Dali by E. M. Hamill: 10/10 Stars

 

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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.

 

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Overall Rating: 10/10 stars

Leigh’s Review: 5/5 Stars

This book made me laugh within three paragraphs, and cry within three chapters. What’s that one line from Harry Potter? “You’re going to suffer, but you’re going to be happy about it?” Yeah, that’s my feeling about this book.

Dalí is a human changeling, able to shift between male, female, neither, or (I think) a bit of both. Though many other changelings seem to choose whichever gender they identify with and stay in that form, Dalí prefers to identify as neither and stays in a kind of gender-neutral state unless some kind of outside stimulus (danger, arousal, whatever) drives a physical change.

The plot revolves around third-gender reproductive rights, politics, and conniving. It’s gritty and dark—this is no Star Trek peace and love universe. There’s slavery, hate crimes, and terrorism. I won’t lie, I got a little bit lost on the finer subtleties of the plot. Politics are not my forte. But the overall theme—whether nonbinary humans (specifically changelings) should have the same rights as traditional genders—is something almost painfully parallel to real struggles. The universe created in Dalí has moved past concerns about sexuality or orientation, but changelings are a “mutation,” and thus different enough that the seemingly advanced human culture is wary of them.

As for Dalí as a character, they are exactly what I want to see more of in trans/NB fiction. Tough, unapologetic, unabashedly themself. There is some struggle throughout with whether or not they should conform to a gender in order to make those around them more comfortable, but it’s not overdone, and though the overall theme of the book does deal with gender and sexuality, I never felt like I was being bludgeoned with a gender studies textbook.

The writing is high quality, the story is high quality, the characters are genuine. This book is a wonderful breath of fresh air in the mire of trans fiction.

Maria’s Review: 5/5 Stars

I loved this book with all my heart, and don’t have an easy explanation for it.

The make-and-break of this story for me absolutely was Dalí. It’s a known fact I’m not a huge Sci-Fi reader. I love Star Wars, but generally have a hard time with different planets and suns and stars and species. And to be absolutely honest, some of it did cause problems for me in the beginning. I got confused a time or two and remembering names, places and species wasn’t always super easy.

But Dalí made it all fade into the background. The very first thing that made me love them, care for them and feel with them was heir grief. They grieved in a way that felt so real to me, that was so relatable – self-destructive, out of control, always somewhere between numb and in agony, saved and condemned by chemical substances and the oblivion sex promised to give. It felt REAL. Raw and painful, but so very real.

I won’t give away the many plot twists, turns and little sideways. I do believe they are best experiences completely unspoiled, because they were that good to me. What I do have to say is that Dalí as a character and a person was just… everything. They were flawed, their emotions were running high a lot, but they were always quick on their feet, still made stupid decisions, maybe a little bit in love with danger, not exactly in the best place mentally, snappy and they had a such a big mouth. Yeah, no surprise I absolutely adored them to the Mars and back (cheesy pun absolutely intended).

And on a side note, this book managed what not many stories can. I actually kind of felt with the villain who wasn’t really a villain. Or maybe he was but with redeeming qualities? Or I just really wanted to at least understand him a little bit the same way Dalí did, because their chemistry together was so… surprisingly fierce. Plus, bi rep = MY REP. It made me so, so happy.

There were some niggles I did have – yeah, I know. One thing that made me REALLY uncomfortable were some scenes between Dalí and the cis woman who was responsible for Dalí’s medical care after he got beaten up by a bunch of bigots. That woman made me feel uncomfortable on all kinds of levels. Her questions were super intrusive – even for a medic – and the way she sometimes interacted with Dalí had my skin crawling. Needless to say, when they had sex with each other I was ready to jump out of my skin. I’m not going to give too much away by saying A) I was spot on. And B) The explanation we got later made sense and did make me feel a bit better about the whole thing, but never redeemed the character. And it should be noticed that Dalí didn’t have a problem with the interactions when they happened, only I did. But still, little warning from me here.

Overall, I had a hard time putting this book down, I loved the plot twists and the writing, Dalí might be one of my favorite characters of all time and I cannot WAIT to read more about them and this universe and what comes next – because honestly, their story is so far from being over, even though the book did end in a satisfying way.

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One thought on “Dali by E. M. Hamill: 10/10 Stars

  1. Great reviews of an absolutely fantastic book. Dalí and Lord Rhix made the book for me, and the Princess Bride references kept me smiling even as the story went to some dark places.

    Like

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