Dalí

by E.M. Hamill

$6.49

Rated 4.75 out of 5 based on 4 customer ratings
(4 customer reviews)

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.

Available in Print from most major retailers.

Book Info

Author: E.M. Hamill

Release Date: August 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-947139-57-2

Format: ePub, Mobi, PDF

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Category: Literary/Genre Fiction

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Word Count: 85200

Pages: 253

Sex Content: Explicit

Orientation: Pansexual

Identity: Genderqueer

Warning: Depictions of violent death

Excerpt

Dalí
E.M. Hamill © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Human beings are assholes. I should know. I’d become one in the last few months.

You’d think the near extinction of our entire species after the pandemics and global poisoning our last world war inflicted might let us all pull together. Even with galactic war breathing down our necks, when almost everyone realized the human race constituted less of a threat to each other than some of the other things out there, we continued to be dicks.

Those attitudes started problems—in particular, Europan attitudes, of the New Puritan variety. I no longer possessed the self-control or sufficient fucks to avoid adding fuel to their fire.

His voice floated over the excited din of the crowd and the pregame show on the holographic screens above the bar.

“Abomination.”

I sighed and turned my head. The Team Europa-jacketed hulk next to me exuded a cloud of loathing against my empathic nets. I raised one eyebrow at him.

“Really? You can’t come up with anything more original after fifteen minutes of shit-talking?” The conversation behind me started as a diatribe against the rally for third-gender rights, held outside the arena and glimpsed on the main holo screen. I didn’t pay attention to either until the comments got louder and were meant for my ears.

“Faggot.”

“How very twentieth century of you.” I downed another of the six shots the robotic bartender dispensed in front of me. I wasn’t looking for trouble, only anesthetic. Outside, a cluster of media bots interviewing star athletes had driven me into the bar to hide. The presence of mechanized paparazzi still unsettled me. I didn’t want them in my face.

The annual Sol Series tournament games between Mars and Europa bordered on legendary for their savagery. No one took rugby as seriously as a gritty Martian colonist or a repressed New Puritan, and the bar overflowed with both, waiting for the station’s arena to open. Spectators gathered around us in the bar, drawn by the promise of a fight, glittering eyes fixed on us. My empathic senses drowned in their excitement and fear, even with the numbing effects of synthetic alcohol.

He invaded my personal space and leaned closer, face centimeters from mine. His breath carried a trace of mint and steroid vapors. Great. A huffer, his molecules all hyped-up on testosterone. He stood over a head taller than me, about twenty-five kilos heavier. His fists would do damage. His minions stood at either side, more meat than smarts. Neither spoke. Their mouths hung open while he harassed me, and I expected shuttle flies to crawl out at any time.

“You’re nothing but an A-sex freak.”

“Better. Still lacks originality.” I threw back the last shot. “How about androgynous freak? Hermaphrodite? No, those words are probably too big for you.”

The titter of laughter from the crowd only pissed him off. “Go fuck yourself.”

“Technically, I can’t. But I can fuck anybody else in this room. Can you?”

Shocked laughter rose from the circle of spectators. The guy clenched his fists and flexed his muscles. I continued, “Do I scare you?” I swiveled on the stool to face him and changed posture, crossing my legs in demure modesty. My voice rose into a husky, suggestive alto as I leaned one elbow on the bar. “Or do you want to find out what’s under my kilt?”

I hit a nerve. His eyes went blank, black, and his rage flooded over my senses. The crowd gasped and took a step back. Minion One caught his rising fist and spoke. “Jon, don’t you know who…”

Jon’s lip curled. “It’s an atrocity. It should have been killed at birth.”

“I prefer the term changeling.” I stood, and the circle around us got wider. The potent mix of hormones surged through my bloodstream as they altered my chemical makeup and bulked strategic upper body muscles. I let a cold smile form on my lips and dropped into a Zereid martial arts stance. Jon took half a step back as I became more definitively male in ways he recognized. “Oh, go ahead and hit me, by all means. A good fight is almost as good as sex.”

“Break it up.”

The crowd parted into nervous brackets with security’s arrival. Caniberi lumbered into the midst of the circle with the boneless roll space-born started to get after generations in orbit. He cast a sour eye in my direction.

“Dalí, why is it always you?”

“Just lucky, I guess.”

The constable growled at me. He turned to Jon. “You can’t play in the tournament if I throw you in the brig for violence. Move out.”

