Reviews of Timothy S. Johnston’s The Shadow of War


AUTHOR ROBERT J. SAWYER:  “The Shadow of War is a slambang thriller set in an all-too-plausible future. Fans of Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton will be spellbound.” — Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of The Oppenheimer Alternative


KIRKUS REVIEWS: “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 … 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’ ... Fans of high-tech SF will enjoy the concepts and worldbuilding here …” Kirkus Reviews


SFCROWSNEST:  “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 …

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 …

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?” — SFcrowsnest


MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW:  “The Shadow of War opens somewhere in the Pacific Ocean in January, 2131 … War is in the air. Or, more specifically, under the waters, which simmer with the frustrations, dreams, and the usual trappings of mankind that include ambition, murder, and new weaponry.

From entwined underwater colonies that face rising disparate interests from struggling surface nations to operatives on all sides that vie for a new underwater weapon that will prove as deadly as any nuclear force, Timothy S. Johnston injects the same special blend of nonstop action and techno-thriller elements into this story as in his previous writings.

From submerged military bases and tsunami studies that are increasingly pertinent to this new world to covert actions that affect humanity’s ability to employ technology to survive rather than to kill, Johnston weaves an engrossing tale that opens with third-person description of an Indian Ocean setting and history, then moves to the more personal observation of the first person usage and a Gulf of Mexico backdrop.

From the start, Johnston’s ability to capture high drama and emotion offer captivating scenarios … Johnston masterfully weaves these conundrums into bigger-picture national and international thinking, setting all struggles against the specter of new world orders that seek not just to define humanity’s future, but direct it.

As interpersonal promises collide with political maneuvering, the story evolves a thought-provoking progression whereby the individuals who trust and rely upon one another find their ethics and morals challenged by conflicting loyalties.

With such strong social, political, and technological undercurrents set against the backdrop of cat-and-mouse games that challenge psyches, relationships, and perceptions, it’s easy to highly recommended The Shadow of War as an outstanding and gripping sci-fi technothriller.

Driven by the ambitions and ideals of characters who sacrifice personal values for greater purposes, The Shadow of War draws a precise, involving futuristic scenario that relies as much on family ties and different ways of handling past trauma as it does on how these translate into political choices and maneuvers.

Libraries seeking a stand-alone story that adds to the Oceania series, yet requires no prior familiarity with the previous books, will find The Shadow of War a powerful survey of what it means to be a leader whose personal and political values seem to diverge.” — D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review


READERS’ FAVORITE: “I have an addiction and Timothy S. Johnston, author of The Shadow of War, along with four previous novels depicting future civilizations living under the seas, is to blame … With each book, Johnston takes readers to different underwater colonies populated by former residents of France, Germany, Australia…just to name a few. In all five novels, McClusky, the mayor of Trieste, has been on a mission: to unite the 29 undersea cities with a combined population of over 10 million people in 2131 into one independent nation known as Oceania. In The Shadow of War, Mac travels to Great Britain’s undersea colony, whose mayor, Sahar Noor, is a beautiful, intelligent, and peace-loving Muslim woman. She is keen to have her colony join Oceania, but can the dream of an independent underwater nation ever be realized without war and bloodshed, without bigger, better, faster, and deadlier weapons from those opposing the idea of Oceania?

To read Johnston’s five novels is to enjoy the experience of the author’s ever-evolving insights into his characters and themes, much like the evolution of Oceania itself. The approach to Johnston’s story-writing has changed: where he mesmerized us with his wonderful descriptions of undersea travel and sights in the first book, The War Beneath, his focus in the last two novels has been much more on the characters, including the darkness in each of us. The inclusion of Sahar Noor as a popular Muslim mayor was a nice touch; a subtle comment on gender and racial equality … Johnston surprises us constantly with his complex characters and plot twists, but he tells us in his book end-notes that it’s now time for “the big finish”. Will that big finish, titled A Blanket of Steel, finally see the birth of Oceania as one nation? Will all six books in the series finally earn Timothy S. Johnston that movie contract he so deserves? I hope so. I need to see Oceania on the big screen!”FIVE STARS from Readers’ Favorite


AUTHOR MICHAEL LIBLING:  “This time around, the overriding plots are three-fold: 1) Acquire the components of a game-changing weapon; 2) Uncover the person or persons behind repeated attempts on McClusky’s life; 3) Learn the truth behind the so-called combat death of his former love, Katherine Wells.

As usual, Johnston doesn’t mess around. His opening is as audacious as it is horrifying, deftly establishing page after page of cinematic thrills and derring-do his many fans have come to expect and love. In the past, his novels have brought to mind such well known names as Tom Clancy, Ian Fleming, and James A. Corey (The Expanse). This time around it is Andy Weir and THE MARTIAN. As with each of these authors, Johnston does more than entertain, he illuminates, with scientific, technological, and historical research woven seamlessly throughout. Indeed, Johnston so cleverly incorporates facts, data, and developments, you barely realize there is an educational component. It all goes down so easily …

… The body count throughout the Oceania series is high, at least in the thousands. Readers of techno-thrillers and fans of action movies, John Wick and Marvel included, no doubt take such human losses in their stride. Victims are fodder. Here, Johnston departs from expectations, forcing his protagonist, McClusky, to confront the human toll his quest for Trieste independence has cost and how many more must fall before his rebellion succeeds. It is a welcome evolution of the McClusky character and the hero trope common to the thriller genre. The introspection (and guilt?) also sets up the final instalment to come, A BLANKET OF STEEL. Should McClusky’s dream of independence be realized, what will the ultimate price be? A true victory or a pyrrhic victory?

Action scenes are clearly Johnston’s greatest strength. It’s a large part of what makes reading his work so entertaining. Time and again, he puts his characters into heart-pounding, life-or-death situations with no evident means of escape. And, time and again, he finds a way, without resorting to deus ex machina. And this brings me to Johnston’s other strength: The total lack of pretension.

His novels do not pretend to be anything other than what they are—thrilling, science fiction and mystery adventures that propel the reader from first page to last. As I said at the outset, his goal is to tell a good story—period! With THE SHADOW OF WAR, his eighth published work, he maintains his objective and justly growing reputation. My only question: When is some savvy producer going to bring this series to the screen? I’m not picky, either multiplex cinema or home streaming will do.” — Michael Libling, author of Hollywood North:  A Novel in Six Reels




Follow TSJ on Facebook
Follow TSJ on Twitter
Follow TSJ on Instagram

See TSJ’s Blog Life After Gateway here.