Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Marko Kloos found his foothold in the science-fiction genre beyond the shadow of a doubt, and with Aftershocks he begins a new series, The Palladium Wars, by taking us on an Earth-like planet in the Gaia system called Gretia. As it tries to stabilize in the wake of interplanetary war, various actors see their fates intertwined on the precipice of a massive insurrection threatening to tear Gretia apart.
Table of contents
Marko Kloos Begins an Epic Saga
Authors don’t really write epic science-fiction stories like they once used to. They require a good deal of concentration and dedication to be fully enjoyed from start to finish, qualities increasingly rare in a world with an ever-declining attention span. Marko Kloos is one of the few authors still standing by the genre and its methodical ways, and with his novel Aftershocks he marked the beginning of The Palladium Wars trilogy.
The story takes us to the Gaia system where an Earth-like planet by the name of Gretia is recovering from an interplanetary war, its people existing under the occupation of their conquerors. Though things do seem to be improving ever-so-slightly, the planet remains teetering on the edge of political, economic and social collapse.
We are then introduced to Aden Robertson, a Gretian soldier who has just finished serving his prison sentence and would like to return to his homeland and find some quiet place far away to settle down, to forget about being in the losing side of the war. However, the blood of many stains his hands, and there are plenty of secrets just waiting to catch up to him.
Though the prison bars no longer stand in his way, bureaucracy, sheer bad luck and some ill-wishers seem quite intent on preventing him from seeing Gretia ever again. There is a chance for him to start anew, but he’s got a hell of a journey to brave through before seeing any kind of light. Besides, who is to say he deserves a second chance in the first place?
Meanwhile, tensions start boiling again on Gretia when it becomes apparent someone is trying to restart the war. The occupation forces suddenly turn a whole lot more violent, killing military and civilians alike. There is an invisible enemy, pulling the strings somewhere behind the scenes, and only a few Gretians have the opportunity to put up a fight and unveil a conspiracy threatening to wipe out the entire planet.
The Complex Narrative in Aftershocks
Marko Kloos certainly isn’t a newcomer to the epic science-fiction genre (or space operas, as they seem to be called nowadays), which means he has established certain standards for himself, leading readers to expect certain things from the man. When they have such a sweet gig going, most authors will stay within the confines of what they know works, but that’s not what Kloos went for in Aftershocks, and as a writer myself I can only respect his ambition.
In his previous series the author has, more often than not, offered up a simple narrative centred on a small core of main characters rushing along a straight and logical line. If your enjoyment of the author’s stories hinges entirely on this aspect of his storytelling, then I’m sorry to say he has decided to take a different direction this time around.
The narrative follows not one but four main characters, each going through their own plots separately from the others, promising to eventually collide somewhere down the line. As a result, the narration feels somewhat disjointed and seems focused on building the world, its history and the characters more than anything else.
However, in my opinion it didn’t make the book any less interesting. Each character takes us to remarkably different environments, and Marko Kloos really puts his imagination on full display when describing the various aspects of the world he has invented. Few are capable of weaving such extensive world-building while still maintaining a minimum of forward momentum to prevent the reader from getting bored.
In other words, it feels like this first novel of The Palladium Wars series exists to set the stage rather than tangibly progressing the story, and I can imagine there are some people who would be upset by it. Personally, I think it’s fair to expect the first books in epic series to end on cliffhangers and offer less action than their sequels, simply because there is so much to develop before actually launching the plot forward in a way which makes sense.
Attention to Detail
I’m certain all approaches to science-fiction have their own merits, but personally I’ve always been more a fan of the authors who not only write in a detailed fashion, but more importantly, know how to turn those details into important story elements. Marko Kloos has always been proficient at offering detailed descriptions of anything he set his mind to, and Aftershocks is no exception.
He takes his time in giving us a tour of the technology, people, social dynamics, economic principles, history, and pretty much anything else you can imagine which would be relevant in the description of humans living on a foreign planet in the distant future. I know this approach isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for those like me who enjoy it, watching the author slowly paint a grandiose and vivid picture of an astonishing world was a veritable pleasure.
This sentiment is amplified many-fold by just how solid the science is in this novel, just like all of the author’s other works. Though he naturally doesn’t break things down to the level of the quantum physics, it is quite obvious he has a good understanding of scientific principles relating to whatever subject he’s writing about and an exceptional aptitude for using them to the benefit of his story, relaying it all to the reader through easily-digestible layman’s terms.
At the same time, Kloos knows how to juggle descriptions and storytelling to prevent one from ever becoming too dominant over the other. The chapters themselves are rarely long, not to mention they jump between the main characters, preventing the plot from feeling monotone or repetitive. As such, there’s a constant impression of forward movement, which is especially true the further you get into the book.
If I had to point out a weak spot, I would say it’s the amount of development our characters are going through. I’m chalking it up as a byproduct of this being the introductory novel in a new series where the author is in no rush to get to the end, but it felt like little happened to prompt their development from start to finish. I would have liked to see them subjected to greater trials, but I’ll trust the author’s judgment to save them for later on.
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The Final Verdict
Aftershocks by Marko Kloos is a fantastic beginning to The Palladium Wars epic science-fiction trilogy, and while it is focused on setting the stage more than advancing the action, it offers quite a lot to fans of the genre (and of the author) in terms of world-building, and in the latter half, in terms of storytelling as well.
If you’re a fan of Kloos and are eager to see him try something a little different, or are looking for an epic sci-fi you can get lost in for the foreseeable future, then I think this book would be well worth checking out.
Marko Kloos is a freelance novelist and writer, as well as being a father to two children. Kloos’ primary area of literary expertise is science-fiction, and perhaps fantasy as well. He is the kind of writer who knew what he wanted to do ever since he set foot in a library, which resulted in some acclaimed books such as Point of Impact, Angles of Attack, Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure.