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Rubicon by J. S. Dewes

Rubicon is the latest novel by J. S. Dewes, and I loved it. Yes, I am a huge nerd and love all the science that comes with novels set in space. I adore the potential for alien interactions, and a good action story will win out over a good romance any day of the week. Thankfully, Rubicon has all that and more.

I don’t think I took a single breath once I hit the 75% mark in the novel. Up until that point, there are brief moments of respite in which you can catch your breath and reflect on the huge amount of information you have learned so far. At that mark, though, Ms. Dewes ratchets up the action to the point where you honestly don’t know what the outcome of all of it will be. You are helpless as you watch Valero struggle through twist after twist, each more shocking than the last. Even the very last scene will leave you gasping in shock.

Rubicon is not all action, however. Ms. Dewes includes a lot of ideas that challenge our understanding of free will, artificial intelligence, and life itself. For example, we meet Valero right before she dies for the ninety-sixth time. Except she doesn’t die. Scientists found a way to download and upload everything that makes you a person into a new body, meaning that every time your body dies, your memories/ethics/experiences all jump into a new body set in one of many storage tanks set around the universe. You even remember your death. How is that for trauma?

As we watch Valero struggle to find meaning in her life after dying NINETY-SIX times, Ms. Dewes forces you to think about what it means to be alive. At the same time, the enemy Valero and her fellow soldiers are fighting are sentient artificial intelligent robots who want nothing more than to eradicate the human race. This brings to mind the age-old fear explored hundreds of times in other science fiction novels and movies regarding the dangers of A.I. and humankind’s ability to wage war against beings that are more intelligent and less fleshy than humans. How do you continue when there appears to be no hope, especially in light of the fact all you can look forward to is dying over and over again to fight this seemingly unwinnable war?

Crossing the Rubicon is a metaphor for reaching a decision and undertaking an action from which there is no return. There are several Rubicons in Rubicon, all of which are moments when humans think they are taking the next natural step in advancement or a necessary step to help them win the war. As with so many things in life, those Rubicon moments have much more far-reaching ramifications and serve as reminders that scientific advancement for the sake of itself does not mean that it is a good thing for humankind or necessary. If anything, Rubicon is a strong warning to think before taking the next great leap.

With its almost non-stop action and the many thought-provoking ethical quandaries, there is no way I would not adore J. S. Dewes’ Rubicon. For me, it hit all the right notes. It has the perfect blend of action, science, and ethics, with a little romance to provide hope in a hopeless situation. Valero is the perfect science fiction hero – experienced and wise, careworn, fiercely loyal, and asking all the right questions. I do not doubt that other science fiction fans will love Rubicon as much as I did.

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