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The Salvagers #1

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

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A crew of outcasts tries to find a legendary ship before it falls into the hands of those who would use it as a weapon in this science fiction adventure series for fans of The Expanse and Firefly.

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

They're all on 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 whoever finds it will hold the fate of the universe in their hands. And treasure that valuable can never stay hidden for long. . .

477 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 26, 2018

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About the author

Alex White

227 books465 followers
Alex White was born and raised in the American south. They take photos, write music and spend hours on YouTube watching other people blacksmith. They value challenging and subversive writing, but they’ll settle for a good time.

In the shadow of rockets in Huntsville, Alabama, Alex lives and works as an experience designer with their spouse, son, two dogs and a cat named Grim. Favored past times include Legos and racecars. They takes their whiskey neat and their espresso black.

Alex is the author of THE SALVAGERS book series (Orbit, 2018), a magical space opera treasure hunt, ALIEN: THE COLD FORGE (Titan, 2018)(yes, THAT Alien), and EVERY MOUNTAIN MADE LOW (Solaris, 2016), a dystopian Southern American yarn.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,085 reviews
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,955 followers
July 16, 2020
**UPDATE: $2.99 on kindle US today 7/16/20

Boots glanced back as the armor sampled the air closer to her neck. They both flinched. "Okay, that thing just sniffed me."
Orna didn’t bother to look back. "Ranger will do that."
"Ranger? It has a name?"
"All great weapons have names."
"Great weapons don’t sniff people."
"Mine do."

I love this book soooo much!! I fell in love with the characters and of course some die 😫. I’m still looking forward to the next book!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for carol..
1,574 reviews8,226 followers
June 20, 2020
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 so 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.

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.

“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.”

Three and a half starships, rounding up.
Profile Image for Nicholas Eames.
Author 11 books5,745 followers
June 5, 2018
I LOVED this book. The story was fantastic, the pacing was break-neck, and everything about the setting--from the sorcery-powered race cars, to the spaceships, and starfighters, to the badass murderous exoskeleton named Ranger--was incredible. Best of all, however, are the characters. Between the copious action scenes are so many beautiful, perfectly-written moments as the cast conflicts, copulates, and tries their best to coexist with one another. I love a well-crafted heart-to-heart, and this book is full of'em.

It's part of a series (yay!) but works perfectly well as a standalone story.

Give it a shot! If you enjoy it even half as much as I did, you won't regret it!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,103 followers
December 17, 2018
First, the fine and the good:

It reads like any number of treasure hunting (or salvaging) space opera tomes in that we're focused on an ensemble cast with quirks, heisty moments, and quite a few getaway chases. Lots of action and overall, I have nothing I want to complain about when it comes to this. I was thinking of the Italian Job at a few moments, and later of the ONE BIG SCORE kind of trope later on. Fun? Sure! Overall I'm a sucker for this kind of story. The underdogs get rich against all odds and baddies hot on their tail.

Okay, and then the bad. With one caveat. It may not annoy ANYONE other than me, but a future society hundreds of years in the future needs to have some kind of reason for switching from SF tech to Magic. There's spaceships, explosions, fast cars, AIs, and battlesuits. Instead of going along with the normal genre, the author or perhaps some pressure from an editor to get rid of all the "hard" techy bits just substituted any regular techy handwavium with Magic. Arcana, magic, and powered glyphs. Power your car, sick your mind magic on AI computers, hack with magic, shield your ship with magic, put people to SLEEP with magic.

I suppose it's too hard to rely on fuel, raw ability, intelligence, physics, or drugs.

I've read a lot of great magic mixed with high-tech societies, but the worldbuilding here is sub-par and reason-less. Even with the final reveal and the tragedy there (which was exciting) the rest of the magic system could have used a LOT of fleshing out. I invite him to read some Sanderson. :)

Otherwise, if I could only get over my fairly large gripe, the novel was entertaining enough. :)
Profile Image for Trike.
1,527 reviews162 followers
December 31, 2019

Once again I’m out of step with the consensus. I don’t get why people are besotted with this book. I appreciate the fact that White skipped the pretense of calling the space magic system by another name, such as The Force (Star Wars), biotics (Mass Effect), or telepathy/telempathy (Star Trek), and just went ahead and called it magic.

