Reviews

A Sci-Fi author's review of Atmosphere

Atmosphere by John Clarke – Top notch hard science fiction well worth your time.

Atmosphere is the third book in the Jason Parker Trilogy. The author, Dr. John Clarke, is a diving expert, not just scuba, but diving in all its fascinating variations. In this series, Clarke explores saturation diving, not just to the relatively shallow depths that are the daily venue for oil-rig divers – 500 to 1,000 ft deep, but many times that using exotic gas mixtures predominating in hydrogen. I am an experienced saturation diver, and I can tell you that Clarke knows his stuff. Beyond that, he is an excellent writer. His characters are well developed and charismatic, even the non-human ones, and he places them within a fascinating plot.

Clarke’s story backdrop is that humans have shared the planet with an alien species that has been here for a very long time. They know about us, but until Jason Parker, we really did not know about them. The first volume is about this discovery. The second is about the aliens leaving Earth for their own purposes. To get the most out of Atmosphere, you really need to read the first two books even though Atmosphere stands on its own.

Atmosphere is about Earth minus the aliens, but with some of their technology, and about what happens when Earth is hit with a near extinction level gamma-ray burst (GRB). The characters you come to know and care about play significant roles throughout the series – especially Jason Parker and Laura Smith. Both are top-notch scientists, both are adept at “distance viewing,” and their individual and intertwined lives form the connecting link for the entire Trilogy. Clarke’s ingenious solution to continuing the human species despite the GRB will leave you astonished and breathless. He leaves the door open for further tales in this fascinating hard science fiction universe.

The Jason Parker Trilogy consisting of Middle Waters, Triangle, and Atmosphere, is top notch hard science fiction well worth your time.

Robert G. Williscroft, Author of The Starchild Trilogy

KIRKUS REVIEW of Middle Waters

Odd disappearances and deaths, UFOs, and incredible deep-sea technology threaten to submerge naval scientist Jason Parker in alien intrigue.

In James Cameron’s cinematic blockbuster The Abyss, the nail-biting tale of undersea disaster and deep-water military jeopardy took a sudden detour into being an alien-first-contact epic. Clarke’s sci-fi techno-thriller debut isn’t too far from Cameron’s original release, though Clarke more neatly flays those different genres flopping around like fish in a rowboat. Jason Parker is a stalwart U.S. Navy scientist and pilot who, from the air, witnesses what appears to be a UFO splashdown off Florida. Thanks to his expertise, timing, and perhaps a bit of predestination, Parker is on the scene for a series of mysterious deaths among deep-water divers as well as the recovery of an incredible new Russian weapon, a supersonic torpedo. The Tom Clancy–esque gizmo turns out to be a bit of a red herring for the actual secret pursued by semiruthless operatives of the U.S. government. Experiments in psychic “remote viewing” have revealed the existence of intelligence and phenomena not quite of this Earth, hidden in the abyssal depths of the Marianas Trench and the Gulf of Mexico. Parker, who begins hearing voices and glimpsing “shadow people,” finds himself and pretty young oceanography student Laura Smith stalked by, if not Men in Black, then at least Men in Green. The author, an expert in scuba and marine minutiae, knows how to tell a good tale while also measuring the specs of a rebreather apparatus; he even tosses in some real-life ufological lore about which paranormalists have been howling for some time. But rather than filching from Whitley Strieber or other usual suspects, he gives the creatures his own Rod Serling–esque spin (for quite a few chapters, the rationalist hero dismisses the toadlike aliens as hallucinations). It still feels like a bit of a mashup, but the story flows nicely and doesn’t anchor itself to the ballast of too much technical jargon. Bonus points for salutes to Fortean Times magazine and the fairy tale of “The Frog Prince.”

A buoyant undersea-alien yarn that’d make an awesome beach read.


