Kristine Smith’s 2000 novel Rules of Conflict is the second volume of her Jani Kilian Chronicles.
Jani Kilian is a cautious woman for very good reasons. Until now, her caution has served her well, keeping her out of the clutches of Commonwealth military services. This time her healthy paranoia betrays her. Fearing her allies, she walks into a trap and is recaptured.
Although “recaptured” is not quite the right word. She wakes to discover she is not a prisoner. She is a patient.
Left for dead in the wreckage of a military transport, Jani survived only thanks to a radical medical procedure that was less a treatment than a wild-eyed experiment, one that transformed her into a human-alien hybrid. Now the procedure that saved her may take her life.
Even if she can be saved, she will be even less human than she was before.
Her detainment is well timed for another reason. Jani spent years on the run from the charge that she murdered her superior officer, Rikart Neuman, during the conflict on Knevcet Sheraa. This claim is true only in the technical sense that she deliberately shot and killed the well-connected officer; in her defence, it was only because she wanted him dead. The oligarchs of Earth could very easily obtain a conviction, if they so wanted, but a trial, let alone a conviction, could exacerbate tensions the ruling classes are desperate to contain. Better to simply sweep that old business under the rug.
Neuman’s murder isn’t the only secret from Knevcet Sheraa that factions within the service are desperate to keep secret. Alas for them, Jani is by her nature a catalyst for untimely, unwanted revelations.…
It is a shame (because Jani’s hybridization is such a core part of the series) that I have a hard time accepting the idea you could shuffle together human and alien biology and get something that doesn’t immediately fall over dead.
It’s been almost a decade since I read this series, so I cannot recall how it all works out. I am amused that two books into the series, it’s still possible that Jani’s alien mentor/stalker’s conviction that Jani is a messianic figure is in fact just a delusion brought on by an excess of orthogenesis.
To a fair extent, this book is setting up long term plot developments. On its own, it’s best seen as the struggle by a community of broken people to come to terms with their pasts, to find some way to deal with what they are now. It’s not just Jani; there is her old frenemy Evan, whose complicity in Earth’s systemic corruption has cost him pretty much everything. There’s an archivist named Sam Duong, whose medical condition leaves him peculiarly vulnerable to manipulation and scapegoating.
I prefer standalone books, but I did enjoy reading about Jani, as well as watching her frenemy Evan get a few more boots to the ribs; this book delivers on both. Had I been reading these one a year as they came out in 2000, the episodic nature of the series might have annoyed me. Happily, modern readers can simply purchase the entire set.
Rules of Conflict can be purchased here.