But other than that this is just a bog-standard Mary Sue clichefest. The race car driver is the BEST race car driver EVER. The doctor is the BEST doctor EVER. The pilot is the BEST pilot EVER. And et cetera. Even the sentences are ones we’ve heard thousands of times by now. People are constantly under threat of being “put down like a dog” and similar lines. Even semi-clever one-offs are lifted from other sources. “You look pretty spry for a corpse” is straight out of a Spider-Man comic.

When the best racer ever is accused of the murder of a fellow racer, no one believes it because she has nothing to gain from that. Now suppose she were ranked #3. Ah! This story just becomes a thousand times more interesting, doesn’t it? Now she has to actually work hard to get back the two things she treasures most: the adulation of the crowd and her cushy lifestyle. And suppose her experiences aboard the salvager ship bend her character arc to lead her away from racing entirely as she discovers what’s truly important — and thrilling — in life. Instead she learns nothing.

I’m glad I didn’t see any of the blurbs before reading this book. Publishers really need to stop comparing their books to Firefly. None of these books are that. None them ever will be that.

Regarding the magic stuff, at a couple places it literally becomes a dungeon crawl. Crossing out “dungeon“ and writing in “spaceship” doesn’t disguise that. I mean, come on, work a *little* bit harder, won’t you please? Makes me long for biotics and ME fanfic.

And why do LGBTQ characters always, always, always make out at the most horrifically inappropriate times? One of the instances here was at the scene of a mass murder. Seriously, WTF? I know I’ve called this nonsense out in other books, but seriously, who the hell does that?! It just speaks of amateurish writing when you try to shoehorn a romance into where it doesn’t belong. My takeaway is that either the author is not using their senses to inhabit the scene, or the queer community is seriously screwed up. Have you ever been around dead bodies of any kind? I have. They quite literally smell like shit, because the body’s sphincter relaxes. Plus, you know, all the BLOOD.

Mm, yeah, happy fun sexy times, aw yeah.

I don’t usually diss narrators but whoever read this sounded like a first-year drama student. The voices were terrible and she sounds about 16. That certainly didn’t help my impression of the book.
Profile Image for Crini.
352 reviews410 followers
July 3, 2018
Take A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, replace the alien crew members by humans (but keep it diverse and queer AF) and add lots and lots of action AND ALSO MAGIC and you've got A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe.

This found-family/anti-hero squad of space witches takes you on one hell of a ride, FEELS and sexual tension galore included.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
August 15, 2023
Another “good idea - bad execution” book. Someone somewhere has this as a genre or category.

SF / fantasy space opera with both tech and magic, so I was sort of excited thinking this could be a Poul Anderson type of book. “Sort of” is about as close as it came, and my excitement waned as I waded through almost 500 pages of this.

The world building and magic rules were fun, but the characterization and dialogue were not good, some ending up in the cringe heap. The magic, though, was never sufficiently explained and this got annoying by the second half. I recall a sophomore English teacher admonishing me to watch out for cliche’s and banal phrases as too much could ruin an otherwise good story. This writer could have used some of this advise. And cut the work in half.

This was saved by a genuinely fun story that could be entertaining if you can ignore the sub-par writing. This read like watching an old Japanese anime, so if that’s all your looking for then this can provide a good time.

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Profile Image for Justine.
1,155 reviews311 followers
June 20, 2020
This was reasonably entertaining. I loved the diverse cast of characters who, for the most part, were nicely fleshed out. The dialogue was good with bits of humour sprinkled in. The world created was interesting, providing a neat SF setting where almost everyone is a magic user.

The story moves along well and mostly the pacing is pretty good. A few parts could have been written a bit more clearly, but generally I thought it was solid. That said, although there were a lot of positive elements, overall I just thought it was fine - I didn't love it. I can see how other people might though, so if it sounds interesting, I would say to give it a try.

