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Contact Imminent
Kristine Smith
HarperCollins Eos, 448 pages

Contact Imminent
Kristine Smith
Kristine Smith was born in Buffalo, New York, and grew up in Florida. She earned her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of South Florida. She has spent most of her working career in manufacturing, research and development, and currently works for a large pharmaceutical manufacturer. When she isn't working or writing, she reads, plays golf, and roots for the Cubs and the Dolphins.

Kristine Smith Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Rules Of Conflict
SF Site Review: Rules of Conflict
SF Site Review: Code of Conduct

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

If I hadn't previously read Rules of Conflict, the second book in Kristine Smith's series, I likely wouldn't have made it through the first chapters of Contact Imminent, her fourth installment. Although there's a great deal to like about Smith's writing, this novel opens poorly, with a large cast of unintroduced characters and few hints to identify their roles or tell one apart from another. It felt like an unbroken continuation of another book, and it took me at least five chapters before I began sorting out who was who and what they were supposed to be doing.

Fortunately, I persevered, driven by my fascination with Smith's protagonist, Jani Kilian, a human woman who has unwillingly been infected with genetic material from an alien species. Jani is slowly metamorphosing into a hybrid creature, neither human nor idomeni. Some view her as a bridge between the two cultures and races -- an ambassador who can pave the way to increased understanding and contact -- while others see her as an abomination.

Contact Imminent opens in an idomeni consulate in Chicago, where the visionary priest, ni Tschecha Egri is working toward cultural and economic integration of the two space-faring races. But Tschecha's progress is faltering in the face of increasingly vicious terrorist assaults by xenophobic humans, and eroding support from the conservative idomeni leadership at home.

When Tschecha asks Jani to travel to the idomeni colony on Elyas and assist his ally, ni Feyo, she doesn't want to leave this tense situation. But her priorities change drastically when she receives a secret message hinting that she is not unique. There may be other human/idomeni hybrids on Elyas -- news that could trigger an explosive reaction from ultraconservatives of both species.

In Contact Imminent Kristine Smith has once again crafted an intricate plot, rife with political, military and religious intrigue, and enriched by a complex alien priest/warrior culture. The angry, emotionally-defended Jani continues to make a compelling protagonist, backed up by a strong cast of human and idomeni characters. Smith does a particularly nice job with the three men in Jani's life -- rivals and reluctant allies who circle each other like a bunch of bristling tomcats.

Although this novel is primarily plot-driven, much of the action surrounds a trio of dangerous, yet oddly compelling zealots: Micah Faber, junior member of a conspiracy of military extremists planning an illegal attack on the idomeni compound; Elon, an ultraconservative member of the consulate who is also plotting the consulate's downfall; and Gisa, would-be messiah of a new race of hybrids. As in the previous books, every faction has plans for Jani, but Jani is tired of being run by other people's agendas, and she's ready to make her own future this time -- taking the galaxy with her, if necessary.

The final chapters of Contact Imminent wrap up all the major threads of Smith's story arc while, unsurprisingly, leaving possibilities open for future sequels. It is a satisfying finish, but the book itself is far from a stand-alone novel. With so many strengths to Smith's universe and characters, it's a shame that this novel is unlikely to attract many readers who did not read the prequels.

Copyright © 2003 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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