Review: A Big Ship At the Edge of the Universe – An Exciting Intragalactic Adventure

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

Title: A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe
Author: Alex White
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: June 26th, 2018
Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Page Count: 480 (paperback)
Goodreads

Rating: 8.0/10

 

 

“You’re going to get killed.”
She looked across at him, stars in her eyes. “But what a grand way to die.”

A Big Ship At the Edge of the Universe had first caught my eye with its fantastic premise–a space opera featuring a treasure hunt, two women on the run, and a F/F romance. What’s not to like? And I’m pleased to say that the story lives up to my expectations. It combines high-octane action and charming characters to create a summer scifi that’s perfect for fans of Firefly and the Borderlands games.

Here’s the quick rundown: a cocky young woman crosses paths with a mouthy veteran. Both get kidnapped by the veteran’s former captain and are thrust into a hunt for a legendary ghost ship. Space battles ensue. Romances are had. Hand-to-hand combat is considered foreplay. And things get very, very dangerous.

Nilah is as privileged as they get. A bigshot racer with a rich father and utterly naive when it comes to the wider universe. Then, during one race, she bears witness to the murder of a fellow racer and she soon finds herself on the run with a hefty bounty on her head. Her life thus far has revolved solely around driving and trying to get her name inscribed in the racing history books. So this whole murdering and ship hunting business? Not a fan. At all.

In enters Elizabeth “Boots” Elsworth. An older veteran woman who now makes her paltry living as a treasure map maker and seller. Most of her maps are conjectures (i.e. junk), but every so often she happens on the real deal, which, unfortunately, turns out to be the case here.

Boots and Nilah are fantastic together. Nilah reminds me of a bratty princess (who can also throw a hell of a right hook), and Boots a world-weary gunslinger with a penchant for sass and sarcasm. We’ve seen this dynamic plenty of times with male characters in every genre of fiction, so it’s exciting to see it played out between two women. Boot’s sarcastic quips never failed to make me smile and Nilah’s reckless, daredevil spirit is nothing less than infectious. They’re both characters you can’t help but want to be best friends with.

The side characters are also varied and interesting–especially Orna, the hot-tempered quartermaster and Nilah’s love interest. Their romance will appeal to fans of the enemies-to-lovers trope; there’s enough friction between them to light up an entire city and I loved every bit of it.

What’s also impressive is the magic system. Yes, there’s magic in this story, and though it’s strange saying this about a space opera, it’s very cool. When most scifi stories try to incorporate magic into their world, they don’t call it “magic”, they give it scientific-sounding names, a la “Biotics” from Mass Effect. But we all know they’re just wizards in space. Here? No such coy winking. Alex White blatantly calls them “wizards” and “mages” and their abilities are literally just spellcasting. I love that. Magic and future tech seamlessly interact in ways that are inventive yet highly plausible, which, for fantasy and scifi lovers, is truly the best of both worlds.

What’s even more fascinating is that this is a world in which magic is the norm. The majority of people are all born with the ability, and being a non-caster is considered an incredibly rare defect. Thus “non-casters” are often treated with pity and distaste. It’s an interesting societal characteristic that I would love to see explored deeper in the sequels.

The story isn’t without a few problems. I couldn’t get a good sense of what some of these planets looked like beyond the basics, which was a little frustrating. And throughout the second half, I found myself craving a bit less action and a bit more character interaction. Nilah and Boots’ burgeoning friendship is put on hold in favour of moving the plot forward and we get less scenes of them together. Nilah and Orna’s relationship also seems to skip several steps in the middle–moving from “I’m going to bash your head in” to “I love you” a little too quickly for my liking.

All in all, though, A Big Ship is a lovable story–full of crazy action scenes, an eclectic cast of characters, and a myth to chase–and I had a ton of fun with it. Book two will be dropping later this year and I very much look forward to seeing what adventures these characters will face next.

~
ARC provided by Orbit in exchange for an honest review

May 2018 Wrap-Up

Didn’t I just do one of these posts last week? I swear, time is going by faster and faster. Early to mid-May was a whirlwind of mental health issues and emergency hospital visits, so I’m kind of surprised that I still managed to squeeze in 11 books. So let’s dive right in:

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May2018-Read1

Shirewode (The Wode 2) by J Tullos Hennig: (9.0/10)
If you saw the new Robin Hood movie poster and thought, “So it’s exactly same as the dozens of other Robin Hood adaptations except Robin gets to wear a machine-stitched hood?” then boy, do I have a series for you. With The Wode books, Hennig weaves Welsh mythology into the classic tale and reimagines Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne as lovers and Maid Marian as Robin’s sister–and all three entwined by magic and fate. The worldbuilding is intricate, the language is gorgeous (though some of the Welsh slangs flew over my head), and the characters are achingly flawed. It’s the best Robin Hood retelling I’ve encountered and I’m definitely going to need to do a full review on it sometime in the near future.