Publisher's Weekly Review of Middle Waters

“This SF thriller starts out well and displays some nice touches of humor … Clarke, a veteran Navy diving scientist, is especially effective in translating his expertise into fiction in the gripping opening chapter, as an unusual incident claims the lives of two divers off the coast of Alabama. Someone, or something, ripped the helmet off one of the men; the other died of the bends after he saw some “bizarre, bright orange geometric figures” who conveyed a cryptic apology. The mystery of the divers’ deaths, and a slew of other oddities—a patch of cold dark water that kills everything in its path, an extraterrestrial unidentified submerged object—engage scientist Jason Parker. He begins to experience some anomalies himself, including hearing voices advising him to stay alert. There are some light moments; Jason can’t believe that a colleague is “from another planet, especially not a planet of telepathic frogs.” — Publishers Weekly (Booklife)

" --- Publishers Weekly


KIRKUS REVIEW of Triangle

U.S. Navy scientist Jason Parker and other operatives mobilize to secure secrets and technologies left on Earth by a race of aquatic aliens in Clarke’s (Middle Waters, 2014) sequel.

The author, a diving scientist for the Navy, continues his series about a steely, Dirk Pitt–style hero who knows his way around deep-water dives, sunken caves, paranormal phenomena, and romance with attractive women. Parker made contact with amphibianlike extraterrestrials, colloquially known as “Frogs,” who dwelt unseen in Earth’s deepest oceans for some 10,000 years. Russian weapons tests led to the creatures’ sudden (and rather ominous) departure at the end of the last book. Now there’s evidence that, in their haste, the Frogs left behind some very important property. In Siberia, Russians find one of the alien’s triangular spacecraft, seemingly abandoned in a deep lake. Meanwhile, in Mexico, Parker and a Navy rescue team stumble across an enigmatic tribe of benign, bioluminescent, telepathic humanoids living underground who were genetically sired by the Frogs as slave labor. And then there are other, derelict spaceships, some of them detected by CIA operatives via extrasensory “remote viewing.” The book’s mix of psychic phenomena and hard-science submarine tech is a bit eccentric, and the author gives shoutouts and salutes to the 1989 James Cameron film The Abyss as well as to the fantastic fiction of James Patterson and Robert Jordan. The characterization tends to be basic, but readers who like the novel’s Tom Clancy–ish acronyms (a glossary of military jargon is provided), superpower rivalry (the Russians are even called “Commies” in dialogue), and suspenseful, Clive Cussler–esque, high-risk salvage ops likely won’t mind. The third act, meanwhile, brings in loads of speculation from the ufological and parapsychology realms and a not-so-subtle plea to give parascience more respect. In a cute addendum, Clarke recaps Middle Waters’ premise in the form of an article from the real-life fringe-science and occult journal Fortean Times.

A seaworthy mashup of military techno-thriller and alien-contact fare.

 


A Sci-Fi author's review of Triangle

Triangle is a hard science fiction story that pushes hard science fiction limits. The story is full of surprises. Technically, it is chock full of accurate deep-water saturation diving (something I know a lot about, because I am a professional saturation diver -- among other things), high-speed small jet piloting (I don't fly small jets, but am a pilot), high-level military operations (I've been deeply involved in highly classified submarine and diving espionage operations), insightful black-ops descriptions (ditto), and even Oval Office conversations that come off as genuine (I am personally acquainted with one president, and friends with several high-level government people). I can tell you that Clark nailed these, especially his Navy diver banter!

The hard science fiction limits that Clarke pushes revolve around remote viewing. Clarke presumes that this capability is real and can be developed. His main character, Jason Parker, has this capability, but not so well developed as a couple of other characters. Remote viewing plays a significant role in Triangle, and Clarke pulled me into it, and forced me to suspend my disbelief.

Triangle has aliens, highly advanced alien technology, government agencies (from several nations) vying to control this technology, highly skilled saturation divers doing what these guys do, and Clarke ties it all together with an edge-of-your-seat tale of suspense. This is a great read from a fine writer!  --- Robert G. Williscroft, Author, Submariner, Diver