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

A washed-up treasure hunter, a hotshot racer, and a deadly secret society.

They’re all in a race against time to hunt down the greatest warship ever built. Some think the ship is lost forever, some think it’s been destroyed, and some think it’s only a legend, but one thing’s for certain: whoever finds it will hold the fate of the universe in their hands. And treasure that valuable can never stay hidden for long….

I picked up A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe at a local bookstore based on the above description. I know what I like and what I like is space opera focused on a rag-tag crew fighting for their lives against insurmountable odds. If there is a treasure hunt caper propelling the plot along then more the better. The novel is definitely inspired by properties that have come before, most notably Joss Whedon’s Firefly, but the world-building sets A Big Ship apart while the characters make the story truly unique.

The story perspective flips between Boots, a treasure hunter and purveyor of fake maps, and Nilah, a race car driver framed for a murder she didn’t commit. Through them, we meet the crew of the Capricious, a motley group of scavengers led by Captain Cordell. They are chasing Boots to get their money back after being led on a wild goose chase from one of her fraudulent maps. They are not happy with her but reluctantly agree to help locate the legendary Harrow, a ship that has been missing for decades.

It seems one of Boots’ maps isn’t as fraudulent as she thought and now someone is willing to kill to protect the secret of the Harrow. Boots,  Nilah, and the crew of the Capricious get into and out of one scrape after another while being chased by a master witch called Mother who has the ability to stop time.

Yes, “witch”. One of the most unique aspects of the novel is that it mixes science fiction with magic. In the future humans have evolved, or possibly been engineered, with the ability to wield magic and it has infiltrated all facets of society in the same way the computer has today. For instance, Nilah is a skilled Mechanist which means she can psychically link with and control machines. The ship’s doctor, Malik, has healing magic.  Captain Cordell has the ability to project shield barriers to protect crew and ship alike and so forth.

Skill plays a factor in how powerful the magic is and the power is not limitless. Over-exertion can leave someone drained and unable to cast. However, not everyone has a magical ability. Some, like Boots, are among the less than 1% of the population that has no magical abilities. Magic plays a big part in the novel and is used in ways that keep the action and combat sequences highly engaging, surprising, and at times terrifying.

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe starts off quickly and rarely slows down to give the reader a chance to breathe. This book is the beginning of The Salvagers trilogy, and I strongly recommend all three volumes. The complete story unfolds over the three books making for the epic tale of the Capricious and her crew against a universe of trouble. It is a fantastic series and the one I most recommend to people when they ask me for reading suggestions.

The Salvagers trilogy

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe (#1)

A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy (#2)

The Worst of all Possible Worlds (#3)

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