47North, 2019, 286 pages
Across the six-planet expanse of the Gaia System, the Earthlike Gretia struggles to stabilize in the wake of an interplanetary war. Amid an uneasy alliance to maintain economies, resources, and populations, Aden Robertson reemerges. After devoting fifteen years of his life to the reviled losing side, with the blood of half a million casualties on his hands, Aden is looking for a way to move on. He’s not the only one.
A naval officer has borne witness to inconceivable attacks on a salvaged fleet. A sergeant with the occupation forces is treading increasingly hostile ground. And a young woman, thrust into responsibility as vice president of her family’s raw materials empire, faces a threat she never anticipated.
Now, on the cusp of an explosive and wide-reaching insurrection, Aden plunges once again into the brutal life he longed to forget. He’s been on the wrong side of war before. But this time, the new enemy has yet to reveal themselves...or their dangerous endgame.
This is the first book in a new series by Marko Kloos, a dude who started as a self-published author and who's grown quite a following on the strength of a single SF series which he has yet to finish.
I have really enjoyed the Frontlines series, though if you follow my reviews from the first one (Terms of Enlistment) to the most recent one (#6, Points of Impact) you will notice my growing frustration as he seems to drag the war on without a lot of plot progression. I've been waiting for him to bring the Frontlines series to an end. So, when he starts a new series instead, I have mixed feelings.
But Aftershocks has a lot of what I liked in the Frontlines series, and Kloos has definitely taken what he's learned there and applied it to this first book. Aftershocks is military SF, in that most of the characters are military, and there are extended descriptions of tech and space battles. It's a semi-hard SF universe; so far there is no mention of FTL travel, and spaceship engagements happen at distances of hundreds to thousands of kilometers with ships accelerating and decelerating, using AIs to handle tricky maneuvers, point defense systems, and the like. We have ECM, targeting lasers, hard sensor sweeps, stealth suites, you get the picture. The ground-pounders have powered armor and railguns and embedded nanofiber medical systems. If all these buzzwords sound cool, this is your kind of book. If not, well, it's still got pretty good characters.
The setting is a six-planet solar system, each of them inhabited by humans. (So far, there has been no mention of Earth, how long people have been here, or whether humans are native to this system. I suspect that will be a Big Reveal in a later book.) This requires a bit of suspension of disbelief, but let's say there are six more or less habitable planets in a system.
One of them, Gretia, decided to take on all five of the others. And lost. Gretia is now under occupation by the victorious Alliance, and paying reparations for the war they started, but generally being treated relatively civilly. There is unrest, however, and soon it becomes apparent that someone is trying to start shit up again.
The most obvious parallel here would be the inter-war period on Earth, with Gretia taking on the role of Germany, but so far it's not obvious that that's where Kloos is going. Gretia's culture seems more Scandinavian corporatist than German nationalist, and there are no Hitlers on the horizon, at least, not yet.
The interesting twist is that Kloos is trying out multiple POV narration; Aftershocks has four main characters. The first one, and seemingly the "prime," is Aiden. He was a military intelligence officer in the Gretian army, and spent the last few years in a POW camp. Being released under the terms of the treaty, he's looking to start over, while (as we learn) fleeing from a past he was running from even before the war began.
The other three POV characters are Dunstan, commander of an Alliance patrol frigate who runs into pirates who turn out to be more than they seem; Idina, a sergeant in the Alliance occupation army on Gretia with the expected negative feelings about the people she has to peacefully police after they invaded her homeworld; and Solveig, who is the heir to a Gretian megacorporation that's now been stripped to help pay reparations, and whose father, technically forbidden by law to participate in running the company, but still very much a powerful and influential person, was one of the elites who voted for the war in the first place.
All of their narrative arcs are interesting, which is a hard trick to pull off with multiple POV characters. I didn't find myself bored and just wanting to get through any particular one, as each encounters a piece of what looks like a larger conspiracy.
Unfortunately, with four POV characters in a relatively short book, none of them get very far so there are no resolutions, just a set up for the next book.
I'm on board, but I'm going to be reaaaaaally annoyed if Kloos drags this series on and on, while also failing to bring the Frontlines series to a close.
Also by Marko Kloos: My reviews of Terms of Enlistment, Lines of Departure, Angles of Attack, Chains of Command, Fields of Fire, Points of Impact.
My complete list of book reviews.