–spoilers for Aftershocks. Proceed at your peril-
Series: The Palladium Wars (#2)
Genre: Military SF
Publication Date: 26/05/2020
Aden is trying to put his life back together after the war, and has finally found a way to leave his past behind. But not everyone is so keen to let sleeping dogs lie, and the threat of renewed conflict is always on the horizon . . .
The second part of Kloos’ far-future military saga continues the interlinked stories of Aden, Idina, Solveig and Dunstan as they adjust to life in a post-war solar system. It’s a touch longer than the opening volume, and with a more balanced spread of character viewpoints. Dunstan in particular gets far more to do this time around, and the characters are now crossing paths in more ways than one.
This better spread of viewpoints means that Aden takes a backseat for much of the book, though it remains his arc that binds the others together. Aden is growing comfortable in his new life as a smuggler, in the Firefly sense of the word. His sister Solveig continues to run the family business. While her storyline links the most tightly to his, it also feels the weakest. In a book as short and fast-paced as this, there is little room for the drama of the board-room to be explored. Aden’s path also crosses with Dunstan’s, finally bringing him into the main story. Dunstan is where Kloos’ military background really shines, and he brings a more sympathetic side to the military. Idina’s chapters are perhaps the weakest link in the chain, as her story seems largely unconnected to the larger events of the narrative. This is a shame, as her chapters are some of the best.
Throughout the book, Kloos deals deftly with some fairly weighty topics. How do you move on after a war? What is it like to live under military occupation? Can you forgive others, or even yourself? What I particularly admire is that Kloos does not attempt to provide any concrete answers. The characters may reach decisions, but the author is always a step back from that. Though the themese are heavy, the book never drags. It may not be quite as action-packed as the first book, but there are still some great set pieces here, including one neat little ship-on-ship piece of action.
As with its predecessor, Ballistic‘s only real failing is that it can feel over-stuffed at times. With four viewpoints and only three hundred pages (and the font s hardly the smallest in the world), there are inevitably thingsthat don’t get detailed as much as I would like. I would happily read a novel twice this size, although I admit the low page count is a nice treat between larger tomes. I’m not sure how long this series is going to be overall, butI wouldn’t be surprised if took more than just a trilogy to fully explore the world Kloos has created here.
All things considered, Ballistic is a nice little slice of military drama, with a fair balance between plot, world and characters. It may not be the most memorable piece of SF out there, but it’s one you won’t regret trying out.