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.
When I saw Dalí on Netgalley, I knew I had to give it a try. Netgalley has yielded me great sci-fi with fluid sexuality (Zen DiPietro’s Dragonfire Station series), and some great trans sci-fi (Dreadnought, by April Daniels), so I had no qualms checking out a fluid gender story.
Dalí, the titular character is well written, as is the story. I’ve come to expect this of LGBT sci-fi. LGBT and indie writers have always had to up their game when it comes to prose. It’s not fair, but these authors are under extra scrutiny due to methodologies and/or content. While traditionally-published works can kick along with weak story because the fans will buy anything that the author and publisher put out, this is not the case in the indie world, and especially so for those that write LGBT themes.
Sci-fi, along with fantasy has the ability for us to tackle issues with humanity under the guise of other-worldness. Racism, hatred, and bigotry are topics easily broached when the characters are aliens or elves. Star Trek was a pioneer in the late 1960s, and indies continue the noble tradition today.
Dalí tackles themes of rape, depression, sex trafficking, bigotry, hatred, eugenics, polygamy, and much more. The story is rife with action. The LGBT rights topics are there, as is a commentary on modern society, but it’s not “in your face,” or preachy. No one involved in Dalí is trying to convert us. The themes are almost an undercurrent. The sci-fi, other than setting, is pretty laid back too. The author took the popcorn sci-fi methodology, and just said that this or that is, without bogging down in the details that some sci-fi authors tend to do.
Over all, Dalí is a great sci-fi read. Those that may be skittish with LGBT-themed stories should be able to get into Dalí. Fans of LGBT works will appreciate an engrossing LGBT story that’s not focused on LGBT encounters. In a world that so often incorrectly associates LGBT with erotica, Dalí is a great read because of the story, and would fall apart if Dalí weren’t gender fluid.
I enjoyed Dalí, and at a risk of over-hyping the book, highly recommend reading this 4-star sci-fi novel.
E.M. (Elisabeth) Hamill writes adult science fiction and fantasy somewhere in the wilds of eastern suburban Kansas. A nurse by day, wordsmith by night, she is happy to give her geeky imagination free reign and has sworn never to grow up and get boring. Frequently under the influence of caffeinated beverages, she also writes as Elisabeth Hamill for young adult readers in fantasy with the award-winning Songmaker series. She lives in eastern Kansas with her family, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse.