ALC Review – Rubicon

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Rubicon by J. S. Dewes. I was so excited to get advanced access to this audiobook after seeing other reviewers rave about this story. It has been quite some time since I’ve read military sci fi, and I’ve been wanting to read more science fiction, in general. So, this was the perfect time for this book. Without further ado, here’s my review! 🙂

Sergeant Adrienne Valero wants to die. She can’t.

After enduring a traumatic resurrection for the ninety-sixth time, Valero is reassigned to a special forces unit and outfitted with a cutting-edge virtual intelligence aid. They could turn the tide in the war against intelligent machines dedicated to the assimilation, or destruction, of humanity.

When her VI suddenly achieves sentience, Valero is drawn into the machinations of an enigmatic major who’s hell-bent on ending the war—by any means necessary.

***Thank you to Macmillan Audio for providing a copy of the audiobook via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my listening experience.***

I was hooked on this book from the very first chapter despite not knowing what in the world was going on. The action was intense, brutal, and jarring. The vivid imagery made me feel like I was there in person witnessing the horrific things happening as the military op went wrong. Thankfully, the pace didn’t stay quite so intense for the entire book. After the first chapter, things slowed down a bit and allowed the reader to get to know the world and the characters in a way that felt organic. Throughout the rest of the story, there was plenty of pulse-pounding action and excitement, but it was balanced very well with incredibly compelling character-focused moments.

This story had everything a science fiction fan could want. The tech was fascinating and allowed for the exploration of themes related to the morality of developing and utilizing artificial intelligence. The aliens/mechs were super cool and felt truly frightening. I also really enjoyed the world-building and thought the author used many of the sci fi tropes in unique ways that made this society and the central conflict feel both familiar and fresh.

The plot was exciting and had plenty of twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat. I loved the mystery of the alien machines and had a ton of fun following the characters as they unraveled their motivations and history. I only have one slight gripe about the story. The last several chapters were explosive, but I lost track of the villain’s rationale in all of the mayhem. Some of the decisions they made at the end didn’t make sense to me. That could totally be down to me being dense or missing something, but I didn’t find everything to be super clear. That being said, the last chapter of this book BLEW MY MIND. I’m honestly still not sure exactly what I think about it, but it is definitely memorable and will likely be divisive.

All of the sci fi trappings were amazing, but my favorite thing about this book was the characters. Valero was incredibly compelling. I cannot even imagine the level of trauma in dying 96 times. I was so invested in her story of grappling with regaining her humanity and feeling emotions again after being numb for so long as cannon fodder for the military. Her relationships with her team, her romantic interest, and the AI embedded in her brain helped her to live again rather than just existing as a desensitized husk. The existential implications of her existence were also fascinating to ponder. Rubicon, Valero’s AI, was also an incredible character with an interesting arc. As the story unfolded, Rubicon went from a virtual assistant to an actual friend of Valero, and I loved getting to see Rubicon’s snarky personality develop in real time.

The audiobook was fantastic. The narrator completely nailed these characters. There was such a nuance to the voices, especially of Valero and Rubicon, that complemented their growth. I felt the increasing humanity of them both through the emotion the narrator gradually added to their voices. It was a truly spectacular performance. All in all, this is one of the best sci fi reads I’ve had in a while and one of my favorite books so far this year. Therefore, I rate it 4.75 out of 5 stars.

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