FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
XANDRI CORELEL, #1
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: SCIENCE-FICTION, SPACE OPERA, BISEXUAL AUTISTIC MC, POLYAM ROMANCE (F/F/M), #OWNVOICES
As one of the only remaining autistics in the universe, Xandri Corelel has faced a lot of hardship, and she’s earned her place as the head of Xeno-Liaisons aboard the first contact ship Carpathia. But her skill at negotiating with alien species is about to be put to the ultimate test.
The Anmerilli, a notoriously reticent and xenophobic people, have invented a powerful weapon that will irrevocably change the face of space combat. Now the Starsystems Alliance has called in Xandri and the crew of the Carpathia to mediate. The Alliance won’t risk the weapon falling into enemy hands, and if Xandri can’t bring the Anmerilli into the fold, the consequences will be dire.
Amidst sabotage, assassination attempts, and rampant cronyism, Xandri struggles to convince the doubtful and ornery Anmerilli. Worse, she’s beginning to suspect that not everyone on her side is really working to make the alliance a success. As tensions rise and tempers threaten to boil over, Xandri must focus all her energy into understanding the one species that has always been beyond her: her own.
You know how sometimes the books you love most are the hardest to review? THIS. 5+ out of 5 stars no question, but this review is a bit gushing and all over the place.
I love, love, love Xandri as a character. She’s so complicated and well-rounded — completely confident in her abilities in relation to her job but full of self-doubt in other areas. She’s smart and brave, has a strong moral compass and bucketloads of determination. I can’t wait to read more about her character because she completely sucked me in — at the end, I was crying actual tears for her, and that never happens to me. Xandri deserves to be one of those female characters so well known that they’re instantly recognisable to readers, like Hermione, Annabeth or Feyre.
Representation, in general, is something the book does brilliantly. Xandri herself is bisexual and autistic. I really like that the bisexuality was so casually mentioned, and the hints of a really cute developing polyamorous relationship are really interesting. I’m not autistic but the #ownvoices autism representation seems spot on from the (sadly single) ownvoices review I’ve seen. It certainly seems wonderfully done, describing Xandri’s struggles in some social interactions, her synesthesia and dispelling the old notion of autistic people as lacking emotion. Synesthesia, especially, is something I’ve never read about before but is beautifully explained and described. There are also characters of different colours, sexualities and ethnicities as both main characters and supporting players. It’s all done very organically too, for example, mentioning that after a tricky bit of spaceship manoeuvring one of the pilots has to adjust her hijab.
Okay. So, the world-building and plot. There’s so much going on! There’s new worlds, new alien races, and a tonne of crewmembers. This was a tad confusing at the start but I soon got a handle on who everyone was. The plot is about politics and negotiating a complicated Starfleet-style membership for the prickly Anmerilli. There’s a lot of great commentaries here on social niceties, customs and compromise. There’s also some brilliant commentary on the politics of gun control. I found the debate and its relation to the plot fascinating, and I suspect it will hit even closer to home for U.S. readers.
Basically, Failure to Communicate has the spirit of the earlier Star Trek series’ — all about exploring new worlds and new civilisations — except more diverse. Basically, it’s everything I’m desperately hoping the new Discovery series will be.
Buy it now. Buy it now. Buy it now.