For Inspector J.P. Dillal, the main protagonist in K. R. Richardson’s Blood Orbit (Pyr, 2018), the expression “I’ve got a lot on my mind” takes on new meaning when he allows his bosses to replace a good chunk of his brain with a mobile crime lab.
What he gets in exchange for submitting to the risky surgery is a promotion that allows him to catapult to the top ranks of the Gattis Corporation’s police force. The life circumstances that lead Dillal to surrender part of his body is as much a part of the story as the brutal mass murder that he must solve with his new cybernetic implants.
While cyborgs are often depicted as superior to ordinary humans, Richardson doesn’t hesitate to describe the dark side of a surgery that reconfigures a significant part of a person’s body. Not only are many people repulsed when they see Dillal, but the surgery is still fresh, and he grapples with fatigue, infection, leaks, and other menacing complications.
His condition “is considerably less than optimal because that’s an aspect of a highly intrusive body change,” Richardson tells me during her appearance on New Books in Science Fiction. She herself had undergone major surgery while working on the book. “People who’ve never been through a major surgery are unaware of how long you continue to be less than normal.”
Richardson was inspired by a real-life crime, the Wah Mee massacre, which occurred in Seattle in 1983, transferring real-life ethnic tensions and police corruption to a new planet with its own culture and ethnic strife.
Blood Orbit represents a change of genre for Richardson, who previously authored the Greywalker paranormal detective novels as Kat Richardson. She switched from “Kat” to the gender-neutral “K.R.” to escape the misperception that “women writing urban fantasy actually write paranormal romance.”
“It was a perception I’ve been fighting since the very first book because the Greywalker novels are not particularly romantic. They’re detective noir in urban fantasy clothes. I’ve always been a detective writer, and fighting that fight every book for nine books was really disheartening.