“Smith’s tightly plotted SF thriller debut is an ace–sure to appeal to readers who appreciate well-drawn characters and sophisticated milieus…Smith balances a taut mystery with vivid characters and a complex, ever-evolving plot–a feat more experienced authors don’t always achieve.”
–Publisher’s Weekly, Nov. 8, 1999
“I’ve seldom come across a novel more complex, with so much depth and so much to offer. CODE OF CONDUCT is a must-read.”
– Barnes and Noble’s EXPLORATIONS newsletter
“Remarkable! This extraordinarily solid first novel succeeds on many levels. Like Le Carré at his best, Smith creates a complex and deftly shaded background populated with vivid, memorable characters–a universe of power politics, commercial and political espionage, and personal and impersonal relationships. The hard-edged story of nested loyalties and treacheries between humans and aliens kept me enthralled to the very end. CODE OF CONDUCT is a novel for adults who have lost their illusions but not their love of story.”
-Elizabeth Moon, Hugo-nominated author of Remnant Population and Once a Hero
“Finally! CODE OF CONDUCT gives SF fans who demand strong characterization something wonderful to read when there’s no new Bujold or Moon novel. In Jani Kilian, we have a heroine both ruthless and curiously compassionate, a woman who has survived tragedy and may yet redeem humankind. And there’s a bonus–the most fascinating alien culture since C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner. More Jani! More Tsecha! More Kristine Smith!”
-Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, author of Night Calls
“Kristine Smith tells a fascinating story that weaves intrigue, politics, and personal honor into a sophisticated tapestry. With well-realized characters, both human and alien, and a plot full of gratifying twists and turns, CODE OF CONDUCT showcases a fine new voice in the field of science fiction.”
-Catherine Asaro, double Nebula Award nominee for her novel The Last Hawk and her novella Aurora in Four Voices, author of The Veiled Web
Captain Jani Kilian had been Evan van Reuter’s lover eighteen years ago, when a Commonwealth diplomatic corps, sent to establish peaceful relations with the alien idomeni, took sides in a civil war. Jani was presumed killed in the ensuing bloodbath, and Evan went on to become the Commonwealth’s Interior Minister. But Jani survived as well…more or less. Doctors gave her a new face and patched her broken body together with illegally obtained idomeni genetic materials. They healed her of everything but her memory of the desperate actions she had taken-sure to result in summary execution should Commonwealth authorities discover her existence.
Which makes it unwise to refuse Evan’s request for help in solving the mystery of his wife’s death. There is no shortage of suspects, and the trail draws Jani into the trauma of Rauta Shèràa and secrets long buried there, secrets someone has killed to protect. If she isn’t careful, she’ll wind up the next victim-assuming her own body doesn’t kill her first. For after eighteen years, her rebuilt body is failing. Jani is dying. Or is she being reborn?
About the book:
Pharmaceutical R&D is an interesting field. While I don’t work in it, the field of pharmacogenomics, or the tailoring of drug design and therapy to the genetic makeup of the patient, interests me greatly.
The ruminations snowball…what happens if someone’s body chemistry alters to the point that formerly benign substances become poisonous? How does that person react? How do the physicians who have to attempt to treat this person deal with their lack of ability to do so, in an age where the knowledge base is so deep and broad that the question of “how to treat” has not been considered an issue for quite some time?
To take it one step farther…what if that person’s condition does not remain static, but changes constantly? What if, just when you think you have their treatment under control, they develop some other idiosyncratic condition? How do you hit the constantly moving target?
* * *
Jani Kilian has, in one form or another, been stewing in my backbrain for 8 or 9 years. I initially planned to portray her in a series of short stories. She was much less sympathetic back then, a drug-addicted sociopath whose never-ending quest to sate her various hungers led her into the paths of unsuspecting innocents. Sometimes, she helped them, as long as there was something in it for her.
As the ideas grew to novel-length, I realized someone might be able to turn a completely unsympathetic individual into a series centerpiece, but that someone wasn’t me. Slowly, Jani evolved into a conflicting combination of survivor guilt, hair-trigger survival instinct, and protectiveness toward those she considered ‘under her wing.’ She’s capable of heroic acts, but she’s not a heroine.
* * *
Because of CODE’s mystery aspects, I originally tried to set the story in London, England. Blame the influence of Sayers and Christie. But after failing to create a sound sense of place, I realized I lived quite close to a fine location, and one, since the story is set in the future, which I could rework at will.
Some parts of Chicago will seem familiar. I enjoyed preserving place names: O’Hare, Boul Mich. Substituted “The Parkway” for North State Parkway, and consolidated most of the North Shore into “the Wilmette Bluffs.” Reopened Fort Sheridan. It’s fun when it’s your ball.