If you’re into queer sci-fi stories with an interesting lead and a lot of world building, Dalí is definitely the book for you.
Dalí contains sexually explicit content, which is only suitable for mature readers, and scenes of violent death.
The protagonist of the book, Dalí Tamareia, has everything. They seem to have a good life, with a family as well as a promising career as an Ambassador in the Sol Fed Diplomatic Corps. However, Dalí soon experiences grief when their family is killed during a terrorist attack. The events send our lead into grief, and it’s interesting to see how the genderfluid changeling is able to get back on their feet.
Here’s the official synopsis:
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.
As far as my opinion goes, you can’t have a sci-fi story that has different worlds, races, and languages, unless the author is able to do justice to world building. While the protagonist is the one readers will feel connected to, they also need to get a sense of the world he or she is living in.
Author E.M. Hamill does an impressive job in Dalí with regards to building the world as well as creating a lead that has issues to deal with. I’m not necessarily a sci-fi reader but if I do pick up a book from the genre I need it to be enjoyable and Dalí delivered.
The main character Dalí is described as a third gender changeling. This also means that they have the ability to change their body to male or female. If they prefer, they can also choose to remain in a ‘neutral’ state. Changing their body also means they can increase their muscle mass, facial appearance, etc.
I really liked reading about such a different lead in a story. E.M. Hamill also did a great job when it came to describing how and why the protagonist’s body changed and what they felt.
A lot of times heroes and heroines are depicted as tough characters or goody-two shoes. They’re always brave and ready to face any situation head on. While such leads have proven to be successful, I prefer it when they have emotional baggage to deal with, too.
While Dalí is tough, they’re going through a lot. Hamill treats Dalí as an actual layered character and gives them weaknesses and flaws that make them who they are. Heroes need to feel grief, fear, and other similar emotions for them to be relatable to readers.
Hamill continues the same ‘layered’ character building when it comes to the other characters, especially the main villain. Having someone be evil just for the sake of it can get boring. In Dalí we have a villain who has reasons for what he intends to do. It doesn’t make him right but it does make him come across as a well-written character.
There’s a lot of diversity in the book, which I think queer readers will surely enjoy. The story itself is engaging with twists and turns thrown in for good measure. There’s talk about human trafficking, gender identity, terrorism, grief and loss, drugs, etc. which allows this story to relate to our present world even though it’s set in the distant future.
Coming to the sex scenes, they aren’t too graphic, and while Dalí isn’t looking for love, their hooking up with other characters does make sense in context. The sexual encounters were also interesting to read due to Dalí’s ability to change their gender.
If you’re looking for a new sci-fi book that has well-written queer representation, impressive world building, and a unique lead character, then do pick up Dalí.
We also interviewed author E.M. Hamill, talking about her book, writing process, and more.
Have you read Dalí? What did you think of it? Let us know.
Note: I read an Advanced Review Copy. The opinions are my own.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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