Kristine Smith

The third in the Jani Kilian SF series.

Once again Jani’s past is coming to haunt her and not just as survivor’s guilt. She works now for the Commonwealth military as a document analyst. Someone has made a white paper about Jani’s past which suggests that Jani is a security risk. Colonel Niall Pierce warns Jani about it but there isn’t much she could do about it. Niall also tells Jani about a document in the hands of the Earth military which seems to indicate that Nema has forged an important document. Nema is the religious leader of the alien idomeni and Jani’s previous mentor and close friend. Nema is also humanity’s most vocal defender among the idomeni leaders. Jani is convinced that someone is trying to frame Nema and damage humanish/idomeni relations.

Because of her past close dealings with the alien idomeni, Jani has become something of an adviser to the government diplomats concerning the idomeni. However, nobody seems to appreciate her efforts. The leading diplomat Anais Ulanova is determined to work with the idomeni in her own way. Unfortunately, she doesn’t really understand the aliens. To the idomeni falsehood and hiding one’s feelings are an anathema but Anais doesn’t believe that. She doesn’t trust the aliens, or Jani, and continues to work in her customary way, spinning half-truths, expecting to be betrayed at any point, and working towards her own goals.

Jani sees the train wreck ahead and tries to warn everyone away from it. When she’s repeatedly ignored, she has no choice but to make her objections in public which earns her even more enemies. Then her parents send word that they are coming to Chicago to see her. Jani is convinced that they will be in danger and tries her best to keep them safe. This will also be the first time they will physically see each other in twenty years and Jani is a bit nervous about that.

This book felt somewhat longer than the previous books and the pace of the story wasn’t as quick as before. The main plot is still political intrigue and Jani has to play the detective and find out just who her enemies are while dodging handgun fire and assassins. Also, in addition to her parents, two of her oldest friends come to Chicago and try to help her.

Jani’s relationship with her bed partner Lucien is different from a normal romance. (I can’t really call them lovers and definitely not partners.) They are both damaged people who are convinced that they can’t have normal relationships, and they don’t trust each other. Jani knows that Lucien’s past, and physical and mental augments make is impossible for him to feel love anymore. While he can be caring and loyal, he is mostly looking after his own interests. He’s also attracted to the idomeni and as a human/idomeni hybrid, Jani feels that he is attracted to her because she is a “freak”, as she calls herself. Jani is also convinced that no normal man could ever want her. So in the end she feels alone and that she can’t really trust anyone.

Many of the diplomatic people are pretty self-centered here, almost to the point of ignoring reality for what they would want it to be. They ignore Jani’s advice and are convinced that they know better. Anais Ulanova, Lucien’s previous boss, is a prime example of this. I almost felt like they are liability to the Commonwealth and should be fired.

There are some very interesting developments for idomeni in this book. Shai, the leader of Earth’s embassy and Nema are clearly at odds here. While Nema advocates for closer ties between the two species, and is convinced that Jani’s hybridization will be the way of the future, Shai wants to keep the relations as they are or even to lessen them. The leader of the idomeni species himself, and by extension most of the born-sect idomeni, want isolation from the humanish. Then there are the Haárin, who are the outcast idomeni and who have the most contact with humanity. They want to settle on human planets and have closer ties between the species. I was actually mostly more interested in the idomeni happenings that Jani’s.

Jani’s hybrid body is still acting up. There are only specific foods she can eat; no lactose and lots of spice. Her joints hurt and she doesn’t heal as quickly as she should have with her augments. Her eyes have also changed to look like idomeni eyes and she hides them behind contact lenses, or films. She’s taller and her fingers and toes are longer and more slender. It’s interesting to see just how idomeni-like she will in end up being.

I really enjoyed most of the secondary characters here. The mysterious Niall: what does he really want and is he really trustworthy? Jani’s old friends Steve and Angevin whom Jani tries to keep out of the loop for their own protection. Of course, they don’t appreciate that and are furious about it. Angevin redecorates Jani’s apartment. John Shroud, the doctor who orchestrated Jani’s hybridization and who is in love with her, just waiting her to choose him. And of course Jani’s bewildered parents from the frontier. Nema who is devoted to his own vision of the future which has been supposedly given to him by his gods. The Haárin who irritate both humans and the idomeni.

The atmosphere in the books is darker than in many other space opera stories. Jani has good reasons to be paranoid and she has very few friends. There are no easy answers and endings are rarely happy.

Please don’t start the series with this book!

Part of the following challenges: to-be-read-pile, 2nds, speculative fiction, and take the journey

This is the second in the science fiction series about document examiner Jani Killian.

After the disastrous events in the Rauta Shèràa Base, where a few humans lived in an idomeni base, Jani has been on the run for almost twenty years. She was badly hurt in the conflict at the base and in order to keep her alive, her whole body had to be reconstructed. A team of three doctors decided to rebuild Jani as a human-idomeni hybrid. Now, her hybrid body is breaking down. She also has a military augment which gives her body a boost of strength, speed, and stamina when needed. Unfortunately, the augment also needs maintenance which Jani isn’t getting.

Jani is also wanted for a more recent murder and feels like she can’t trust anyone. However, she has so severe symptoms, stomach cramps, difficulty sleeping and eating, that she’s forced to find medical help. She contacts the Neoclona company under a false ID. One of the three doctors works there and he’s willing to help her. However, during the examination she’s poisoned and promptly taken into custody.

After she recovers somewhat, she expects a murder trial. However, the charges against her are quite different. They are still serious enough that she has to have a lawyer and there will be a trial later. Meanwhile, she’s a professional archivist and the military is prepared to give her the old job back. She’s suspicious, of course, but her lawyer advices her to take it. It turns out, that the current relations between humans and idomeni are pretty shaky and Jani does know the idomeni and their customs well. However, she still suspects that something more sinister is going on.

