Book Review: Rubicon by J.S. Dewes

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Rubicon by J.S. Dewes

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tor Books (March 28, 2023)

Length: 480 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Whew, I have to catch my breath after that! From the first page to the last, Rubicon was a non-stop action-packed and fun-filled thrill ride, and quite honestly, I would have expected nothing less from J.S. Dewes who also authored The Divide series which I loved.

When the story opens, we are introduced to Sergeant Adrienne Valero, who is about to die for the 96th time. The scene is total pandemonium as a bloody battle rages everywhere, and Valero and her squad are losing badly to the Mechans, an army of intelligent machines controlled by a hivemind that humans have been at war with for decades. Despite putting up a valiant fight, at the end of the first chapter, our protagonist is killed…

…Only to resurrect at the beginning of the next chapter, using cutting-edge technology that can restore the dead to life in a new body via a process known as “rezoning.” While being able to cheat death like this has given humanity a huge advantage in the conflict against the tireless Mechan, there’s no question that having been rezoned close to a hundred times has taken its toll on Valero. She no longer bats an eye at new assignments anymore, knowing she’ll sent to yet another battlefield to fight, to die, to be reborn again, and to do it over and over again until the war ends, whenever that may be. It’s hard to care about anything when you’re living a life like this, when everything seems pointless and devoid of hope.

But following her restoration this time, Valero is unexpectedly transferred to an elite special forces unit whose covert operations will require her specialized skills. She is immediately outfitted with a virtual intelligence called Rubicon, an implant that is supposed to aid her in battle by performing enhancing functions like advising on tactics or managing her performance and gear. However, when the VI gradually begins evolving into something more, developing sentience and a will of its own, Valero realizes that this unsettling turn of events might just end up helping them win the war.

Fans of pulse-pounding military sci-fi, look no further, because Rubicon has exactly what you’re looking for. Dynamic action? Check. Heartfelt emotion with lasting impact? Check. Characters that feel genuine and will stay with you for a very long time? Double check. Dewes has clearly been honing her skills because the quality of writing and storytelling here is as topnotch as ever.

First of all, Adrienne Valero is a fantastic protagonist with a robust and sympathetic backstory built around her. Clearly, every death she experiences is indelible in her mind and the only way she can deal with the trauma is by putting up walls around her heart. And yet, the camaraderie she feels with her new squad is gradually getting through to her. In spite of herself, she even finds herself attracted to one of the members on her work team. While I liked how the story explores the psychological impact of multiple deaths and resurrections on Valero, my favorite part was watching her character arc develop and become deeper with every new challenge and interaction.

Then there’s the setting. The threat of danger and violence is practically constant in the world of Rubicon, which the Mechans hold in a death grip. Wartime conditions are bad enough, but on top of that, humanity’s home planet of Estes is dying because of its failing star, and the only escape is prevented by the unrelenting, almost spiteful way the Mechans have put themselves in their path. As a result, all throughout the novel is this crushing and pervasive feeling of a desperate race against time.

But the story is where it’s at. There’s intrigue and mystery worked into the action, lots of opportunities to make you wonder what’s going on and keep you guessing, especially when Valero’s VI starts acting up and new information is revealed about the Mechans. Rubicon is one of the most enjoyable military sci-fi novels I’ve read in a while—probably since Dewes’ The Last Watch, as a matter of fact! That it is also a standalone is a huge plus. True, there’s nothing too deep about the story or the world here, but while you’re not going to get the full-bodied immersion of a longer series, what you do get is the rewarding feeling of a completed and self-contained adventure with a satisfying ending. I highly recommend!

14 Comments on “Book Review: Rubicon by J.S. Dewes”

  1. Glad to see someone dealing with the fall out from the live, die, repeat process. Too many times the character acts like “Oh, here we go, shrug” and that’s totally bogus…


    • I agree, I just finished reading the sequel to Antimatter Blues which is the sequel to Mickey 7 and it also deals with dying again and again and being rebooted into a new body each time. His character is much more glib about it, which was quite jarring after coming from this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 04/02/23: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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