REVIEW: Dali by E.M. Hamill
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.
Dear E.M. Hamill, I stumbled upon your book by accident when I was reading Amazon reviews for another book and decided to check out more reviews by somebody whose review I enjoyed.
I decided to take a chance on your book, and I am very glad I did. However I want to warn romance readers that this book IS NOT A ROMANCE. The last sentence is not trying to signal the beginning of romance either – not at all! It signals at something dark, dangerous and complicated, something Dali did as part of the rescue mission (even if it ended up being sexually satisfying for them too).
There is another person in the book whom Dali met early enough but ended up having a strictly business arrangement with for 99 percent of the story. At the end basically this person is raising the question whether flirting is out of the question and Dali seemed to be okay with that. However, nothing happens on the page and if the story were to continue it may or may not happen in the next book. I strongly suspect that a second book is possible, because this book ends without answering pretty big question Dali needs answered and it is hinted that it could be answered later, but we shall see I guess.
Now when I told you what this book is not, I can tell you what this story is. I thought it was a great science fiction with the excellent, detailed world building, complicated political fights taking place and a great narrator called Dali. In the blurb Dali is called gender-fluid changeling and that’s how I imagine them and think about them – gender-fluid human being. However, in order not to misstate the author’s intention as to who Dali is, I will quote from the glossary at the end of the book.
“Third-gender: An intersex human being, usually with a dominant set of male or female reproductive organs.
Changeling Third-gender: A genetic mutation within the third-gender population, these individuals possess neither male nor female gonads and are incapable of reproduction. Their anatomy has specialized hormonal glands, which allow them to assume of a male or female, at will. They possess a vaginal-like organ without a cervix or uterus, and spongy, nerve-filled tissue in the mons, or pubic area, which can become internally or externally engorged. When externally erect the mons can serve the sexual function of male genitalia.”
The book is very well written and as the blurb tells you at the beginning of the story, Dali is in a spiral of self – destruction. Dali’s career in the diplomatic corps was doing very well and their emphatic talents and pacifist leanings made them very well suited to the work they excelled at.
Till one day their beloved young husband and pregnant wife were killed in the explosion and Dali had been reliving that explosion for several months. The reader can feel Dali’s grief and Dali is self-destructing, they are looking for fights, for dangerous sex, for alcohol; anything that can give them oblivion. One of their oldest friends suggests Dali visit the planet where he learned the defense system which is part of the philosophy Dali tried to live by before the attack claimed the lives of his family.
The visit to the planet seems to help Dali a little bit to start living although of course their grief does not magically disappear or anything like that. However very soon after Dali’s stay on the planet began, somebody from the mercenary organization that is mentioned in the blurb recruits them. They learned that changelings had been disappearing and as much as Dali concentrates on their own grief they decide to participate in the mission that may help them to shed light on what was going on.
Dali was such an interesting character, somebody who lived whole life as a pacifist (Dali served and very well trained in self-defense, they just never killed a person before), but who is now discovering where darker desires may lead them , even if such dark desires serve good purpose.
The large scale political fight in Dali’s home system was mixed up with the fight for the third gender folks’ rights and of course some of the political stuff invoked easy parallels with the today world, but I did not feel that it was anything else than part of this specific story, it made sense in this specific fictional world as well if that makes sense.
I think most of the characters in this story which had more than one sentence to speak were interesting and several had nice shades of grey, I would love to learn more about them as well, not just about Dali.
I want to end with another note about what this book was not. Despite throwing me into the detailed and interesting world, I did not feel that this book was an escapist read. I am not only talking about associations with the real world, not at all. I am talking about Dali’s state of mind. Dali at the end of the book feels better than in the beginning and it felt that the new path they chose to travel on suited them. However, I felt that for the most of the story they were in the dark state of mind, which made perfect sense, but we are in their head all the time and to me this was not a comfort read at all.