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.