was a context in terms of reproductive rights, violence, and bigotry but these threads were nuanced and not a word was printed that wasn’t in total support of the story.
Alex claims to read more than any normal, healthy adult should though the rest of the Binge on Books team would beg to differ. You can read all of his reviews here.
Connect with Alex on Twitter: @Alex_deMorra