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Contact Imminent    by Kristine Smith order for
Contact Imminent
by Kristine Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the fourth in the author's Jani Kilian series, which began with Code of Conduct. Captain Kilian studied at the alien Academy established by an idomeni priest named Tsecha, who prophesied a blending of the humanish and idomeni races into a single people. After being blown up in a civil war that erupted between rival idomeni factions, Jani was put back together by Dr. John Shroud ('Pygmalion to Galatea') using alien genetic material. So she became Tsecha's 'toxin', 'the bringer of pain and change'.

Now more comfortable in her hybrid body, Jani no longer suffers as she did in the period of adjustment. In Contact Imminent, she is sent as Tsecha's envoy to the idomeni world of Karistos, where disagreement between Feyo and Gisa is threatening his power base. At the magnificent seaside enclave of Thalassa, Jani discovers that she is not the only idomeni-humanish blending. Jani was accompanied on the trip to Karistos by Niall - continually torn between their friendship and his strictly human loyalties - and by her former lover, John Shroud, who considers both Jani and Niall to be 'damaged idealists'. Jani and John find that the differences that previously kept them apart are shrinking fast.

Back in Chicago, saboteurs plan an attack on the alien Embassy, and the idomeni Ghos challenges Jani's close ally and sometime lover, Lucien Pascal, to a duel - with every intention of leaving him dead in the Circle. It's an escalating succession of 'cross-species political crises', with factions within factions on both sides. Will Tsecha's vision of one hybrid race ever come to pass? Kristine Smith has taken an unusual approach. Aside from one of Andre Norton's SF adventures, this is the first series that I have read whose protagonist changes (physically and mentally) over time into an alien species - the author takes the idea of going where no man has gone before into a new dimension.

Though Jani continues the shoot first and ask questions later approach to life, that makes her such a marvellous heroine, she has also mellowed in this episode, helped by the fact that one of her lovers makes a very significant commitment to her. At the end of Contact Imminent, Captain Jani Kilian is no longer alone and, more than ever, has something to fight for. It's an excellent SF series, which I will continue to follow.

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