Jani is a great heroine: tough, determined, intelligent, and haunted by her past. She’s learned the hard way not to trust anyone but herself and even her own body is now breaking down. Yet, she seems to not to be a loner by nature but rather because of the circumstances. She cares about the people around her.

The book has three point-of-view characters: Jani, her former lover and the former Interior Minister Evan van Reuter, and another archivist Sam Duong. Sam is convinced that he’s being framed for things he didn’t do but nobody believes him. His doctor says that he has a tumor in his brain which makes him forget things and then make up stories to fill in the blanks. The doctor wants to operate. Sam, however, is convinced that he has an augment in his brain and removing it would kill him.

After the events in the first book, Evan is under house arrest and suspected of murder. Only very few people can visit him. One of them is his lawyer, Joaquin Loiaza, who is basically Evan’s only link to the outside world. Yet, Evan is still in the middle of most elaborate plotting and scheming imaginable. Much like Jani, he’s also in a position where he can’t trust anyone but for him the situation is new. Or newish because his job as a politician didn’t involve trusting many people, either.

This book has very deep world building. There’s tension between the Earth-born humans and the colonials, and that colors the way that the characters interact. There’s tension between the military and civilians, as well, even though that’s not as clear.

The idomeni are still fascinatingly alien. They view eating as sacred and even seeing a food transport is sacrilegious. They prefer to show their emotions in the open instead of hiding them as many humans do. This can cause quite a lot of friction between the species especially when trained diplomats try to handle the idomeni.

The plotting is very fast-paced. There are no flashbacks but Jani does reminisces a lot about what happened twenty years ago. There are a lot of characters in the book and they aren’t reintroduced every time they appear. Overall, the book requires a lot of attention while reading but also rewards it.

There’s been a lot of upset in the blogland in the past days about covers showing a white character when the protagonist is not white. The same thing happened with this cover. Jani is described as “tawny damsel” but the hand in the cover (reaching for the knife) is white. The book was published in 2000.

This is first in the Jani Kilian sci-fi series.

This was a rather enjoyable surprise. First, Jani is in her forties. Second, she suffers from back pain and stomach problems so she seems more, well, human than most heroes.

Captain Jani Kilian is a woman on the run. She has been hiding in the furthest planets from the nexus of the galactic Commonwealth. Years ago, she was involved in the try out for humans moving in to one of the cities of the alien idomeni. While the idomeni look very much like humans, their culture and behavior is quite different. The idomeni desire order above all and they consider lying abhorrent. They consider humans to be both chaotic and deceitful but where persuaded into trying co-existence. Unfortunately, the try out ended in a blood-bath and all of the humans involved are thought to be dead. Jani is the last of them and she is still wanted for multiple counts of murder by both humans and the idomeni.

Even though the try out was a failure, currently some humans and idomeni do live in the same cities but in different parts of the cities and their relations as strained at best.

Jani had been hiding successfully for many years but her time is slowly running out. She was very seriously injured in the fighting in the idomeni city and her left arm and leg had to be replaced with synthetics. The synthetics are almost numb and she has developed a limp and back pains because of the false leg. Also, her brain has been augmented for survival and human brains haven’t been designed to withstand that. Usually, an augmented person has to go through check ups every couple of months and a mental purging annually. Jani has started to develop hallucinations about her dead underlings and sometimes her augments don’t kick in when they should.

Because she has to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice and be on guard against attempts to capture her, she has to work for low pay and can’t really develop friendships.

Evan van Reuter, Jani’s former lover and now the Interior Minister of the Commonwealth, has managed to track her down and is offering a job for her. Evan’s wife died three years ago and there are still persistent rumors that Evan himself was behind it. Evan wants to hire Jani in her role as a documents technician to go through the files and to clear his name. At the same time he tries to woo her back him. Jani isn’t too thrilled about either of the prospects but agrees reluctantly to look into Evan’s wife’s death. Unfortunately, that means going back to the very heart of the Commonwealth, Earth, and right under the very nose of the police forces looking for her.

When Jani finds out that her old idomeni teacher is the idomeni ambassador to Earth, she almost changes her mind. But it’s too late: she has already been introduced to Evan’s chief aides and a very nosy butler who turns out to be a spy. Jani enjoys foiling his attempts to get information from her during the trip. Later she encounters him in a very unexpected place.

When they come to Earth, Jani finds out that nothing about the job is easy. There are more secrets than she ever would have believed connected to the death. She also has to confront her bloody past and what she had to do in the idomeni planet. And to make things worse, there’s a virulent disease spreading around the colonies and Jani’s stomach has been upset for some weeks now.

The idomeni ambassador is the second-point-of-view character and he has his own designs about Jani’s future.

The book is very fast paced. I had some trouble with how quickly people started to trust Jani and agree to do even illegal jobs for her. Then again these people weren’t exactly the most law-abiding people around in the first place.

The cultures in the book have been well done. There’s the elitist Earth who is trying to control the much more numerous colonies on other planets while looking down on them. The idomeni are disturbed by the human’s chaoticness and only the charismatic influence of Jani’s former mentor can convince the idomeni to continue to keep in touch with the humans at all. And yet even he is a former criminal and apparently many idomeni consider him to be tainted by the humans. I’d love to see more of the cultures involved.

I was also intrigued by some of the technology. For example, the document technicians have scanpacks which are used to verify the validity of the documents. The packs are made from the technicians own brain cells.

After a couple of chapters I wasn’t even bothered anymore by the cognitive dissonance of Jani’s name: Jani is a male Finnish name and her nick name Jan is a Swedish/Finnish male name.