Jon stared at me a minute longer. The threat of not getting to beat the hell out of some hedonistic Martians made him reconsider. He and the minions moved away, but he threw one more sentence in my face like a javelin.

“You’ll be alone, changeling.”

The truth in his words knifed through me all the way to my gut and cut me deeper than any microsteel blade. “I’ll be waiting.”

Caniberi squinted at me as the crowd began to disperse. “Dalí, do I need to talk with the Captain?”

“No, sir. Leave my father out of this.” He’d dealt with enough from me already. My mother was now away on the diplomatic mission I’d been suspiciously—but rightly—deemed unfit to assume. Without Mom there to buffer the uncomfortable presence of my grief between us, Dad was lost.

“One of these days you’re going to push the wrong buttons and end up hurt, or worse. Some things the medical officer can’t fix.” His gaze softened. “Drinking and getting the shit beaten out of you won’t bring them back.”

“I’m well aware of that, sir.” My voice came out sharper than I intended. One of the best officers on the station, Caniberi had known me a little over a decade, and he never hesitated to kick my ass if I deserved it, no matter what gender I chose at the moment. This time, he just stared at me with an odd expression. His pity broke in tepid surges against my senses.

“Get out of here. I don’t want to arrest you again.”

I turned and left the bar. With the bots still hovering outside, I ducked my head to foil their facial recognition apps and fought my way upstream from the arena.

The shakes hit me in the aftermath of the hormone flood. The synthetic alcohol in my system warred with my normalizing chem levels and sour nausea threatened. I grabbed one of the rails lining the corridor and took several shuddering breaths as my muscles cramped, rearranged, and settled back into the lean, sexless frame where I am most at home.

The crowd jostled around me and headed toward the game. My empathic nets buzzed dully with their anticipation and excitement, but the sense of being watched pushed at the back of my mind. A familiar presence tripped a memory and an emotion.

The watcher knew me.

I turned my head. The Zereid made his way toward me, head and shoulders above everyone else, long, muscular limbs wading with passive grace through a river of human bodies as the crowd shifted for him. An eddy of cautious glances swirled and vanished downstream.

Oily quicksilver eyes without lids narrowed, their shape signifying the equivalent of a smile. His resonant voice buzzed in my ears. “He is the size of a cargo bot, you know. Even the arts we learned can’t change gravity. He might kill you.”

“I won’t let it go that far.” I shrugged. I actually hoped I’d bitten off more than I could swallow this time.

But the presence of my childhood friend undid me. A lump rose in my throat, pressure in my head, and I closed the distance between us. He gathered me in against cool flesh. I was locked in arms capable of crushing a human like a piece of foil but which held me with careful tenderness. Against his enormous chest, I felt like a small child, even though in developmental terms, Gor and I are the same age. His concern brushed my mind with affectionate familiarity.

“I see you, Dalí,” he murmured. “I mourn with you.”

I breathed in the scent of Zereid. Gor smelled of his homeworld—rain and earth and copper clung to his leathery turquoise skin and short, downy fur even in absentia. Homesickness washed over me.

I’d lived on Zereid most of my life. My mother, Marina Urquhart, served as ambassador for fifteen years. Dad’s career required he return to Sol Fed, and rather than separate our family, Mom resigned her appointment. My differences were clear, even to my third-gender mother, but there, we were aliens. I wondered what it would be like to have more friends who blinked.

When we got back to our own kind, I found out I was still an alien.

Gor pulled away. In the tarnished silver of his eyes, like antique mirrors, my unkempt reflection stared back at me. His dismay at my mental and physical state, impossible to miss, sighed against my mind.

“How did you hear?” I said.

“Your mother. “

“Of course.”

His head cocked. “I tried to come sooner, but the travel permissions into the colonies are daunting.”

“No, I understand.” I wanted to sit and talk with Gor. I eyed the bar, but couldn’t go back in there yet. “Come on. We can go to Dad’s quarters. He’ll be on the bridge.” My own cramped space wouldn’t accommodate Gor’s height or his bulk.

We squeezed into the private lift and rode up to the command deck. My thumbprint opened the door to the Captain’s suite, and Gor made a sound of wonder as he ducked through the port.

Three levels of transparent alloy shielding overlooked the U-curve of Rosetta Station. Shuttles buzzed in and out of bays like honeybees in the hydroponics domes, ferrying passengers to huge starliners docked on the outer limbs.

“An inspiring view.” Gor gazed out the window.

Ochre planet-shine from Jupiter’s face illuminated the room, the swirling storms in the gas giant’s atmosphere familiar to me now. I never found them beautiful, only an echo of the chaos in my head. I dropped into one of the chairs facing the viewport.

Gor eased himself into the seat opposite me. “You’re in crisis, Dalí.”

I couldn’t hide anything from him. Even if I wanted to, he was a telepath; his empathic senses much more attuned than my own modest abilities. Our friendship spanned far too many years, our trust well established. Lying to him would betray our oath of crechemates, a Zereid custom similar to old Earth tradition of blood brothers.

“Today would be the second anniversary of our wedding.” I stared at my hands. I still wore a ring on each of them, the ones Gresh and Rasida gave me.

“I remember. The love between you and your mates deserves celebration.”

Triad marriages with two members of the same sex and one of the opposite were common. The female population had not rebounded as fast as the male. But mine was the first triad marriage to include a changeling spouse under the new laws we helped to bring about. The legislation was both praised and vilified by hundreds of other citizens while we exchanged vows beneath the domes of the lunar capitol. My parents, Gresh’s mother, and Gor celebrated with us. Rasida’s mother refused to attend the wedding of her only daughter.

The three of us had been inseparable, invincible. Without them, I staggered, incomplete.

Our child would have been three months old now.

“Don’t say it.”

Gor’s eyes elongated in confusion. “What?”

“That they wouldn’t want me to be like this.”

“I did not come here to admonish you for grieving.”

I gave a short laugh. “What did you come here to scold me for?”

“For ceasing to live. Abandoning the larger destiny for which you trained.”

“Ambassador?” I dug a vape out of the pocket of my coat and thumbed the switch, inhaling illegal chemicals deep into my lungs. His gentle reproach against my empathic nets rebuked me without a word.

“You were sure of your calling as a peacemaker six months ago.” Zereid reverence toward conciliation is, ironically, unforgiving and unbending.

“I was certain of a lot of things then.” I exhaled a cloud of spicy mist. If any of the scent remained, I’d catch hell later for vaping in Dad’s quarters.

“There are always those who work against peace, even in their own hearts. As you are doing now.”

“I don’t know if I believe in peace anymore.”

“Because you do not possess it.”

“Stop feeding me platitudes, brother.”

He spread six-fingered hands wide. “What would you have me do? Tell me. Your pain is mine to share, beloved friend. Allow me to help you. Your rage is fearsome but undirected. You point it at yourself.”

“I was supposed to die, not them.” I cursed the terrorists who missed their target by eight minutes. When I decided not to address the media bots and chose instead to hold a private farewell with my family, I put myself ahead of schedule. I should have died with them. Even though the bastards failed to kill me, they destroyed me.

“Come home.” Gor waited for me to answer. I didn’t. He continued. “Madam Ambassador thinks Zereid would be a place of healing for you. You can study at the temple with me again, be teacher and student. This year’s crop of younglings is a challenge.” His vocal pipes fluted in laughter. “As we were.”

“That isn’t much of an incentive.” A grin tried to tug at the corners of my mouth, stiff and out of practice with the expression. “I’ll think about it.”

“Will you?” His doubt hovered between us.

The port slid open again and my father thundered in—Captain Paul Tamareia—“The Captain” to everyone on the station, even me at times. I stood at automatic attention, swaying a little. Gor rose too.

“What the hell were you thinking?” he demanded. “And turn that goddamned vape off.”

I complied. “A misunderstanding, sir.”

“Misunderstanding, my ass. Six shots of the synthetic piss that passes for whiskey says it wasn’t.” He turned to Gor and bowed. “Welcome aboard Rosetta Station, honored friend. Forgive me for not greeting you first.”

“Captain Tamareia.” Gor bowed back.

“How long will you be staying? I insist you use my quarters as your own. Stop by the constable’s office and he will register you for my door. I’m afraid most of the cabins are small, and we’re overcrowded with the tournament.”

“My thanks, sir. My travel clearance is good for the next two weeks, and then I must return.” Gor nodded at us. “I should collect my belongings now. I will go to your constable on the way back.”

“It’s good to see you, Gor.”

