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THE SHADOW OF WAR by Timothy S. Johnston

THE SHADOW OF WAR

The Rise Of Oceania

From the The Rise of Oceania series, volume 5

by Timothy S. Johnston

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 2022
ISBN: 9781554556007
Publisher: Fitzhenry and Whiteside

The fifth book in Johnston’s technothriller series sets up the story of an arms race in a future world ravaged by climate crises.

In 2131, Truman “Mac” McClusky is mayor of Trieste, an American underwater city. It’s one of many submerged locales providing kelp and fish to surface-based superpowers, including the United States, China, and Russia, which are rapidly being swallowed up by floods. He’s trying to unite fellow undersea cities to form Oceania, a federation that will give them more leverage. He’s built a coalition of 14 such cities and is looking to get Churchill Sands, with its dynamic mayor, Sahar Noor, to join them. His quest is complicated by recent attempts on his life that have also threatened his girlfriend, Renee.An old friend of his father’s, Richard Lancombe, helps to facilitate the meeting with Noor, as chief security officer Cliff Sim tries to solve the mystery of the assassination attempts. Richard also brings Mac’s attention to a new weapon, the Laser Weapon System Encased Underwater Neutral Particle Beam, which could be used to defend Trieste against submarine attacks; the novel also introduces Chalam Kaashif, a vengeful geologist whose brother and friends were killed by the same weapon. A group that includes Meg, Mac’s sister; weapon inventor Alyssna Sonstraal; and Commodore Bertram A. Clarke, an officer from Britain’s submarine fleet, undertake a mission to recover the four parts of Alyssna’s creation in different undersea cities and submarines. Johnston presents readers with a diverse set of characters, along with a complicated world for them to navigate. The novel shines when describing the technology, as when the characters discuss the beam weapon, nicknamed “The Water Pick.” Where this book stumbles is in its pacing and characterization. Perhaps because it’s the fifth book in the series, there’s a steady flow of backstory that disrupts the plot’s forward momentum. There’s a lot of potential in these characters, but they often come off as one-note (exemplified by Chalam’s constant chant that he wants revenge),which makes them overly predictable.

Fans of high-tech SF will enjoy the concepts and worldbuilding here, despite its pacing problems.