Top critical review
Aftershocks: Barely a tremor and a disappointing launch to a new series
Reviewed in the United States on July 3, 2019
For the Too Long, Didn't Read crowd...
The book is a hurried rush that has a weak narrative and barely any coherent plot due to shifting between four main characters, who also suffer because of it. I get that Mr. Kloos was trying something different, hopefully to break him out of a rut with Frontlines, but the experiment was largely a failure and comes out as more as something self-published by a amateur author than someone with multiple books professionally published.
For the longer review...
The Bad: Aftershocks is a mess, primarily because of the focus on four different main characters through the short length of the book. There's simply not enough time given to establish the characters, build the world and have a coherent plot that builds up and ends on a satisfying note while laying groundwork for the inevitable sequel.
The four characters lack depth because of the rush to put everything into place. One is weary ex soldier (which felt very similar to the main character of the Frontlines series, especially in the most recent hook), a angry racist soldier that hates her enemies, a doe eyed corproo executive and a frigate captain that felt very much like Saul Tigh from Battlestar Galactica.
I believe that the book would have been better had it continued the focus on one character or just two. In the end I was more interested in one of the side characters than any of the main characters.
The worldbuilding is also subpar. Unlike Frontlines there's no real explanation for how this solar system spanning civilization works. You start the book five years after a massive war (something that felt pulled from The Expanse) in this jumble of VERY generically named and themed planets, all given plenty enough local detail but nothing is explained in depth beyond the immediate locale the character is interacting with.
It feels very disjointed and hard to engage with when, unlike Frontlines, you're not really given much of a reason to cared about these location but expected to all the same. Again, it is a symptom of having too many characters. A reduction would have helped the worldbuilding.
Instead we just have this generic bland...mess that has no backstory besides Five Years Ago There Was A War. I honestly think we would have been better off starting with that, or at least some form of prologue that established the universe before jumping in. Frontlines did not suffer from this because of the singular main character and the time that Mr. Kloos spent building the world of that universe.
The plot, what little there is, is just a mess. No spoilers here, but if you've read a Tom Clancy espionage novel, you've read this story before. There's so little central plot that this section is short. Hopefully Mr. Kloos Slim's down the cast so that the story has more room to breath so that it doesn't actually start going somewhere until 3/4ths of the way through the book.
However, there are some good things to be said about this book, largely because of the little improvements that Mr. Kloos has made to his writing skills. The side characters feel more like people instead of just cardboard cutouts. In fact one particular character (and who I am sure will return in the next book, probably as a love interest) turned out to be the one I enjoyed seeing the most. His individual locations have much more detailed descriptions that allow you to better visualize where the character is, but as stated this comes at the expense of overall worldbuilding for the universe. His ship based chapters are also markedly improved, having slid downhill after his excellent second and third Frontlines novels.
All in all, I feel like this was more of an experiment designed to shake off the weird...blahs that the so far final Frontlines novel had that made it so weak. The worldbuilding, characters and plot are so rushed and weak that they felt far more like a first time author self-publishing instead of a talented multi-book author with a professional publishing company. Or perhaps just a writing exercise that they decided to publish to fill the gap until the next Frontlines novel.
Here's hoping that he either returns to Frontlines feeling refreshed and brings that series back up to the same level of quality the first three books had, or he doubles down and recognizes the short comings of this book and takes his time with the sequel.