Rules of Conflict

Rules of Conflict
Honorable Mention in
SF Site’s list of Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2000

“A well-portrayed far-future society and a strong protagonist… Smith milks paranoid possibilities like an old pro.”

“Smith has imagined an impressive future of believable characters, credibly convoluted political affairs, disturbingly realistic aliens, and fearsome technology…Smith has an exceptional way with character. Jani Kilian is a bold, intelligent protagonist…_Rules of Conflict_ has enough ideas to fill several novels. It’s a conspiracy thriller chock-full of suspense and intrigue, populated with compelling characters, and set in an absorbing SF universe. Its richness and depth rewards committed readers.”
-SF Site


Jani Kilian knows what she faces if the Commonwealth Service ever catches up with her–execution for the murder of Rikart Neumann. Even though Neumann masterminded the horrific events at the idomeni hospital at Knevçet Shèràa, he was still her commanding officer, and Service justice must be served.

The evidence against Jani is formidable, and she knows her ex-lover, Evan van Reuter, is supplying her accusers with more. But she’s grown tired of running, tired of changing names. Most disturbingly, however, she’s also gravely ill, and the fact that only physicians from the Neoclona medical conglomerate can treat her leaves her vulnerable to discovery. When desperation drives her to seek medical treatment, her cover is quickly blown. Recaptured and returned to Earth, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she faces the Fort Sheridan firing squad.

Evan van Reuter agreed to give evidence against his former lover in exchange for leniency for his own crimes. Facing multiple murder charges, having lost his standing, prestige, and power, he has one thing left of value–his memory of crimes past.

And then there’s Sam Duong. Sam works as a civilian documents archivist at Fort Sheridan, but he’s in danger of losing his position since he’s developed a medical problem that affects his memory. To his doctor’s consternation, however, he refuses treatment. Sam fears doctors, although he can’t remember why. Sometimes, he can’t remember his name. Other times, he thinks he’s someone else, someone Jani Kilian would be very interested in meeting.

About the book:

RULES let me have more fun with Future Chicagoland. I’ve reopened Fort Sheridan, of which Great Lakes is now a part.

RULES, like CODE OF CONDUCT, has altered considerably since it first began bouncing around my brain. Some characters were discarded. Others sneaked up on me and said, we deserve bigger parts. At first, I saw Jani languishing in prison, envisioned numerous machinations by friends and enemies to get her out/keep her in, all capped off by a climactic Perry Mason/Matlock courtroom scene.

Didn’t work out that way.

* * *

Characters sneak up on you. A couple who made it through the first draft of RULES died off during the second–the attempts to force-fit failed, and I had to keep reminding myself that it was time to use them. When I have to do that, I know it’s time to wield the cosmic blue pencil.

They’re tucked into my backbrain now. Maybe I’ll have need of them again–maybe I won’t.

Others behaved themselves for a time, then decided to jump up and down and say “we’re keepers.” I have a newspaper clipping taped to my monitor containing a quote from Graham Greene. It reads : “The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn’t thought about. At that moment he’s alive and you leave it to him.”

Along those lines, one character that I blue-penciled out of the protodraft of CODE has resurfaced and may wind up in book #3. Sex change from he to she. Same name. Same larcenous character.

It’s never wasted.