Book Review: Ballistic 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 2 of The Palladium Wars
Publisher: 47North (May 26, 2020)
Length: 318 pages
Hands down, The Palladium Wars by Marko Kloos is one of most character-oriented military sci-fi series I’ve ever read, and I think that’s why I’m enjoying these books so much. Ballistic is the second installment following hot on the heels of Aftershocks, picking up shortly after the cliffhanger we were left with, and fans will be happy to know it maintains a snappy pace and continues the trend of telling personal stories.
In Ballistic, we return to our four main characters: Aden, a former soldier for the Gretians; his sister Solvieg, heir to her family’s corporate empire; Idina, a Palladian now working as part of the occupying force on Gretia; and Dunstan, a commander in the Rhodian Navy. Through the eyes of these four characters, we watch as this incredible space epic continues to unfold, with a keen awareness that everything is pointing to another inter-planetary war between the three major factions.
For Aden, his problems just don’t seem to end, even after his release from a prisoner-of-war camp. Having fought for the Gretians, who are now on everyone’s shit list, he’s hoping a new identity and a new job on a merchant ship crew will be enough to start fresh. However, their team’s newest contract have them smuggling potentially illegal goods through dangerous space, which might bring unwanted attention to his credentials and blow his cover. His new crewmates have been good to him, but he’s not sure how long that would last once they realize who he really is. Meanwhile on Gretia, Idina has been transferred to a new post following the ambush that killed all her squad mates. She thought she would resent the job, but instead finds an unexpected camaraderie with her new partner, a highly competent law enforcer named Dahl. Within the Rhodian fleet, Dunstan is also coming to terms with the responsibilities of his position, handling space patrols and answering the calls of distressed ships. A feeling of foreboding settles upon him though, when he and his crew come upon the remains of a ruined vessel, at a loss as to what destroyed it.
It almost feels as though history is repeating itself, and everyone who can remember the last war knows just how bad this news is indeed. No one is more aware of this than Solvieg, who barely knows her brother because of the falling out between him and their family when the conflict started. Now she’s poised to take over more of the family business but still finds herself chafing under the overbearing thumb of her father, who expects complete obedience.
Without a doubt, the characters are the strongest aspect of this series, and this remains evident in Ballistic. A lot of military sci-fi gets hung up on politics, warfare, and the tech—after all, who doesn’t love powered suits of armor, laser pulse weapons and that cool stuff? The great thing about The Palladium Wars, though, is that it features all of this without forgetting the human factor. Kloos makes it a point to explore the effects of war on populations and also the individual soldier; whether we’re seeing the story from Aden, Idina, Dunstan, or Solvieg’s points of view, we’re focusing on their relationships and motivations on a very intimate level. With that said, if you’re a reader who prefers more tactical strategy and combat in your MilSF, this would not be so much up your alley, but if you enjoy rich character development and relationship dynamics, then you’ll probably love this.
Speaking of which, I’m struggling to decide which of the four main characters is my favorite this time. I was quite partial to Aden and Idina in Aftershocks, but in this sequel, all the POVs are quite strong. Aden’s chapters are perhaps the most suspenseful and adventurous, traveling around in deep space with the crew of the Zephyr as they play smuggler with an unknown and highly suspicious piece of cargo. Idina’s sections were most heartwarming, as I simply adored the unlikely friendship that developed between her and Dahl, which spoke to themes of putting aside differences and finding common ground. Dunstan, who admittedly wasn’t too inspiring in the first book, became quite an interesting character in this one, as he headed up a mysterious story arc that immediately put me on edge (in a good way). Even Solvieg, who didn’t really get a chance to shine before, got to step up into a leadership role and show her father that she is her own woman.
The ending really knocked me for a loop too. Similar to the way Aftershocks concluded, we’re left with a momentous, earthshattering event that will greatly alter the course of the characters’ lives, but readers are left holding their breath to see what will happen next. It’ll doubtlessly annoy some people, but at the same time, if you’ve already made it past the first book to this one, then this type of cliffhanger ending was probably expected and shouldn’t bother you too much.
Still, not gonna lie, it’s going to be another tough wait. Marko Kloos really knows how to keep readers begging for more, and I am looking forward to getting my hands on the next book—no way I’m missing it!
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Aftershocks (Book 1)