A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White

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Read June 2020
Recommended for fans of space adventures! Fast-n-furious!
 ★     ★    ★    1/2

This is the literary equivalent of the weekend action-adventure movie. Although initially slow to grab me, in the end I found it both unpredictable and enjoyable.

Over in the personal growth story, it begins Fast and Furious, with Nilah, a car-racing champion, successfully dodging an accident on the track. Meanwhile, in the post-war PTSD story, Boots, former Lieutenant, is dodging her old captain, who undoubtedly wants payback after she sold him some bogus treasure maps. When someone at the racetrack dies in an unheard-of event, Nilah is blamed and her only clue is Boots. With a bounty on Nilah, Boots sees her chance to climb out of her financial hole.

Following the redemption arc premise, neither Nilah nor Boots are particularly likable at the beginning of the story, and judging by the reviews, this can be a barrier for some. Nilah is definitely the child of extreme privilege, but she’s also developed talent and extensive training, which makes her story more intriguing than the average ‘sheltered/spoiled young adult’ arc. Boots’ story was less coherent to me. While I appreciate that White had a story worked out, the way it came about was too piecemeal for me to understand or empathize with her feelings of guilt/self-torture. When they join with the crew of Firefly, Capricious, we meet more members of the group, but none becomes particularly well-developed in this story. Frankly, that’s alright; this is a story of adventure, and misfits against the powers that be, and two personal arcs are more than enough. As White is planning a series (the second book is written, and there’s a free web serial about the time period when Orna joined the crew), I’d expect the characters to each get more of a chance to shine in the future.

The phrase was like a needle in her heart, with its thread tied firmly to the ship.

The intersection of magic and technology in the future is perhaps one of the shakiest aspects of the book. I think it was probably needful if White started with the plot as their idea, but I can see why writers avoid mixing the two. Despite the idea that at advanced science looks a lot like magic, in this case, magic was magic, coming from an area in the brain. (Honestly, I might have skimmed some of the hand-wavy parts, because it didn’t matter a lot to me. As Peter Grant notes, ultimately someone just tacks on the word “quantum” but there’s really no good explanation). The parts that explain magic often didn’t feel as well integrated into the story and more like a narrative asides.

The writing ability feels above average to me in terms of complexity. It could be because I’ve been reading in the KU lately, but it was nice to feel like I was sinking my brain into complex sentence structures and descriptions. Still, could use a bit more editing. I’ll look forward to White’s greater success and resources.

The pace was a personal challenge for me. I never quite felt like I got a chance to breathe in the story, and ended up taking a break or two just do I could do that for myself. If White could build in some less action-filled moments, it can allow for some conversations that fill out people’s stories, and let the world build more naturally in conversation or through mutual discoveries.

“I’ve never killed anyone. Wasn’t about to start.”
“We’re an away team, Didier! Away teams shoot stuff!”
“And when they’re done, I can cook them a nice meal.”

Overall, there’s a few rough patches, but it was a satisfying read, and I’ll certainly go on to the next book. Recommended for fans of The Kitty Jay and Firefly.

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
This entry was posted in Book reviews, fantasy, genre-bender, Science fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White

  1. Pingback: 2020 Roundup | book reviews forevermore

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