Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Local talent: Kristine Smith's "Code of Conduct"

I just got finished reading Kristine C. Smith's Code of Conduct, the first of her Jani Killian novels. They were originally recommended to me on John Scalzi's blog, and I've got to say, I'm fascinated.

Smith's a Chicago area SF writer, and her day job (pharmaceutical product development) crosses paths with mine (software for the pharma industry), so there's an interest there too (I'd thought perhaps I'd worked with her in the past, but no, different company).

Code of Conduct follows Jani Killian who's been hiding out for 18 years after nasty fallout of a political situation with an alien race, the Idomeni. They're prehaps not as fleshed out as some of CJ Cherryh's, but they are at least truly alien, and it's impressive. The main idomeni character, Tsecha, doesn't think like we do. He thinks in different idioms, struggles with "humanish" concepts (toward the end of the book, his aversion to bodily contact makes him uncomfortable when the prime minister says he's "pulling her leg"), and has goals and influences that cross the human characters' objectives, but at different angles.

The characters are interesting: broken, on edge, stressed to their limits (another similarity with Cherryh), and the fact that there are a couple more books leads me to hope I"ll learn a lot more about the idomeni. But it's not perfect. Smith gets a little obsessive with a few "futurisms" in the language such as "trash-zaps" in every room which dispose of waste, "dispos" which are disposable containers, and "skimmers" that cover everything from gurneys to coffee carts to cars and trucks in various sizes and shapes. I'm hopeful her writing matures -- there's more books I want to read. I'd also hoped for more biotech in the story given her day job -- I'd expected a bio-oriented resolution to the story which may yet come in a subsequent book. More reading to come -- book 2 is in my suitcase. That reminds me -- I need to write more about Len Deighton too.


Anonymous said...

Hello--saw your name on a Scalzi post, and wondered, is this the guy who emailed me?

I don't know if future books will offer the biotech solution which you seek. I like politics, and Jani's biology plays into that. But strictly speaking, the solutions I devise aren't SFnal because there's more than tech involved.

Thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

And yeah, the terms...they bugged some people. Other folks either didn't notice, or got used to them. I believe I reduced the usage of some of them as the series went on, but I stayed with a few.