The first two books also feature a “friends to lovers to enemies to lovers” arc and I can’t believe this isn’t a more common trope, because holy hell, it is a beauty of an emotional rollercoaster.

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle 2) by Maggie Stiefvater: (8.5/10)
This was a great sequel to a book that I thought was interesting but still lacking something. Ronan is fascinating and I adore stories that explore dreams, so this one was just made for me. Review here.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang: (8.5/10)
Worth all the hype. Explores the atrocities of war and the dangers of vengeance without blinking an eye. I had some issues with the pacing and prose, but those are very much just new-author problems. Review here.

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Armistice (Amberlough Dossier 2) by Lara Elena Donnelly: (8.0/10)
A slower-paced sequel to Amberlough that was, at times, a little too slow, but the excellent character work makes it worthwhile in the end. Review here.

The Enchanted Chest by Jean-François Chabas: (6.0/10)
A weird little graphic novel that doesn’t seem to know who its intended audience is. The subject matter is a bit to mature for children, but the story is too hand-holdy for adults.

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum: (9.0/10)
A beautiful genre bender that explores mental health and codependency in microfiction-multimedia format. Review here.

May2018-Read3

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White:
A fun space opera featuring a bisexual car racer (who’s also a WoC) and a mouthy veteran-turned-treasure-hunter. It’s not without problems, but I had a great time with it overall. Review to come!

The Prince of Mirrors by Alan Robert Clark: (4.0/10)
This was supposed to be a character-driven historical fiction set in Victorian England, but I found said characters uninteresting and their relationships flat. I did appreciate the exploration of mental health and LGBTQIPA+ issues through a 19th century lens.  

Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno: (5.0/10)
I’d expected a lot of great things from this book but was left severely disappointed. At least the cover’s pretty. Review here.

May2018-Read4

The Rig by Roger Levy:
This is a very ambitious story that’s reminiscent of Black Mirror, with the cynicism dialed down a couple of notches. It juggles many complex subjects, and while I can’t say that it’s a complete success, I have to give props to the author for trying. Review to come.

The Curse of the Wendigo (The Monstrumologist 2) by Rick Yancey:
A reread–or a re-listen, rather–of one of my favourite series of all time. Though I’ve read and listened to the first and third book many, many times, it’s been years since I’d picked up the second one, so I decided to listen to the audiobook. Not as good as the third, but still very, very good, and the narrator does a pitch-perfect job.

 

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DISCUSSIONS

Then and Now: “Strong Female Characters”

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY

T5W: Favourite Non-Written Novels
T5W: Favourite SFF Covers
T5W: Intimidating Books on My TBR

DIVERSITY SPOTLIGHT THURSDAY

DST: Historical Fantasy
DST: Portal Fantasy

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And that’s it! Tell me how your month went and if you’ve read any books that you think should go immediately into my TBR!

 

Most Anticipated Scifi & Fantasy: May – July 2018

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I’m back! The good news is that the anxiety has subsided with the help of good books, sun, and my decision to start drawing art again. The not-so-good news is that the anxiety has morphed into abdominal issues, a light fever, and the possibility of an ulcer or appendicitis. Which is…fun. So I need to be monitoring that for the next few days. Meanwhile, I’ve really missed writing blog posts! So here’s one that I probably should have posted a week ago.

For those who haven’t seen my first Most Anticipated posts, I decided to split my lists into genre and months because if I were to fit them all into one giant post you’d be scrolling down this blog for days. This one covers Scifi and Fantasy releases from May to July.

MAY

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The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (May 1st)
I’m reading through this right now and it’s very good. The hype is well-deserved.

The Rig by Roger Levy (May 8th)
I already sampled the first couple of chapters and it’s as wonderfully strange as I’d hoped it would be. I can see why Ladie Tidhar was asked to blurb it–it’s very reminiscent of Central Station.

Armistice (Amberlough Dossier 2) by Lara Elena Donnelly
(May 15th)

The sequel to Donnelly’s dazzling art deco debut, Amberlough, which featured strippers, smugglers, spies, fascism, and a whole lot of heat. Here’s to hoping Armistice isn’t quite as heart-shattering as the first. I’m not opposed to some shattering, but the glue that’s holding together the pieces of my heart from the last shatter still hasn’t fully dried yet. So be gentle, Lara. Please.

