Review: Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sønderby

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 in Failure toFailure to Communicate Cover Communicate.

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. (via Goodreads)

I received a review copy from author Kaia Sønderby in exchange for an honest review. We are also mutuals on Twitter.

Failure to Communicate is a book that I kept putting off for reasons beyond me. I did myself a disservice by doing that, because it is AMAZING.

It’s ownvoices autistic representation, and holy shit, it shows. As I’ve written a lot in the past, autistic rep is usually sketchy at best. Failure to Communicate had me clutching my kindle to my chest. I had to resist the urge to highlight the whole dang thing on my Kindle. Seriously, it’s that good.

It needs content warnings for mentions of ABA therapy, past sexual assault, a mentally ill villain, mentions of mentally ill people being violent, mentions of eugenics, and species-antagonistic comments.

I loved the way that Sønderby dealt with Xandri, the main character, stimming and the ways her meltdowns worked. It felt intimate in a way that didn’t feel voyeuristic, and the other characters on Carpathia worked with her to make sure that she was as safe as she could be.

This one quote in particular spoke to me as a journalist who spends half of her life in meetings.

I wanted to scream “Just say what you mean!” at the top of my lungs at least a dozen times per meeting.

Honestly, “polite society” was the most space-fried thing sometimes.

As an autistic woman, this book spoke to me. As a sci-fi reader, Failure to Communicate hit all the right marks. It had the sweet domestic side that I love, the politics, the battles, the aliens, all of it just really worked for me.

If you liked Long Way to A Small Angry Planet but wanted something with real neurodivergence rep that doesn’t screw you over at the end, this is the book for you. I’m not kidding or being hyperbolic at all.

Pick up a copy on Amazon as soon as you can.

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