Iowa author B.C. Tweedt’s young adult novel Rubicon (Aug. 9) is not your ordinary dystopian fiction. The fourth book in the Greyson Gray series, it shows us a vision of a deeply divided, near-future America which is not as unimaginable as we would like to think.
Though it is the fourth book, it does contain a synopsis of the previous three books. To start out, teenager Greyson Gray unsuccessfully attempts to stop the terrorist group Pluribus from unleashing a nuclear weapon on Des Moines. Fleeing across the country after his defeat, while trying to find his missing father, he joins forces with several other teens and accepts help from Rubicon, a paramilitary organization attempting to stop Pluribus from engineering a civil war.
The book begins, not with a flashback, but with a flash-forward: a teaser that shows how Greyson is about to embark on an unknown venture which may well prove deadly. That scene hangs in suspension for most of the book as events tick inexorably down to its fulfillment.
It is the year before a decisive presidential election, and the country is struggling to deal with the threat of domestic terrorism posed by Pluribus. Dissidents are suppressed, and state secession is a clear possibility. The frontrunner, Iowa Governor Reckhemmer, is playing a dangerous hand of his own. This is the world that Rubicon is trying to stabilize and into which Greyson is catapulted. As Pluribus continues to divide the country, the government responds with increasingly draconian measures, and the country begins to disintegrate. In order to protect America, Greyson must become a full-fledged member of Rubicon, and must commit everything toward saving the country he loves.
A cast of complex characters support the narrative. Greyson’s teenage friends, old and new, are refreshingly believable, and alternate between the normal interactions of youth and the understanding that their lives are now far from normal, and that their efforts are as important as those of the adults around them. The adults of the Rubicon organization are supportive without being condescending, and — though protective, won’t hesitate to ask the teens to endanger themselves for the sake of their joint goals. Even many of the villains are realistically portrayed, and, though they create the evils in the story, their motivations are well-fleshed out and solidly grounded.
This story is not all about action — though the action is fast-paced and relentless. Greyson struggles with questions of morality, religious belief and necessity. He questions whether he is on the right side, whether his violent actions can be justified and whether he likes the person he is becoming. Themes of good emerging from evil and learning to make moral choices are prominent. Despite all of the evil he encounters, Greyson wants to fight for what is right, and, in doing so, inspires those around him.
B.C. Tweedt lives in North Liberty with his wife Julie and their son, Maverick. He works with his church youth group and is currently writing the fifth book of the Greyson Gray series.