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Kristine Smith

PostPosted: Tuesday, 02 August 2011, 1:36 pm
by DavidTate
Kristine Smith's "Jani Kilian" novels:
◦1 Code of Conduct (1999)
◦2 Rules of Conflict (2000)
◦3 Law of Survival (2001)
◦4 Contact Imminent (2003)
◦5 Endgame (2007)

The 5 novels form one complete story arc, and are not particularly free-standing. Call it one long novel in 5 volumes. The plot concerns one Jani Kilian, and is mostly told close-third-person from her point of view. Jani is an odd character -- competent, even bold, but insecure, bad at personal relationships but good at understanding politics, caring but prickly. By training, she is a "Document Specialist", which is something very much like a combat librarian, or perhaps a special-forces notary public. The cultural setting in which such a specialty is important is interestingly conceived. I suspect the author of having studied Library Science.

Here is an excerpt from Marc Goldstein's SF Site review of the second book, Rules of Conflict:
Despite its martial title, Rules of Conflict isn't military SF (with all the carnage and cardboard characters that sub-genre usually implies). Rather, this sequel to Kristine Smith's well-received first novel, Code of Conduct, is a labyrinthine thriller emphasizing intrigue and personal politics. Smith has imagined an impressive future of believable characters, credibly convoluted political affairs, disturbingly realistic aliens, and fearsome technology.

To know Captain Jani Kilian, first you have to absorb her complex backstory. Twenty years ago she served as an archivist attached to a diplomatic corps on a mission to establish relations with an alien race known as the idomeni. During that mission she murdered her commanding officer after he took sides in an idomeni civil war. [When she was m]ortally wounded by an explosion during her escape attempt, doctors John Shroud and Valentin Parini rebuilt Kilian by introducing idomeni DNA into her system. Now, after twenty years on the lam, her hybrid body is breaking down.

When Kilian finally seeks medical care, she is quickly captured and brought back to Service HQ to learn her fate. She fully expects to be court-martialled and pilloried, but soon discovers that powerful political figures have a vested interest in making sure that no one ever dredges up her past. But years of guilt compel Kilian to investigate the motives of her shadowy protectors. With the help of Lt. Lucien Pascal, an intelligence officer assigned to "protect" her, and a strange archivist named Sam Duong, she begins to unravel the secrets behind what really happened during the idomeni civil war.

I found the novels to be interesting, even compelling, especially for a first time writer. They have several memorable features, and I know at least one librarian for whom Kilian is now all but a Patron Saint. Quoting again:
Smith's strengths as a writer shine through. Despite the story's complexity, the plot moves briskly and never gets bogged down with unnecessary exposition. Smith has an exceptional way with character. Jani Kilian is a bold, intelligent protagonist. The supporting cast members are equally human, with their own ulterior motives and hidden agendas. It is a testament to Smith's skill that her characters remain credible and never get subsumed by the machinations of the plot or the minutiae of the setting. Smith's skill with characterization also bleeds into her idomeni characters. Their culture, which regards eating as a form of sacred worship and values open antagonism over diplomatic tact, is convincingly alien.
I'll have to read them again some day to form a more permanent opinion, but I'd love to hear from anyone else who has read these.

Re: Kristine Smith

PostPosted: Monday, 04 February 2013, 10:30 pm
by fantasyisbetter
I read and enjoyed the first 3 in her series- I found the aliens fascinating. Sometimes I was confused about which of her "friends" was really trying to help her and which were not to be trusted. I also found the obsession over proper documents to be weirder than the idomeni obsession with correct meal protocols.

Re: Kristine Smith

PostPosted: Thursday, 07 February 2013, 12:33 pm
by DavidTate
fantasyisbetter wrote:Sometimes I was confused about which of her "friends" was really trying to help her and which were not to be trusted.

I think that was deliberate. So was she, and sometimes so were the "friends". I found that refreshingly realistic.

I'm glad you enjoyed the first three. Are you planning to finish the series?

Re: Kristine Smith

PostPosted: Tuesday, 06 September 2016, 11:18 am
by DavidTate
So, five years down the road I have gone back to re-read the series. It holds up fairly well. I'm in the middle of the last book, and both relieved and disappointed to find that I don't remember how it ends.