Wednesday, 28 August 2019


A month ago, I was mentioning a new book from Marko Kloos Aftershocks, the first book in his new series Palladium Wars. Kloos is fast becoming one of my favorite sci-fi authors, I had devoured his Frontlines series last year in some excited quick reads, so a new series by him seemed like a great thing to jump into. And so, when this book premiered, I was sure to buy it on Kindle the first chance I got.

Jumping in, I found myself in a rich new star system with a fascinating backstory. We come to a colonized star system which has, after years of  brutal war, finally found itself at peace. Enter Aden, a former language specialist in the elite and infamous Blackguard of the Gretian armed forces. The Gretians had just launched an offensive war against practically everyone else in the solar system, and then found themselves ground down to dust by attrition. Having spent the last five years as a prisoner of war, he finds himself about to be released and adrift in the world.

Indina, is a soldier from Palladium, a high gravity world where people eek out existences by carving land from the very mountains. She is with the Palladium Brigade as part of the Gretian occupation forces. She suddenly finds herself under attack from a deadly and unknown adversary, which culminates in the near destruction of her entire platoon. Her only thought now, is revenge.

Dunstan, of the Rhodian Navy and the frigate Minotaur is on what seems to be routine patrol duty protecting the former Gretian fleet which will be partitioned among the former allies and kept to ensure Gretia never industrializes to prevent a threat to the rest of the system again. However, as the time to partition the fleet up, it ends up destroyed in a spectacular, and what should be impossible fashion.

Finally we have Solveig, the heir apparent to a great Gretian business dynasty whose random luck at being born before an arbitrary time limit means that her families powerful corporation will remain in family hands. This unlike many powerful formerly family owned industries which were forcefully nationalized by the occupiers in order to strip power away from the native Gretians. However, she lives in the shadow of her powerful and dangerous father. His plans for the future may be radically different from her own.

With these character sketches here you get something of a brief sketch of the overall plot, and see some of what to expect.

All of the characters do get very well fleshed out, and pretty evenly developed, but one character who goes for ages without much development until the final part of the story is Solveig. She almost just exists in this story without a lot of purpose, and is actually entirely absent from the plot until very near the end. It's a little confusing really, but it does add up, in something of a limited way at the end.

The book is very much Aden's story, and perhaps that is the authors intention to focus on these core characters and each book will then focus on them and their development until things come together at the very end. That is at least, what I am hoping for, since things seem very confusing at the moment. But most of the action, character development, and story was dedicated to Aden finding his way home, and finding a home in general.

Don't get me wrong, this is still a good read, but unlike the tightly plotted narrative of Kloos Frontlines series, this plot is very much all over the place. We don't really have much of an arc for our characters, and I actually came away feeling that there wasn't really any resolution in the novel. Things just happen and they don't really tie together. We don't even get a proper introduction to what we're supposing are the shadowy forces gathering in the background to bring things into chaos. It's a little...odd.

For instance, much of the action in the book takes place in those character bios, is the majority of the action in  the books. Compared to Frontlines, there is a lot of sitting around talking and little shooting. It seems a little slow. Then you have action events that don't seem to tie together, from space pirates to bombs, but it never really adds up in a meaningful way. The book really just, well ends. I was left with many questions, but practically zero answers. It does make me feel like this book was accidentally cut in half and that the next book will give me more to work with.

Secondary characters pop in with very little development, and people who I thought would be important seem to blip in and out like fireflies. I can honestly say I remember maybe three of the supporting characters. There isn't really a strong secondary character presence.

Despite that, there are some good action sequences, some fun background events, and a few really intriguing ideas. You can tell the series is drawing on the Expanse (which may set the gold standard for sci-fi now) which is a good thing in my opinion, but in places you do feel that influence. Though, the characters are not yet quite as good as those from the Expanse, but they show promise for things to come.

I can't detail too much of the plot for spoilers, but also since the book just kind of ends, its hard to say much about it other than it left me a little unfulfilled. I would still encourage people to read it, but don't be expecting to be blown out of the water. Knowing that Kloos is a good writer, I would say that even if you are leery of this book, give the whole series a chance. It will hopefully surprise us.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019


I've been catching up on well deserved classics that I haven't gotten around to reading yet, so in the dual interests of the mystery genre and my love of alternate history, I delved into the 1992 novel Fatherland. Written by Robert Harris, it explores an alternate world where Hitler's Germany did not lose WWII. Now, the Nazi colossus sits from the Atlantic to the Urals, holding all Europe, save Switzerland, under its sway. Having corralled the formerly independent nations of the Continent into a sham 'European Community' as well as engaging in a forever war along the long eastern frontier at the A-A line. Victory in hand, Hitler then turned his attention to creating his ultimate victory city in a garish redesign of Berlin.

