Rubicon by J.S. Dewes

Set in the far future, mankind is neck-deep in a galactic war with the Mechan: a race of hive-minded machines bent on preventing humanity from spreading any further than its dying solar system.

Fortunately (or perhaps not so fortunately), the military has developed a way of throwing endless resources at the conflicts: when a soldier is killed in action, their consciousness is downloaded into a cloned body, complete with their memories up until their point of death.

The hero of the story is Specialist Adrienne Valero, a soldier with a drink problem who has been resurrected an astonishing ninety-six times. Valero is transferred to a forward recon unit which is tasked within uncovering the motivation of the Mechan enemy and (hopefully) discovering a way to defeat them.

In my humble opinion, this was a pretty good book. It was very heavy on the technical detail, especially concerning the resurrection process which involves transmitting the deceased neurological makeup to space stations where they can be downloaded into cloned bodies. It reminded me of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom; after a while, you get the impression that immortality is not the panacea it’s cracked up to be.

So what about the story? Well I’d probably describe the prose as workmanlike: it does the job without too much literary exposition or overly complex characterisation. Pretty much all the characters are soldiers, so there really isn’t much to separate them out character wise. Unfortunately that does include the main protagonist, but since the book is told from Valero’s viewpoint, then that isn’t really a problem. After a while though, I did find it tricky to pick one squad member from another. The prose is pretty heavy on the clichés, but it also had some very amusing moments that took me by surprise; the interactions between Valero and her AI implant got deeper and funnier as the AI discovered its human side.

I can’t really fault the pacing. Well, okay, maybe a little … It did slow down occasionally, especially during the romantic interludes, but honestly, I’m being picky; nothing wrong with a bit of romance in the middle of an all-out galactic war.

The ending is not what I expected (or particularly wanted), especially considering how long it took to get there. But what can I say; it’s the author’s choice. And it did demonstrate something we’ve all known for quite some time: we are our own worst enemy.

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