Fatal Depth (The Rise Of Oceania book 3) by Timothy S. Johnston (book review).

Truman McClusky is a man on a mission. Since the beginning of Timothy S. Johnston’s ‘The Rise Of Oceania’ series, Mac has twice prevented war and ensured the safety of Trieste, the underwater city he governs. He has incorporated new technology into his submarine fleet: faster drives and deeper dives. Weapons and defences. He has offered and made bargains of incalculable cost as he strives to unite the underwater cities of the world into a new nation, one with allegiance to itself first and the grasping hand of the crumbling overworld second. Mac has sacrificed much for his cause. But like any true hero, he knows the only way out is forward.

book cover
Fatal Depth (The Rise of Oceania book 3) by Timothy S. Johnston (book review)

In ‘Fatal Depth,’ the third novel in the series, that way forward is blocked by his greatest challenge yet. Mac’s mission: To sink the unsinkable, a massive submarine unlike anything they’ve ever encountered before. Over 400 metres in length, 100 metres high and able to travel at an astounding 467 kph.

For those of you on my side of the pond, that’s over four football fields in length and nearly another high with thirty decks in between. It’s a skyscraper turned on its side and powering through the ocean at seven times the speed of a conventional submarine.

Imagine how many torpedo tubes can fit along one side. Finished with that? Now imagine what would happen if an object this massive were to come to a sudden stop in the ocean. Further imagine such an action was planned and that the submarine has been outfitted with an apparatus to drive water forward. It’s called a tsunami plow and it’s about the most devastating weapon the oceans have seen since supercavitating technology was attached to torpedoes.

Sinking such a massive submarine is nearly impossible. It’s so large, that even if all the submarine fleets of the world were to expend all of their ordinances, thus blowing apart every square meter of the hull, the interior of the submarine would maintain neutral buoyancy. Such a vessel has to be taken down from the inside.

With the city of Trieste once more in danger, it’s a ‘do or die’ mission. Perhaps both because Trieste isn’t just Mac’s home it’s the birthplace of his dream, the city that will hopefully give rise to a united Oceania.

Timothy S. Johnston is also a man on a mission. With every new novel, in this series and ‘The Tanner Sequence’, he seeks out not only a new story to tell and the right way to tell it, but new technology to examine, explain and exploit. For me, one of the delights of picking up one of Johnston’s novels is the tech. He has a knack for creating not only what feels possible but explaining it in a way that makes sense and then further using that technology in a way that rivets the reader. The deeper into one of these novels you get, the faster you will turn the pages.

The excitement factor in ‘Fatal Depth’ is no joke. You could almost compare it to a tsunami plow. The threads in the story culminate in an almighty push that will carry you all the way to the end in a dizzying rush. I read the second half of the book in one sitting.

Johnston strives to develop his characters just as thoroughly, introducing new folds and wrinkles into his existing cast while adding new names and faces. Heroes to cheer for and villains to growl at. Old faces pop up now and again, too. Friend and foe and every character is an emotional body rather than a cardboard cut-out. They have goals, motivations, and conflicts.

I especially appreciate the way Johnston writes women. They’re as tough and strong as his male characters but also read as female. They’re allowed to be scared and unsure and emotional, as are the men. They’re allowed to be women. It’s a fine distinction and not always easy to carry off. But it’s part of why all the characters in this series matter and why I look forward to catching up with them in each new novel.

Then we have Truman McClusky, the hero who never stops. I especially appreciate the time taken to get inside Mac’s head now and again so the reader remains fully in touch with the awesome cost of what one man will sacrifice to achieve what must at times feel like an impossible dream.

I almost don’t want to see what he’ll have to give up next and, in fact, hope he might gain something instead. Thankfully, the wait won’t be long. We can expect to see ‘An Island Of Light,’ the fourth novel in the series, later this year.

Kelly Jensen

May 2021

View the book trailer for ‘Fatal Depth

(pub: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2021. 359 pages paperback. Price: $21.95 (US) £15.62 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-55455-557-4. Ebook: $10.49 (US) £6.49 (UK) ASIN: B094DZ96TP)

check out websites: www.fitzhenry.ca/ and www.timothysjohnston.com/

Kelly Jensen

Writer of love stories. Bibliophile. Gamer. Cat herder.

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