Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Marko Kloos began with Aftershocks a unique and captivating epic science-fiction series called The Palladium Wars, and in the second book, Ballistic, we witness a world increasingly plunged into chaos. While Aden Jansen ventures on a long journey of self-realization and frightening discoveries, his home planet Gretia is on the brink of an uprising in the face of its occupants.
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Marko Kloos Continues the Saga of Unrest
If humanity ever manages to get its act together to survive long enough to start colonizing planets in outer space, there is no reason to believe we’ll behave any differently up there than we do down here on Earth. Military and civilian conflicts would very much still happen, and on a much grander scale with greater stakes to boot. In Ballistic, the second book of The Palladium Wars series, Marko Kloos takes us into a deep future where mankind follows precisely this type of course in its history.
Before moving on, it’s important to note that reading the first book in the series, Aftershocks, is highly recommended before jumping into this one. It doesn’t really work as a standalone, picking up where the previous novel left off as if one long piece of text, and you’d simply be out of the loop for too long before being able to enjoy anything.
With this being said, if you’re going to keep reading I’ll assume you’ve read the first instalment and aren’t in need of any significant refreshers. As I mentioned just now, the story continues as if it had never been interrupted, with Aden having adopted a new identity and integrated himself aboard the Zephyr, a merchant ship smuggling important goods through outer space.
Though his ultimate plan still consists of returning to Gretia, the planet has only seen its level of unrest increase in recent years, and the occupation forces aren’t easing up in their methods. The loyalist and postwar reformers are clashing against each other, and the powder keg which is the planet’s social structure is threatening to explode at any moment.
While Aden is busy on a journey of self-realization, making quite a few discoveries about himself and his own history, he also comes across some surprising pieces of information showing the Gretian insurgents to be prepared for a planet-wide revolution. With history on the verge of repeating itself, as it has so many times in the past, Aden is slowly coming to the realization he’ll ultimately have to pick a side and stand for something… but what is there to stand for, in a crumbling world rotting from within?
The Analysis of Military Occupation in Ballistic
In the previous title, Marko Kloos was quite busy setting the stage and getting us acquainted with the complex world he had created in the impenetrable depths of his writer’s mind, taking his time without rushing anything for the sake of entertainment. In Ballistic, it felt to me like much of the author’s focus was placed on analyzing the concepts of military occupation as well as humiliation through peace.
We follow our four characters through alternating chapters, and to me the ones taking place on Gretia and examining its ever-shifting inner workings definitely stood out from the rest. Perhaps I’m wrong in saying this, but it felt to me as if Kloos as more keen to examine this particular aspect of his world than anything else, at least as far as this novel goes, and perhaps even invested a greater amount of effort into those chapters.
Thankfully, his hard work didn’t go to waste, far from it. He is extremely adept at describing people’s thoughts, and through our main characters we get to experience the occupation of Gretia through various points of view, all contending with different aspects of a military occupation. From legislative to psychological changes, Marko Kloos attempts to examine the whole gamut before the book’s end.
In my opinion, he was extremely reasonable in his portrayal of what a military occupation is like, preferring to depict it through small and detailed sketches rather than broad and emotional strokes. He doesn’t depict it as something unilaterally good or bad, but as the nuanced topic it tends to be, with many sides being both right and wrong, depending on one’s perspective.
The concept of humiliating peace also crops up inevitably when examining Gretia’s home population, and I can’t help but think the author drew some rather clear parallels to Germany after the Second World War, especially in regards to the ultimate consequences of defying it through re-militarization. If anything, it’s a sobering reminder of just how easily history can repeat itself, even in the confines of a sci-fi novel taking place in a future we can’t even dream of. People may change, but their nature doesn’t.
Closer to the Crescendo
If there is one reproach which could be been made in regards to the previous book, it would be the prevalence of long descriptive paragraphs over action or progressing the plot. In my opinion, it was an understandable approach by Marko Kloos, considering he set out to weave an epic saga spanning Lord-only-knows how many books.
In Ballistic, the speed does start to pick up a little bit, the chapters becoming noticeably more hectic, especially as they reach their endings. The world the story takes place in has quite obviously started to boil up, and we’re already getting a taste of greater clashes, likely in the work for novels further down the line. The stakes are increasing accordingly, and as a result the story as a whole is just more exciting.
With this being said, Marko Kloos has certainly not abandoned his writing style, still prone to paragraphs where he indulges in technical and detailed descriptions of technological, societal or political elements. Personally, I find them quite enjoyable for how informative they are, how they end up tying into the story, and the fact they seldom overstay their welcome.
As was the case previously, the characters are all fantastically-written and we can already see them slowly being changed by the events they’re experiencing. I do like the fact that none of them are truly powerful, forced to become resourceful in order to survive and achieve their goals, and while I do understand they benefit from plot armour, there were sequences where it became difficult not to feel concerned for their fates.
Finally, I think it’s important to mention that even though the action does pick up in Ballistic, it still remains only the second book in The Palladium Wars series, and as such, doesn’t exactly offer any kind of closure, promising to continue the story in the third chapter. As a matter of fact, no wars have even started yet. In other words, keep in mind this is part of a long and methodical ride, one which might see no end for a while… which, considering the quality of the books so far, is a good thing in my opinion.
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The Final Verdict
Ballistic by Marko Kloos is a fantastic second entry in The Palladium Wars series, with the plot starting to become more exciting while offering us an interesting examination of the military occupation on Gretia, and history’s propensity to repeat itself. Populated with detailed and memorable characters, it creates some intriguing premises for the next chapter in the series.
If you’ve enjoyed Aftershocks, or liked the premise but wished it moved with just a little more purpose, then you’re definitely going to have a blast with Ballistic.
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.