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Review: The Third Front – E.M. Hamill

Third Front - E.M. Hamill

Genre: Sci-Fi

LGBTQ+ Category: Non binary, gender fluid, pansexual, gay

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About The Book

Dalí Tamareia has the terrorist Skadi in their sights – but bringing her in may cost them everything.

Dalí’s role as an undercover operative is compromised, putting a target on their back and threatening the close-knit team aboard Thunder Child. A new lead on Miriam Skadi’s activities forces them back to Luna, where they must confront everything they tried to run from…including their changed relationship with Rion Sumner, who insists on backing up Dalí for this investigation.

But Dalí is not the only one searching for Skadi. An alien presence hunts the terrorist as well, taking over Sumner’s body to ensure Dalí’s cooperation. With their team on the other side of the solar system Dalí must depend on this questionable ally to complete the mission, which takes a deadly turn when an old nemesis resurfaces.

If there is any chance for a future with Sumner and their chosen family, Dalí must exorcise the demons haunting them, or they will burn in the heart of a star.

Warnings: graphic violence, grief, sexually explicit scenes.

The Review

The Third Front is the book three in the ”The Dalí Tamareia Missions” series. It’s the first book that I’ve read by EM Hamill, and technically I suppose I should’ve read the other two before this one. It’s not entirely necessary, though. Sure, there’s a lot of water under the bridge in terms of character development and storyline, but Hamill does an apt job of explaining it all on the fly as you read this one.

The book starts out in media res, throwing us in the deep end of an investigation on Mars. We soon follow the main characters to Luna. That’s where Sol Fed, Earth’s solar system-wide government, is located, as well as Dalí’s old home, where they once suffered an unspeakable tragedy. The Earth itself is basically uninhabitable after the terrible effects of war and climate change. But humankind is proved amazingly adept at surviving in other places.

The Third Front is set in a wide-ranging universe, and the story in some ways reminds me of The Expanse. In this case, though, Earth has made contact with a number of other alien races, and is in the process of negotiating trade deals and finding a place for humanity among the galactic order, even as some of those races meddle in human affairs.

Against this backdrop, the small population on Luna created a human evolutionary bottleneck, which allowed the rise of other human variants, including a third gender. These humans can present as male or female, and can also shift between the physical characteristics of the two. There are also other mutations too, including those that allow for things like empathy and telepathy.

I love Dalí Tamareia, the main character. They’re sarcastic, funny, deep, and deeply broken after a terrorist attack in one of the earlier books destroyed their family. They’re also more than passingly interested in their boss, Sumner, another human variant who has ability to mask his emotions from the empathetic Dalí, much to their ongoing frustration.

In The Third Front, one of Dalí ‘s associates dangles the possibility of finally catching the terrorist who killed their family in front of them. They might finally bring the killer to justice and find some closure. But there’s a whole lot more at stake here, from the personal – navigating their relationship with Summer – to the existential – dealing with an alien threat to the entire human race.

The book starts out a little slowly – partly, I’m sure, due to me having to play catch-up with the storyline. But it hits its stride once an alien artificial intelligence arrives on the scene, plays body snatcher, and throws everything into chaos, including Dalí ‘s connection with Summer.

While this book has some things in common with stories like The Expanse – small mercenary group flitting around the solar system and all that – it’s truly its own unique thing. The crew of the Thunder Child constitutes a found family, one of my favorite things, and I loved the interplay between these characters. Sumner, in particular, is a beautiful creation. There are also smaller characters, like Dev and Michael, a gay couple on Luna who run a hostel and are old friends of Dalí. They really shine here, and create a safe space and some downtime between action scenes.

I loved the story’s casual diversity, as when Sumner admits that he has some intimate experience with both male and female parts. And the AI character is well thought out and fascinating.

Hamill is also great with villains, providing a few of them here whose motives are complex, and who sometimes do the right thing when you are sure they’re going to do the wrong one.

I read this book in a matter of days – rare for me, what with a little reading time that I have. But I was eager to get back to it every time I put it down, dying to learn what would happen next. Hamill is a gifted writer, and I am thrilled to have finally read one of their books. If The Third Front is any indication, it would be well worth it to go back and read the first two.

There’s a rich playground out there still to be explored beyond this story, and I hope this is not the last of the books Hamill sets in this universe. If you’re looking for a great sci-fi adventure it’s a little different than what you may have read before – heck, if you’re just looking for a great sci-fi adventure period – pick this one up. Well worth the read.

The Reviewer

Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies. 

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