Book Review: Far Side of the Rubicon by Erik Wecks

I can’t believe it has taken me a year to read this seeing as the writer once described me as “one of his favourite review bloggers” or words to that effect. I’ve read four of his works to date, and I was very keen to read this, part one of a trilogy set in the same universe as his first book Aetna Adrift and following on in a roundabout sort of way, from the previous book.

Many people have a love-hate relationship with space opera, it can just as easily be too heavy for most (something like Alistair Reynolds Revelation Space) or superficial fluff (Start Trek: TNG) with very little in between – a very reasonable accusation. So far, Wecks has broken that mould, writing commanding space opera that is both accessible and full of intrigue and solid characterisation. Dare I compare him to Peter F. Hamilton yet? Based on my limited reading of one of the new masters of British scifi, I would say yes – conceptual and accessible is a tough balance to strike.

The Far Side of the Rubicon, part one of The Pax Imperium Wars, delivers exactly what it promises: the start of a galaxy spanning war set against the backdrop of a future human space-faring empire. We watch our protagonist Anna grows up throughout the course of this novel, all the while there are references to Aetna Adrift that serve as reminders. They are not cameo appearances though, previous events are integral and important early on.

This book blends personal story with politics and anticipation of the collapse of a civilisation heading for war. It is largely written at the right pace to build anticipation and concern for the very real characters and for the situation. Wecks could not emphasise enough just what an impending disaster the upcoming war will be for everyone – in that respect, mission achieved in making this a very real human story while keeping the integrity of space opera as a whole.

My only real complaint is that it took a while to get going. It’s not an overly long book either, which makes it even more frustrating that I felt my attention drift from time to time. I understand the need for big world building, I require it even, to avoid falling into the trappings of the more superficial end of the subgenre.

A good, solid book but I would say it is the weakest of this writer’s work so far. But considering that, it is still better than a lot of other self-published work I’ve read and reviewed.

Keep it up!

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