After Moses Review

Review: After Moses by Michael F. Kane

After Moses is an engaging space western featuring a gun-slinging captain, a crumbling solar system civilization, and colorful villains. This great sci-fi adventure launches the series of the same name.

Here at the Periapsis Press blog, we only post reviews of works we recommend, so you already know I enjoyed After Moses. I encourage you to check it out!

Disclaimer: We received a copy of this book from the author for the purpose of review. This in no way influences our opinions. (You can request a review here.)

This review contains minor spoilers.

After Moses Publisher Description:

His gruff exterior hides a man who wants to do the right thing. But running from trouble won’t work when the planets need a hero.

Arizona Colony, Mars. Matthew Cole doesn’t want anyone else aboard his ship. But the notorious solo freelancer is persuaded against his better judgment to guard a dangerous prison transport along with an exo-suit-clad former rival. Outmaneuvered when the crook’s cronies spring the inmate with heavy firepower, the poncho-wearing captain vows to scour the solar system to restore his rep and claim his paycheck

Reluctantly banding together with his seven-foot partner in her powered armor, Matthew has his hands full leading an unwanted ragtag crew. But the headache of dealing with people again is nothing next to the prickling between his shoulders as he continues to run afoul of greedy politicians and criminal syndicates.

Is this space cowboy’s moral compass sending him to a fatal crash landing?

After Moses is the captivating first book in the After Moses post-apocalyptic science fiction series. If you like complex loners, found families, and thought-provoking scenarios, then you’ll love Michael F. Kane’s pulse-pounding liftoff.

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Review:

Near Space Western

After Moses embraces the idea of the space western. The adventures take place within our own solar system, particularly Mars and Jupiter’s moon when the cast isn’t on board their spacecraft. These locations harken distinctly to the classical American Old West—although particularly Southwestern or Argentinian in flavor.

Matthew Cole is a gaucho, complete with campero and poncho, and harboring the spirit of a hardworking freelancer. Even the religious themes of this book reflect some of the iconic gaucho Western tropes, particularly the importance of the local Catholic institutions.

There is plenty of satisfaction to be had for the Western trope enjoyer: saloons, trains, shootouts, settlers, crooked lawmen, cowboys, etc. The frontier setting with the classic struggle between lawlessness and order provides as rich a fodder for space as it did for the Old West, and Kane manages to deliver an engaging story without subverting the iconic.

Characters Better Than Firefly

A cult favorite in the space western genre is the prematurely cancelled tv show Firefly. I found the characters of After Moses to be superior. Maybe this is in part because there is no OnlyFans Karen undercutting the hero at every turn or a preacher-man with some pseudo-religious quip to make me grind my teeth.

Instead, the cast is full of characters that are distinctly likeable. Matthew is struggling with his past, but his faith is genuine. The shieldmaiden is abrasive, but respects Matthew’s authority. The brother-sister pair introduce unpredictability without cringe behavior, and their youth raises the stakes for everyone involved.

There are no romantic ties in this book—perhaps unrealistically so—although that may change as the series progresses. There are some light inquiries about such feelings, but they are brushed off. This keeps the inter-personal tension focused on the hidden pasts of Matthew and Abigale, and works to solidify the new relationships between crew members as reliable instead of sowing uncertainty through relationship drama.

Season One

The plot of After Moses feels like the first season of a good tv show. It progresses episodically, with each job introducing new goals, characters, and colorful antagonists that may or may not contribute beyond the shorter arc. Matthew’s nemesis is glimpsed throughout, to appear more tangibly in the final story event.

Matthew’s past provides the plot with over-arching direction, and it is the confrontation of that past which delivers the ramped-up tension for the climax of the book.

The close chronological order combined with Kane’s decision to provide minimal formatting delineations between these episodes keeps the reading experience very smooth, and the mysteries behind the characters provide plenty of pull-through to prevent the story from becoming choppy.

After Moses

I enjoyed the first-person accounts and history snippets scattered throughout the story that illustrated the setting. I found that the limited solar system and failing rather than growing space civilization added a general feeling of pressure. Moses himself enriched the setting with mysteries to solve and treasures to discover, without ever actually appearing in the story. He also enabled the presence of wonderful futuristic tech without hard sci-fi explanations, simply because so much of the “how” is unknown.

I appreciated how Kane leaned into the religious questions around AI, and let them remain questions (for now). It felt representative of the overall tone of the work: introducing mysteries and treating matters of faith as of equal importance as the technology to traverse the universe.