JUNE

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 The Last Sun (The Tarot Sequence 1) by K.D. Edwards (May 8th)
I already read and adored this, so here the “most anticipated” equates more to “I can’t wait to get my hands on multiple physical copies so I can annotate the hell out of them. And snuggle them. And have candlelight dinners with them.”

Ravencry (Raven’s Mark 2) by Ed McDonald (June 14th – UK; August 21st – NA)
I loved the Noir-feel of Ed McDonald’s grimdark debut, Blackwing, and the world he created manages to be bleak and wondrous at the same time. Suffice to say, I’m very much looking forward to seeing where the story goes from there.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk (June 19th)
A historical fantasy set in Edwardian England with exploration of queer relationships against a World War I backdrop. I mean…what more incentives do you need?

 

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The Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (June 26th)
A Native American urban fantasy. Enough said.

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White (June 26th)
A Borderlands-esque world and a plot that features treasure hunting and two women on the run from space cops? And an f/f romance to boot? Hell yes.

JULY (AKA Hello-Bankruptcy Month)

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Empire of Silence (The Sun Eater 1) by Christopher Ruocchio (July 3rd)

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (July 10th)

Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne (July 17th)

 

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One of Us by Craig DiLouie (July 17th)
Claire North calls this book “The Girl with All the Gifts meets To Kill a Mockingbird.” Well, sign me up.

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins (July 17th)

This is a graphic novel based on the McElroy brothers’ The Adventure Zone podcast and I am super stoked to see these beloved characters and their shenanigans in illustrated form. For those who are unaware of the podcast, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you go check it out. Even if you don’t know who the McElroys are. Even if you don’t know a single thing about D&D or RPGs. These guys have created an unforgettable journey chock full of silliness and poignancy, and their characters will stay with you for a long, long time.

Annex (The Violet Wars 1) by Rich Larson (July 24th)

 

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Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras with Mary Kirby (July 31st)

Does this count? This is a book that exists in the world of the Dragon Age games, written by one of its characters Varric Tethras and thus written by Mary Kirby, who is Varric’s writer. Very meta. Despite what the title might suggest (Varric has a tendency to assign risqué titles to his crime/adventure books and serious titles to his romance books), this is a crime story featuring the city guardsmen of Kirkwall. Dragon Age is my favourite game series of all time and I’m super excited to add this to my collection of DA swag.

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday: Space Opera

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Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks. Each week you come up with three book for three different categories: a diverse book you’ve read and enjoyed; a diverse book that’s already been released and is in your TBR; and a diverse book that hasn’t been released yet.

This week’s topic is space opera!

 

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A-book-I-have-read2Warchild by Karin Lowachee

It kills me that this book isn’t more widely known. Over the course of three books, Karin Lowachee tackles space warfare in a way I’ve never seen before, by swiveling the focus onto the foremost victims of any war: the children. Warchild can be read as a coming-of-age story about an orphaned boy named Jos who gets trained to become an assassin spy. It can also be read as a story of a young survivor suffering from PTSD who finds himself getting used by two opposing factions of a war. Lowachee examines the horrors of conflict, both psychological and physical, with a deft yet unflinching eye. The fact that it also features LGBTQ themes and some of the most complex side characters I’ve ever come across, makes Warchild one of my all-time favourites of any genre.
 

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet has been compared to Firefly and Mass Effect and  been recommended to me more times than I can count. It features interspecies relationships, queer characters, and racial and species diversity. So of course I’ll read it. The only question is when. Sometime this summer, probably, as it seems perfect as a light summer read.

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

Boots Elsworth was a famous treasure hunter in another life, but now she’s washed up. She makes her meager living faking salvage legends and selling them to the highest bidder, but this time she got something real–the story of the Harrow, a famous warship, capable of untold destruction.
Nilah Brio is the top driver in the Pan Galactic Racing Federation and the darling of the racing world–until she witnesses Mother murder a fellow racer. Framed for the murder and on the hunt to clear her name, Nilah has only one lead: the killer also hunts Boots.
On the wrong side of the law, the two women board a smuggler’s ship that will take them on a quest for fame, for riches, and for justice.

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The premise sounds like something straight out of Borderlands, so count me in! This book promises fun space adventures, treasure hunting, and some f/f romance between two interesting characters.

Releases June 26th, 2018