The year is 1964.

Our story begins in the new Berlin, a body has been found washed up along the Havel River, near the heart of where the Nazi Party elite live. Detective Xavier March of the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo), and former U-boat sailor, is called to the scene of what at first seems to be the accidental death of an old Party member. Something of a recluse, the victim seems to have little connection to anyone other than being an original member of the Party. However, in an age of increasing terrorism at the heart of the German Reich, who can be sure?

The plot unfolds though as March, on a hunch, continues his investigations after the Gestapo claims jurisdiction over the case. He begins to unravel a disturbing conspiracy at the heart of the Nazi regime, one dating all the way back to the war and deals with the mysterious disappearances of all the Jews in Germany.

Along the way he meets American reporter Charlotte "Charlie" Maguire, while also dealing with numerous Nazi bigwigs and little men who are eager to dissuade his curiosity. But, he still has help in the form of his friend and partner Max Jaeger, who still aims to help him despite being a man not inclined to question the state.

Obviously, as this is a mystery thriller I won't be spoiling many details for you, but I think more than a few readers will be aware of the twist in this novel early on. I certainly was, but that did not mean I did not enjoy the book because of it.

While many fans of alternate history probably now find the idea of a Nazi victory story overdone, I still consider this to be a top rate novel. Rather than tell an exhaustive story of how the world got to where it was, the story is merely the setting for an intriguing thriller plot which uses that world as the background. It does of course, detail some of the alternate history leading to the Nazi control of Europe and the post-war Cold War with the United States.

Personally, what I found evocative of the novel was the setting. The premise is explained and partially justified but we are just told the story through these characters eyes as they live in this world. It is one where the Nazi Party reigns supreme over every aspect of German life, they remain constantly vigilant in attempting to police/purge the occupied territories of the East, while also struggling to catch up to a world where technology is moving quicker than men like Hitler and his cronies could anticipate. Terrorists are constantly targeting Germans, while the Germans themselves grow fat off the spoils of Occupied Europe, with Slavic laborers building their cities and English maids serving their tea.

March is a man who has grown up listening only to Party propaganda, and he still resents the Party despite the high standard of living he enjoys. Even with all that, his inquisitive nature makes him someone the Nazis would naturally be suspicious of. His interactions with Charlie, who has an outsiders perspective of Nazi Germany, are quite interesting. He uses this to ask questions he could never ask of another German person. He finds out about the horrible casualties incurred in the forever war on the frontier in the East against the Soviets and their partisans, and knows that much of the propaganda spouted against America is probably untrue, and even being toned down in light of the attempted detente with the United States.

These alternate 1960s are now defined by the interactions between the Reich and America. While we don't have as much of a global look as other stories might tell, the background to the story is fascinating and really establishes the characters and the world they exist in.

As for the plot, while many may see the twist coming, you are kept guessing as to whether anything will come of March's efforts to uncover the truth. He is constantly dodging a series of legal and lethal hurdles as the Gestapo seek to overcome any attempt to uncover the conspiracy at the heart of the Reich. It has all the good times of a spy thriller and a serial detective novel.

March himself is an engaging character. He has a policeman's sense of duty, constantly questioning and looking to solve crimes. He is also a former patriot. He loves Germany, and pursued a career in the navy because his father served in the Great War, but he has become disillusioned with what the Reich has grown in to. A man against his people as it were.

Charlie is a great sidekick, and as a kickass woman she deserves to be praised. An investigative journalist who is always looking for the next big scoop, she has German heritage and rebels against her family by carrying on in such a semi-dangerous career.

The somewhat forced attraction between the two leads felt, to me at least, as detrimental to the story. A love story (or lust story as the case may be) was not really necessary. Charlie would have been a stronger character without it, as there was not much chemistry between the two.

Fatherland though, is a deserved alternate history classic. Unlike the other stories I've reviewed, the spy thriller that was A Kill in the Morning and the war story which was Festung Europa, this one relies very much on its two leads to carry the story rather than increasing stakes or the drivers of history. It also shows you that stories set in one of the 'overdone' settings of alternate history, can, and most likely will, give you some great entertainment.