“You as well, Captain.” He put one enormous hand on my shoulder. “Dalí, please think about what I said.”

Gor let himself out. Dad and I both understood he made a graceful exit so we could shout at each other in peace. Zereids don’t carry a whole lot of baggage. They don’t wear clothes.

“Did you need to pick a fight with the number eight of the bloody Europan rugby team?” He tossed his personal data device on the table. “Do you even know who he is?”

“Other than a prick, no.”

“Jon Batterson. Does the name ring a bell at all?”

“Batterson.” I blinked through mental processes made sluggish by the vape. “As in President Batterson?”

“Light dawns. The heir apparent to his self-righteous little robotics empire.” He ran both hands through his hair. I inherited my dark-brown waves from him, but Dad’s customary high-and-tight showed little hint of curl. Mine now fell to my shoulders in a shaggy, tangled mane. “Do you realize the mess I would have had to clean up if you really let loose on him? Even if he is built like the ass end of a freighter, you could put him on the injured list.”

“It wasn’t my intent.”

“From what Caniberi told me, you were about to unleash hell on him. You sure stirred up some crap. The president is coming to the game tonight. The constable didn’t know who he was either, or he might have thrown you in the brig to prove a point.” He sat down with a thud on the steel bench and sighed. “Dalí. Come here.”

I sat next to him and braced myself.

“It’s been six months. Your leave from the diplomatic corps is finished, and if you don’t return, you’ll be dismissed. This has to stop. When you go back to your life, you’re going to encounter people like Batterson on a daily basis. Your reputation and your career are at stake. You can’t do this anymore.”

“That life’s over.”

“Don’t throw it away. You did so much in so short a time. You have a gift for understanding, and you will be a formidable ambassador. Sol Fed needs you in the negotiation chamber at the Remoliad. Luna is a better place because of your work.”

“Because of Gresh’s work. Because of Sida and our child. They were my reasons for everything. I’m not sure I feel as strongly for the rest of the human race.”

“Then you need to find another way to deal with their deaths. I won’t watch you destroy your future. You worked too hard for it.”

“Tell me how, sir.” My fury rose. “Tell me how I can deal with it because I’m looking for an exit.”

He stiffened. “What do you mean?”

“Nothing.” I rose and stalked away. He started to call after me, but the communication tones went off.

“Captain Tamareia, report to the bridge. The president’s shuttle is incoming.”

“On my way. Dalí!”

I ignored him and ducked through the port.

Book Trailer

4 reviews for Dalí

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Sara A Codair

    I received a free, electronic copy of Dalí from NineStar Press in exchange for an honest review.

    I admit, I haven’t read much space opera, if any, since Karen Traviss stopped writing for the Star Wars franchise. I stuck to fantasy, and to science fiction that did not involve space travel because nothing quite compared to the Star Wars universe and the 40+ books I had read in it.

    Dalí restored my faith in that particular sub-genre. The world building was exquisite, and done so smoothly that it did not distract from character development and plot. There was just enough description to help me picture the world, but it was concise and didn’t slow the story down. But most importantly, the characters were alive, diverse, fluid, and complex.

    I am envious of Dalí’s ability to change gender to suit the their mood or the situation but remain neutral when they are just being theirself. I have a soft spot for characters that do not conform to the binary gender, and for characters that bounce back from trauma.

    All that I mentioned above combined with the fascinating galaxy and the well woven Princess Bride references made this book a definite five stars.

    There is so much more explore with this galaxy and its characters. I really hope this becomes a series!

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Ariel C.

    What an amazingly crafted story! There is so much emotion in this book and I loved every painful minute of it. Hamill writes a fantastic character in Dalí and I cannot stress enough how much I loved reading his journey as he comes to term with his grief and finds a new place for himself in the universe. Dalí’s grief is so damn poignant and his emotional progress so genuine that I found myself close to tears multiple times.

    There’s no romance is this story and that really makes it all the better. The story is engaging enough without added romance. Plus, with where Dalí is emotionally it wouldn’t really fit to have a love interest. That being said, I did really like his relationships with Sumner and Rhix which held the possibility of close friendship. And despite Rhix being a moral-less pirate I really enjoyed his character.

    The fact that there are multiple Princess Bride references in this book constantly brought a smile to my face. Inconceivable!

