Rubicon One – Review

Fantasy Review No. 65, March 1984

Speculative Journalism?

Jones, Dennis. Rubicon One. Beaufort Books, New York, August 1983. 309 p. $14.95. ISBN 0-8253-0156-4.

Future war stories are an important part of speculative literature. Paper violence is less messy than the battlefield variety, and gives authors (and generals, and politicians, and mere citizens) the opportunity to explore political and military possibilities without the usual expenditure of blood and treasure. Rubicon One, a future war novel centered in the Middle East, investigates what might happen if an ambitious, and completely unprincipled, Soviet leader offered nuclear weapons to anti-Israeli forces. Could the U.S. and Israel, both deeply moral nations, protect themselves from nuclear-armed fanatics and incompetents? And would protection require abandonment of airy ideals in order to deal with terrestrial realities?

Jones, a Canadian journalist, is not a master of the descriptive phrase. Most of his characters are colorless, and some scenes are drawn so starkly they are difficult to visualize. Character names are often comically stereotypical, and non-English personal and place names are inconsistently Anglicized. Yet these “flaws” are almost unnoticeable; Rubicon One is tightly focused on the subject at hand, and the lack of soap opera trappings are something you notice only in retrospect. Moving swiftly from problem to problem, Jones offers a detached, almost scholarly overview of a terrifying series of events, beginning with a coup d’etat in Russia and ending in a nuclear exchange in the Middle East.

Unlike similar novels, the military and political details are accurate, and the view of Soviet and American leaders is far less cynical than most recent works. Were it not for the fact that both the author and the publisher are relative unknowns, Rubicon One could be a major novel. Recommended for libraries and those interested in near-future fiction. — Lawrence I. Charters

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