Faith on the Frontier

I’ve already mentioned briefly the positive treatment of faith you can find in this book. It is tactfully done, allowing Matthew’s beliefs to anchor and guide his character without becoming preachy.

I found the antagonist extremely interesting due to his unique stance regarding Matthew’s faith. Rather than a villain who desires to undermine the hero’s beliefs, he sees them as a valuable means of approaching his own goals from an opposing angle. It is a great trope change that keeps the dramatic emphasis on the tension between them and establishes Matthew’s beliefs as part of his character and not up for negotiation.

Check Out After Moses!

After Moses delivers a compelling space western with likable characters and a positive treatment of faith. I am eager to try the rest of the series!

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2 Replies to “After Moses Review”

  1. Read it based on recommendation above.

    Things I liked:
    – The blurbs at the start of each chapter informing reader on more of the background.
    – The Earth-like nature of the real-life Solar System settings simultaneously resolved and dumped quickly from reader’s mind with the Moses backstory.
    – I personally like “staying” in a new setting for a little while, something that fast-paced stories often struggle to deliver. Even though we hopped around quite a bit, the different settings all got enough time to shine.
    – A likeable assembled team for future stories.

    Things I didn’t like as much:
    – As time wore on in the middle section of the book, the internal views of the two main characters of each other didn’t seem to change enough to merit the amount of time we spent in their heads.
    – Some minor irks like the wisdom of teens/tweens on EVAs, etc.

    This precise genre (Space Western) is not normally my cup of tea, but this was worth the read and I will look for future installments.

  2. I absolutely enjoyed this book immensely. I was about halfway through this first book when I ordered all the other books in the series in hardcover. It was a joy and pleasure to read this story. The plot, characters, and setting were so well thought out and unfolding to always keep me interested.

    Here’s my early complaint, you get too much story for what little you paid for this. Kane should have gotten at least four books out of this and charged you the same price for all of them. Now, with my tongue-in-cheek complaint out of the way, the adventures of the crew are very episodic in nature and each one matches a familiar pattern of a serial (without the old-time cheese). They are self-contained adventures. Here’s the kicker – you can enjoy them without needing to read eight books with a never-ending sword of Damocles hanging as the “big bad”. That is not to say there isn’t an overarching story in the universe. It is tastefully teased out as narrative interviews at the beginning of the chapter (save one that differs as important to the story) and peppered throughout the adventures of the crew. This is so smart and downright enjoyable. I will say, that it would have been nice to have a little bit more understanding of what Moses did for humanity in terms of care and technology; the subtlety gets a little too much and overshadows some of the payout towards the end of the book (a small gripe).

    The characters couldn’t have been written better. The main character, Matthew Cole, is likeable and a mixture of a mysterious past, a hero paragon, and someone who can change when the situation calls for it makes him so well-rounded you almost forget that it’s ok for authors to do this still. The crew collected along the way do not fade into the background. Each one is also written like an actual human being you want to read about. In fact, some of the crew have some of the best lines written about them. Yvonne has an amazing character moment in a library that is subtle but very powerful and advances her character maybe a little bit more than our main character for a good purpose. The children characters, Grace and Davey are just annoying enough to make you believe they are children but they are able to grow and have purpose as the story progresses. Abigail as the Shield Maiden co-bounty hunter also has virtue and poise and agency and growth. I liked that, at least in this book, there is no need to push a romantic angle with Cole. She does not take a backseat only backs up where needed and works well in a team setting.

    Again, the plot are the stories and there are stories upon stories here. Each chapter is a self-contained adventure and so you get rise and fall tension and action and periods of rest. However, where a good rollercoaster puts the big drop at the beginning of the ride, the end story has the best rising and falling action. Kane bought a lot favor with his audience with all the other stories and gave them a wallop of one at the end. There is not one “bad one” in this bunch. There are none that don’t have a purpose or fail to logically follow where our characters are as people or from their talents. This is just good sci-fi straight through. Yes, the Firefly comparison is probably appropriate in terms of setting and feel, but this is so different in such a good way (and we get more than one season and a movie here). The ending is nice as a set up for other books in the series but you can easily be done with this one and just know that the world that exists in the book goes on. That’s what I want when it comes to any sci-fi/fantasy book and I’m happy that this story has other parts.

    This is a high recommendation for me and I’m going to say that this will be a hard one to beat in 2024 as a book I loved completely. I cannot say enough good things about this and recommend just buying all the books in the series straight out. A true joy. Final Grade – A+

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