Author: E.M. Hamill
Publisher: NineStar Press
Length: 253 Pages
At a Glance: One of my favorite trans science fiction novels of the year! 5 stars and a page turner.
Reviewed By: Ben
Blurb: 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.
Review: What attracted me to this story was the promise of gender-bending aliens and multifaceted sexualities, with the added bonus of a high-speed plot, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Dalí Tamareia is a third-gender changeling, a neuter species of third-gender humans which can present as masculine or feminine or gender neutral, but I’d say for most of the book Dalí presents as female, which I thought was pretty cool and a great example of feminism in science fiction.
Dalí also has a polygamous relationship with a cis gay man and a cis woman, who is pregnant with their child (all three of them being genetic donors). Their extended family has long been involved in world politics, with both their parents being prominent world leaders. Dalí was an ambassador to Sol Fed and on track to becoming one of the worlds’ great peacemakers, until their entire nuclear family was killed in a terrorist attack.
The story starts with Dalí after the attack, in the middle of hitting rock bottom. They are addicted to illegal drugs, cage fight for thrills, and generally are trying to kill themselves. Being with a third-gender changeling is seen as extremely dirty and deceiving, so when Dalí revenge fucks one of the virginal sons of the president of Sol Fed and the brother to Jon Batterson, one of Dalí’s great rivals, they’re hunted by Batterson and left for dead in a gutter.
When Dalí wakes up from a coma, they have a new lease on life and officially quit as ambassador, looking to get away from politics. However, with the help of their well-intentioned crechemate (blood brother), they quickly find themselves tangled in a terrorist plot which points to Batterson Robotics. Dalí may be the only one who understands the depths Batterson will go to cover up his crimes and is therefore everyone’s last hope to help bring peace to the galaxy, but this time they’re going to do it their way—by breaking a few heads.
Dalí is clearly a physical person, but it was intriguing their crechemate is an empath. I thought that was a good choice for a person who is capable of hiding much of what they are emotionally feeling through stark physicality. Part of me wondered what Dalí offered their friendship in return, but if I had to guess, I’d say Dalí’s crechemate sees the great service Dalí is capable of offering the galaxy and is proud to be a part of that purpose.
Dalí’s violent tendencies and free sexual expression isn’t all fun and games, however. They are also surprisingly romantic and have budding feelings for a woman who is probably going to betray them. When they are deep undercover, they also fall for Lord Rhix, head of the international black market. Dalí’s soft heart is an incredible testimony to their character, but in a lot of ways that made their sexual escapades more sorrowful to me than erotic. I found myself deeply affected by Dalí’s loneliness, which they hide in brash behavior. They seemed sexually carefree, but I felt the weight of their choices.
Along with the drama, this story was packed with action. Dalí is one hell of a fighter, and I loved watching them kick serious ass. There were space battles, hand-to-hand fights, gruesome alien tournaments, and some pretty intensely sexual sparring matches. Despite the violence and thrills, the premise of the story struck me as something more akin to the nature of peace, and how we foster it. Dalí was on track to become a great peace-maker, but throughout the novel they find their place as one of the worlds’ great peace-keepers. In other words, using their physical nature to encourage openness and communication.
I loved the message, the depth of characters and the world-building. This is exactly the type of book I love to read. My only regret is that I felt Dalí’s happy ending was slightly out of reach; call it a happy-for-now ending. Luckily this is a series, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next one.
You can buy Dalí here: