Book review · novel · novella

Books review: Failure to Communicate – Testing Pandora

Failure to Communicate (Xandri Corelel #1), by Kaia Sønderby

july11Description: (from goodreads)

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.


Say hello to one of my new favourite book! ❤
It is so hard to talk about a book that means so much to me. I loved everything about it, and this is the kind of book that is really hard to review because I want to write an entire paragraph about every little detail that I loved.

Xandri is the main character, and I loved her immensely. She’s both confident in her capabilities to do her job, and lacking self-confidence in other areas. She is really smart, always trying to do the best thing, and she is autistic. She struggles with sensory inputs, with getting the words out of her, and while she has some troubles communicating with other human beings (mainly because of their ableism!), she became a very observant person to manage it, which made her very good at picking up non-verbal languages. Since she is passionate about fauna and flora, this all makes her the perfect person for the job of first contact with alien species, understanding the specifics of their communication skills and the classification of planets.
The best thing was how her skills and way of seeing things is valued by the crew and I really appreciated how loved and cherished she is. This was so heart-warming! The whole cast of characters is amazing, both humans and aliens.

This book is #ownvoices regarding the autistic representation, and it really showed. The way Xandri acknowledges her neurodiversity and talk about it was one of the things that made me love this novel. For an #ownvoice review of this book, I would recommend RoAnna Sylver’s review on goodreads! Like they says so well, this novel is wonderfully validating.

I’m not antisocial. You’re just an asshole. But as usual, I didn’t say it aloud. Instead I looked up at Leev; I might have some trouble managing my facial expressions, but I’d turned the glare into an art form.

While there are a lot of characters deserving a big paragraph, I’d like to talk about Divers. He is a bit of a tech genius and is the love interest of the story. He was amazing! So supportive of Xandri, always ready to listen or give her some space, very funny and understanding. You couldn’t dream of a more perfect love-interest. While I’m saying that he is the love interest, he is not the only one. The story hints at a polyamorous relationship (f/f/m) and I found this awesome, especially how slow it is going and Xandri figuring out her feelings slowly. Another reason to be looking forward to the next book!

Another thing about Xandri is that she is bisexual! She also has synesthesia: the first time I encountered this word was in Caraval (a book I really did not liked) but here, synesthesia finally had the writing and representation it deserved! No flowery style or purple prose, just a beautiful portrayal of this perceptual phenomenon.

“I’m synesthetic. It – it basically means my senses are kind of mixed up. Like I can see sounds, and names and words have colors, and all sorts of things like that.”

Failure to Communicate is a SF book filled with different aliens species, cool tech, a nice spaceship, and lots of different planets. It deals with a lot of social commentaries, autism and ableism of course, but also gun control laws and compromise, understanding different customs and respect. I think this is a book that Star Trek fans would really love, at least it has all the things I liked in Star Trek.

“Most of what we encounter on planets is more concerned with whether it can eat my hair than whether it looks nice. I like predators. They’re less fussy than diplomats.”

If I try to temper my enthusiasm, I’d say the only little criticism I could make is that there was one or two things I could see coming, but never too long before it happened, so it’s not really that much of a big deal.
The pacing was great, moments of action and cute interactions, either between Xandri and her parrot pets or her friends, colleagues and new alien acquaintances, slice of life on the job, diplomatic events… I was never bored and I wish I could have read this in one glorious setting.
The ending was pretty intense, way more than I anticipated it would be.

Of all the things sapience had devised over the long, long millennia, parties had to be one of the worst.

This book is my new everything, I loved everything about it and I’m hoping it will get more love from more people. The love and care between the characters, the criticism of ableism, the awesome SF elements, cool alien species and interesting diplomatic intrigue made it a re-read worthy new comfort read for me.

Plus, when I asked the author over twitter, I found out that physical copies of this book are in the work. I was overjoyed at this news, and will buy one the second it is available!

  • Another good review that persuaded me to read this book, by Claudie Arseneault.

Trigger Warnings: abuse, traumatic memories of parental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse

Testing Pandora (Xandri Corelel #0), by Kaia Sønderby

july12Description: (from goodreads)

In the far future, genetic engineering is used to strip all sapient species of disability. But when humans have a brief fad of natural birth, disabled children start reappearing. They’re quickly termed “Pandoras,” the value of their very lives brought into question, and laws are put into place to prevent their births from happening ever again.

Xandri Corelel is one of these Pandoras, a young autistic woman scorned by her family and fighting to eke out a living on the streets of Wraith. Then she meets Chui Shan Fung, captain of the first contact and refugee ship Carpathia. Captain Chui has been watching her, and knows about the talent for understanding alien species that Xandri has cultivated. She wants Xandri as part of her crew–but first, Xandri must pass a test to see if she’ll even fit in.

Wary but hopeful, Xandri joins the Carpathia at Psittaca, a newly-discovered planet peopled by parrot-like sapients. Learning to understand this new species is the easy part compared to trusting her new crew mates. As Xandri continues her diplomatic efforts with the Psittacans, it becomes apparent that the Carpathia’s crew aren’t the only ones to have discovered the planet, but these other visitors don’t have good intentions. In order to protect this beautiful new world, Xandri must find it in herself to overcome years of abuse and neglect, and trust in her new crew.

This is a prequel novella, actually published before Failure to Communicate. I wasn’t aware of it before reading Failure to Communicate and I don’t think skipping it made me miss anything, BUT I think I still would recommend to read it first!

It does add a lot regarding how the characters first met, their relationships, and a bit of background on how Xandri came to the ship and this life. We learn that she is 28 and there’s also more details on the traumas of her past, how her parents hurt her… She is trying to keep all of this bottled up but it is still relevant to the story and come up at times. All of this is addressed in the novel, but it was still very nice to read about it, how it happened with Xandri’s point of view.

We learn more on the crew, the way they do their job… This novella is Xandri’s first mission, a test, and seeing her explore another planet and interacting with a new alien species for the first time after all she went through was so great!

He held a hand down to me. My palms were slightly damp from the humidity, but I couldn’t resist the urge to reach up and place my hand in his. To my relief, he wasn’t some perfect romance novel hero who stayed fresh as a daisy in blistering heat; a film of sweat coated his palm, too.

Another great thing about this one is that there are some more point of views! Xandri is still the main character, but every now and then a secondary character will have a short chapter for themselves. Mostly this is a way to have another look at Xandri through someone else’s eyes (or at humans through a new alien specie’s eyes). I think my favourite might have been from Captain Chui Shan Fung.

This is really a good set-up novella, a way to get acquainted with the characters, to get a taste of the author’s writing style and the story that has yet to come. All of this for 0,99€!

Like Failure to Communicate, I gave 5/5 to this story. All the good things I said above could be copied-pasted here so that’s why this is way shorter! (Same goes for the trigger warnings)

Again, RoAnna Sylver’s review is super great and I recommend reading it as well.

9 thoughts on “Books review: Failure to Communicate – Testing Pandora

  1. Omg I’ve never heard of these but they sound amazing! I’m always looking for books with good autism rep (especially for girls) so definitely off to Goodreads to add this! So glad they were solid wins for you. 🎉🎉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you’re interested!:’)
      And yeah, it’s ebook only for now, 4,36€ + 0,99€ on kindle! But they are currently working on physical copies! I can’t wait!


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