Review: THE LAST WATCH by J.S. Dewes

Publisher: Tor Books
Page Count: 480
Release Date: April 20th, 2021
Series: THE DIVIDE, Book 1
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars – Really Liked It!

Note: I was provided a free ARC by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.

Cavalon is the latest addition to the military spaceship the Argus. The posting is at the literal edge of the galaxy, tasked with watching the Void beyond the edge and alert command if any Viator aliens emerge to attack humanity again. Cavalon is quick to pick up that the ship is full of the troublemakers the military doesn’t want to deal with, but that doesn’t explain why Adequin Rake, decorated war hero, is sitting in the captain’s chair. But those questions seem insignificant when the Argus realizes that a wave of destruction is heading towards them, and no rescue will arrive quickly enough to save them.

THE LAST WATCH reminds me of a big popcorn space disaster movie, and I mean that with all the love in my heart. You have your crew of rejects. You have the new team member with an attitude problem who might just be a decent person at heart. You have your ship on the fringes of the galaxy, with no support system or rescue in sight. And you have an over-the-top bombastic solution to the problem at hand.

THE LAST WATCH starts with a great premise: The Argus is a dumping ground for problem children. They get all the second hand equipment because the idea that an attack is going to come from the literal edge of the galaxy is a joke. Nobody cares what they do, as long as they stay out of trouble. Which means when the literal edge of the galaxy starts crumbling, the Argus has nobody to turn to for help.

Which means this book immediately invokes one of my favorite tropes: How do we solve problems using the limited resources of what we actually have on this ship? It worked for me in VELOCITY WEAPON, THE MARTIAN, and APOLLO 13, and it certainly works for me here. The crew has to get creative and I love it.

The pacing of THE LAST WATCH is excellent, and again reminds me of that space disaster movie. Things can go sideways in an instant, and the tension of watching characters race down a corridor to get to safety or trying to time a particularly tricky flight maneuver they have ONE shot to get right invokes the same fun adrenaline rush. Sure, there are a few tropes in here you’ll probably see coming, but it’s such a great ride it doesn’t really matter.

The characters for the most part are well-written and people you want to root for. Adequin is in over her head as the combat soldier who was promoted purely for political reasons, and she’s grappling with whether or not she’s actually fit to lead in a crisis. Cavalon is the cocky new arrival at the ship, who I occasionally found a little too conveniently good at the exact thing the crew needed in the moment. He’s not at all perfect, barely able to shoot a gun and lacking other basic space skills, but wouldn’t you know it, he has three doctorates in very helpful fields of science. And I do wish a few details about side characters had been introduced earlier in the story, rather than in the last handful of pages, but these are small notes in an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable romp.

THE LAST WATCH also does a nice job of setting up the stakes of the trilogy going forward. While it’s a fully self-contained adventure, it constantly threads in the bigger world picture of what’s going on in “the Core,” the center of the galaxy. While the Core is not “on screen” in this book, it looks to be a part of the story going forward, and I very much look forward to seeing more of this universe.

If you are looking for a page-turning survival adventure in space, THE LAST WATCH is for you. Light on politics and high on action, THE LAST WATCH focuses on the moment-to-moment action while still setting the stage for bigger events to come. And it leaves you with an ending that’ll have you fist-pumping and eagerly awaiting the second installment.

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