​The Shadow Of War (Rise Of Oceania book 5) by Timothy S. Johnston (book review).

Any good heist consists of three components: a team, a plan and something worth stealing. ‘The Shadow Of War’, the fifth novel in Timothy S. Johnston’s ‘Rise Of Oceania’ series, has all three.

​The Shadow of War (Rise of Oceania, book 5) by Timothy S. Johnston (book review)

Any good heist consists of three components: a team, a plan and something worth stealing. ‘The Shadow Of War’, the fifth novel in Timothy S. Johnston’s ‘Rise Of Oceania’ series, has all three.

As I’ve come to expect, the something worth stealing is another bleeding-edge technology that Johnston has taken from the pages of history, researched and then developed into a believable device. He has a true knack for this, which is one of the reasons his books are so enjoyable to read. Though set in the near future, there is a hefty component of realism to the setting, the characters and the stories. Always, I read with the question of not ‘what if’ but ‘when’?

Briefly and hopefully without too many spoilers, here’s the story so far: Due to climate change, the oceans have risen, plunging our world quite literally into catastrophe. Cities, resources and livelihoods are washed away and the population is on the verge of starvation. Fortunately, not everyone had their heads in the clouds and there are thriving underwater colonies dotted across the globe where dedicated citizens farm and mine the resources not only to keep themselves alive but to aid the countries they’re affiliated to.

The relationship between the underwater colonies and the overland government is not an easy one, however, and the ‘Rise Of Oceania’ series chronicles the underwater cities’ bid for independence, with Truman ‘Mac’ McClusky as the driving force.

With every new novel, the stakes get higher as the powers that be not only refuse to bow to the colonists’ requests for more freedom but actively try to tighten their control. The friction has resulted in some epic battles. For Mac, the quest is a bit more personal, however. His father died for this cause, as have countless others he cared deeply about. His journey so far has been fraught with despair and betrayal and he’s had to come to terms with his anger and his desire for revenge on those who have wronged him personally and the duty he feels to the burgeoning nation of Oceania.

This brings us to book five, ‘The Shadow Of War’. While visiting Churchill Downs, an underwater city under the purview of the BSF (British Submarine Fleet), Mac meets several people who have the potential to impact the rise of Oceania: Sahar Noor – the mayor of Churchill Downs; Commodore Clarke – ranked highly in the BSF, but linked to the struggle for independence in surprising ways; Alyssna Sonstraal – the inventor of a new weapon that’s ‘not a laser,’ and Chalam Kaashif, who is perhaps the first unfortunate victim of this weapon.

Two things are clear: the Russians have Mac in their sights and this weapon could make the difference for the underwater city of Trieste. What’s not clear early on is the difficulties each of these new players will bring to the struggle. But, as always, the multiple conflicting personalities are engaging and serve to drive the action forward as Mac struggles not only with staying ahead of the race for independence but his own personal demons.

A mission is prepared and the team is assembled and though Mac didn’t fail to plan, his plan is doomed to fail because someone in the mix is going to betray him and has already betrayed him in ways he couldn’t possibly have predicted.

As always, Johnston has written a thriller with hot-off-the-presses technology, edge-of-your-seat moments, separated into heart-pounding seconds, and characters who don’t always do what they’re supposed to.

Personally, I experienced a little frustration with Commodore Clarke. I had a hard time buying into his motivation, though it’s well-documented and supported. It may be that I simply didn’t get the time to connect with him because there are a lot of characters in this book, with the team being quite expanded. Also, Johnston allocates more attention to Noor. I truly enjoyed her as a character and thought what she brought to the story was a much-needed balancing element. Mac has struggled with his anger and need for revenge and we’ve had an entire novel on the fallacy of how revenge is not best served cold or really best served up at all. Noor’s religious beliefs and call for peaceful resolutions, if at all possible, is something Mac will have to take on board if he’s to reach the end of this journey with his sanity and morality intact and I fully believe a reckoning is coming, if not in the next book, then perhaps the one after that.

The Shadow Of War’ is a relatively long book, however, at just over 400 pages. This means that the time devoted to Sahar Noor, while well deserved, robbed Clarke of the time I needed or perhaps the team needed to get a really good read on him. As a result, Mac comes across as a little naïve where his character is concerned.

With that being said, I did very much enjoy this book and every nail-biting moment and look forward to the next instalment in the series. In particular, that reckoning. Mac’s been pushing hard and fast for a long time now and, with the revelations of this book, a new philosophy to try to cling to, the Russians bearing down and the future consequences of the heist all contending for his time, he’s going to be pulled in multiple directions. How much longer can he hold it all together?

Kelly Jensen

December 2022

(pub: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2022. 416 pages paperback. Price: $21.95 (US), £17.92 (UK). ISBN: 978-1554556007.

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

view the book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58H82bRcHvM


Kelly Jensen

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

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