Book Review: Aftershocks by Marko Kloos
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 1 of The Palladium Wars
Publisher: 47North (July 1, 2019)
Length: 288 pages
After how badly I crashed and burned with the last military sci-fi novel I picked up, I was a little nervous about starting Aftershocks. However, my worries were allayed as soon as I began reading the first chapter and was introduced to Aden, a former soldier who fought on the side that lost and who now finds himself held in a prison-of-war camp. Pulled into this scenario straight away, I learned more about this world as the story progressed: it has been five years since the brutal inter-planetary war ended with a peace treaty, beating back the once proud Gretians who had instigated the conflict. The system has been rebuilding itself ever since, though there is still a lot of bad blood and animosity among the different peoples. Many lives had been impacted by the war, and there are some survivors who will never forgive the Gretians for what they did.
Idina is one such person. She’s a Palladian with a grudge, now part of the occupying force on Gretia making sure history won’t repeat itself. For the past five years, patrols with her platoon have been quiet and uneventful, until one day they are ambushed by an unknown enemy. Idina watched seven of her squad mates die, and this was just one of more deadly attacks to come. In another part of the system, Lieutenant Commander Dunstan Park of the Rhodian Navy is in space guarding the seized Gretian fleet when suddenly, all the inoperative ships are destroyed in a series of explosions, billions of tons of firepower wiped out in an instant. It appears that the peace is not as stable as believed. And now, Aden receives the news from his prison overseer that his captivity is about to come to an end. Thousands of Gretian PoWs like himself are about to be released back into society, allowed to return to their homes. But Aden isn’t sure how well he’ll integrate back into the real world. After so many years, a lot has changed. On Gretia, their once proud military has been neutralized along with sanctions placed on their economy. Solvieg is a young executive who was just a child during the war, and after the fighting was over her father had the company he founded taken away from him. Now due to a loophole she can reclaim it back for her family, but with the current tensions in the political climate, she finds being in the public eye might not be the best idea.
Normally, I would have trouble reading an “afterwar” book. After all, it’s hard not to wish you were reading about the actual war instead of the aftermath, when all the fighting is done and all you’re left with is the tedious cleanup. But not so when it comes to Aftershocks. Marko Kloos looks at the question of “what now?” through the eyes of four very different but equally engaging characters, each of them providing a unique and interesting perspective. Military SF is a tough genre for me to begin with, but I was eased into the narrative with Kloos’ smooth writing style and his ability to make you care about the people you are reading about.
On the topic of characters, Aden was by far my favorite. Defeated but not broken, he offers a fascinating look into the mind of an ex-soldier who now must come to terms with the atrocities committed by the Gretians and make a new life for himself in a world that despises his people. But you might be happy to know his storyline is not as bleak as it sounds. A natural problem solver, Aden uses creative ways to get himself out of tight spots, taking readers on one adventure after another. My second favorite character was Idina, who isn’t shy about making her opinions on Gretians known. That said though, she’s no one-trick pony with a single feature that makes her special. Kloos’ characters are multi-layered and complex individuals who evolve with the story, as Idina illustrates. Even the other characters who might not have stood out as much, like Dunstan and Solvieg, have important roles to play, giving us a glimpse into other areas of the system as well as the culture and challenges in the post-war climate.
And that, in essence, is why Aftershocks worked so well for me. I loved Kloos’ world-building and how deeply everything felt connected. Our characters don’t live in a vacuum; they exist in a complex network of social and political interactions, with the environment affecting their actions and decisions. This to me is what good military SF is all about, not just long-winded descriptions of high-tech weaponry and war strategies. Yes, this book had its share of action and violence, but it was also balanced with incredible story development and character building. The setting gave me a sense of a living, breathing universe, one full of feeling and meaning. All of it made me want to know more.
Unfortunately though, Aftershocks closes rather abruptly, leaving us with a “to be continued…” ending and lots of unanswered questions. If you don’t like being teased like that, I would highly recommend waiting until the series is completed before reading this book. Still, while I won’t deny being slightly frustrated with the sudden cliffhanger, I thought it was worth it for the experience. This novel was a solid start to what promises to be a fantastic series, and I can’t wait for the sequel.