    While this was a fun, emotional story, it also featured important real-life issues such as sex trafficking and gender equality issues, specifically those who are third-gender and genderfluid. Despite this being a fictional scifi story, at its heart it brings to light some of the conflicts that real people in our world have to deal with every day. Hamill does a phenomenal job at creating genuine and relatable characters/conflicts which make this book so damn engaging and emotional.

    I appreciated the slightly open ending with the implication that Dalí will continue to find his way and live his life. Not everything was tied up in a neat little bow and it left me feeling a bit hopeful for the character’s futures.

    4.5 Stars

    I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  3. Rated 5 out of 5

    Maria

    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.

    **ARC provided via publisher in exchange for an honest review

  4. Rated 4 out of 5

    Blow Pop

    Content Warnings: sex slavery, kidnapping, sex, interspecies sex, violent death, genderfluid, third gender changelings, third gender, alcohol use, personal loss, microaggressions, attempts at eugenics, violence, violence directed at third gender people, terrorism, death

    I received an ARC from Ninestar Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

    First off, I loved this book. So much. Like didn’t want to put it down loved it. BUT. There are things that can be very off putting to people in this book.

    I mention attempts at eugenics and violence directed at third gender people. This is a heavy theme in the book. Like literally part of the government wants to get rid of (in multiple ways: kidnapping, selling into sexual slavery, straight up killing) the third gender changelings because they’re sterile and people and scientists are freaking out that this means that they’re going to go extinct. Well the humans are. There are other alien races that don’t believe that at all. Some revere the third gender changelings. Others just accept them into society. But humans are your stereotypical humans and hate them for varying reasons.

    The main character gets violently beaten up to the brink of death. Because they are a third gender changeling. And because the person who beats them up is disgusted with them and the fact that his brother had sex with them. I don’t remember if slurs were hurled at the main character before/during the beating but for trans and queer people, this can potentially hurt you.

    During the investigation into the kidnapping and sex slavery thing (where the sex slavery is found out about for certain) the main character goes undercover to switch with someone who was already set for being sold into sex slavery. There is a death that happens during this due to mistreatment of the “prisoners” (those who were kidnapped to be sold).

    The microaggression that I’m specifically referring to (that may not even be one depending on your point of view, but if you’re white I am not going to listen to your point of view on this) is the use of describing eyes as almond eyes. It happens A LOT in the book.

    There’s also some genetic engineering talked about that can be thrown into the eugenics thing as there is a race that appears in the book (alien race) that was specifically bred to be a specific way and are treated really badly by most and feared by almost all but are shown to be intelligent.

    Now, that’s all the bad that I can really go into detail with without spoiling the entire book.

    There’s also a TON of Princess Bride references. If you aren’t a fan of the movie, tread cautiously into this book. Code names are Princess Bride characters. Phrases from the movie are in this.

    I LOVED the world building in this. Like it wasn’t so minimal you’re left going “huh?” but it wasn’t so extravagant that you’re wishing it was less so more focus could be on the characters and the action that was happening. For me, it was that perfect balance of just enough information that I could see it but not excessive.

    The personal loss is a thing I want to address. It’s through a good chunk of the book. As the main character is the one whose dealing with it. It’s a very heavy topic but I feel it was handled fairly well. It wasn’t just introduced and forgotten about until later. Dalí is shaped by their loss and it affects everything they do.

    I honestly want more of this story. I want more set in this universe. I want to know more about what happens to Rhix. I want more adventures. And what happens to the third gender changelings who were with Dalí in the kidnapping. The ending is closed enough that it feels like a full book yet open enough that if the author wanted to, they could write more.

    The characters that aren’t Dalí (I mean this applies to them as well) are pretty fleshed out. At least the named ones that we see. As opposed to the other passengers on the transports. Or the multitude of unnamed soldiers. They’re not given a whole lot of backstory (like Dalí is) but they feel like real enough characters that you couldn’t replace them with inanimate objects. Dalí is the most fleshed out being the main character. But Rhix, Sumner, and Gor were the next three that had a lot of fleshing out character wise.

    I liked that Dalí was mixed race AND the main character. And that this wasn’t a romance. Space Operas, in general, I’ve had bad experiences with outside of the Star Wars books (both canon and non canon EU). So I was very hesitant going into this book. But I’m SO GLAD I read it.

    All in all, it was a very engaging book that went into some very hard topics to go into without feeling exploitative. And I’d definitely recommend it to everyone.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.