BOOK REVIEW: Aftershocks, by Marko Kloos

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Publisher: 47North

Series: The Palladium Wars (#1)

Genre: Military SF

Pages: 278

Publication Date: 01/06/2019

Verdict: 4/5

 

The war is over, and Aden Robertson of Gretia fought on the losing side. Released from a PoW camp after 5 long years, he must adapt to the new world he emerges into. But he not the only one finding it hard to let go of the past. . . 

Marko Kloos’ follow-up to the Frontlines series is a similar beast. An all-action military SF drama with an undeniably human touch. But it also marks a fresh start. Unrelated to the previous series, Aftershocks is set over a thousand years in the future, in a solar system with six inhabited worlds, all having fought a brutal war half a decade earlier.

The main character here is Aden Robertson, a man who fought on (fairly objectively) the wrong side. There are clear parallels between the Gretians and the Nazis. Not in the usual lazy, look-how-bad-my-villains-are way however. Kloos has a more balanced view. these are people who did terrible things, yes, but they did them for what the believed to be the best of reasons. Nuance is often lacking in military SF, but here it’s on full display. The losing side is being exploited for its resources, and you can’t help but wonder if the victors aren’t just as bad as their opponents.

For such a short novel, there are a lot of viewpoints. As well as Robertson, we have Idina – a soldier in the occupying Allied forces, Solveig – a young heiress starting a new job at her father’s company, and Dunstan – an Allied captain on patrol against potential acts of piracy. This diverse cast is the only real failure of the novel. While all are interesting and we spend around half the book with the three of them, Aden’s plotline takes up a full half. With so many viewpoints in so little space, the book does feel a bit crowded at times, and I can’t help but wonder if all of them are really necessary. Or if they are, then perhaps the book should have been a little longer.

For a series with Wars in the title, there aren’t any big battles in this one. More so than his previous works, Aftershocks certainly feels like a Book One. There’s no real resolution to any of the plot threads, and a lot of mysteries are opened up. But there’s also a real feeling that things are building to a conflict. I have the utmost confidence that Ballistic, next year’s forthcoming sequel, will more than deliver on these promises of bigger things to come.

For all that, Aftershocks is a punchy little novel, quick on the draw and ready with action. While there is nuance, there isn’t page-after-page of philosophy and moral debate. Whether this is a benefit or a deficit is up to the reader of course, but for me, it’s definitely the former. Kloos has a firm grip on action scenes, making even the minor skirmishes have meaning.

 

All told, this is a good introduction to a new series. While not perfect, it’s only real flaw is that it isn’t long enough. And that’s something easily remedied with a nice long series to follow.

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