Although it is first in a series, it can definitely be read as a standalone as it concludes nicely. I'm not sure yet, but I might check out the next book, A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy, to see how the crew of the Capricious make out in their next adventure.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books751 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
March 21, 2019
DNF @34%

This was very much not for me. I honestly didn't like anything about it. I was hopeful because the magic seemed kind of cool and at first I was interested in the mystery but everything got waaaay stilted and I stopped caring. Overall issues I had (while recognizing others found this to be a fun romp):

-The opening. The first two chapters are really quite offputting. Watching racing isn't terribly fun for people who aren't enthusiasts--reading racing is excruciating. On top of that the characters aren't likable and there's sudden magic thrown into your space opera which is uncomfortable until you adapt to it.

-The characters. All of them are assholes with no common sense, or act like caricatures of bad actors in TV shows. The person I liked most was the hotelier restaurant owner who tells Nilah to shove it. Everyone else could have died on the next page and I would have been like "oh, maybe now some cool characters will get introduced."

-Internal consistency. There was very little. Trained professionals leaving tools all about a space ship, no one buckling in when they're doing space dog fights (also: space dog fights) people who are X characteristic suddenly forget how to do this thing they've done all their life, tattoos are tattoos, no they're magic, no they're a fighting art...it's just completely wild how many things don't make sense.

-Dialogue. Again, it's all very cartoonish. It felt like it was something they'd say on MASH or a Power Rangers episode. "I defy death every time I race," says the person who just got finished telling us no one's died in a race in years.

-Pacing. Not only did we start with a race where someone is narrating people driving around turns, but we keep taking breaks from the main thrust of the story to have talks about feelings or weird fight montages.

At this point I'm annoyed and uninterested so even if it did improve, I don't think it'd recover enough to get me to like it and I'm weeks behind in other books, so it's time to move along.
Profile Image for Ash.
127 reviews135 followers
February 1, 2021
In my review of A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, I recommended the book to fans of Treasure Planet. I take that back. If any book warrants a comparison to Treasure Planet, it’s this one. I just wish it was anywhere near as good as Treasure Planet.

I guess I didn’t pay close enough attention to the genres this book is shelved in; I was expecting pure science fiction, but it’s actually a blend of science fiction and fantasy, which could have been fun with better worldbuilding. Or just more worldbuilding. Alex White gave minimal details about every aspect of the world: the magic system, the different planets and their respective cultures and economies and political systems, interplanetary politics, any of the science of it all. There was so much that wasn’t explored as fully as I would have liked, which made it impossible for me to immerse myself and which is such a letdown when awesome worldbuilding is one of the things I most look forward to in science fiction.

As for the plot, I was intrigued at first. Treasure hunters in space, a famous athlete framed for murder; this book had all the elements of a compelling plot. But the execution was off. I can’t explain it, but things happened simultaneously too quickly and too slowly. Overall, the pace was too slow because it felt like for the first half the protagonists weren’t making any real progress toward their goal (for Boots, finding the legendary missing starship, the Harrow, and for Nilah, clearing her name). But at the same time, events that should have had considerable plot significance or emotional weight felt like they happened too quickly or were resolved too conveniently. The story progressed in fits and starts instead of along a smooth narrative arc.

The characters were so close to elevating this to a three-star read. I almost really liked them. And I wanted to love the whole found family-slash-band of misfits vibe this book had going for it. But I wasn’t buying the relationships between these characters. Everything escalated too quickly: Boots’ friendship with Nilah, Nilah’s relationship with , Boots’ relationship with . It didn’t help that the characters’ dialogue was filled with way too much banter and melodrama. I felt like White made the characters initially unlikable in order to give them a clear character development arc but also couldn’t commit, so characters would have brief flashes of likability but were mostly disagreeable and annoying. And instead of gradually learning and growing and becoming better people, it seemed like partway through the book they all abruptly became way more likable.

Ultimately where this book failed for me is that I was never invested. I wasn’t invested in the world. I wasn’t invested in the plot and solving the mystery of the Harrow. I wasn’t invested in the characters and their relationships. I had high hopes, but to me, A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe was a good idea with bad execution. I doubt I’ll read the sequel.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,073 reviews2,637 followers
January 25, 2019
3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2019/01/24/...

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe showed so much potential from its premise. You have an egotistical speed racer who loses her fame, fortune and friends after she is framed for a murder she did not commit. You have an ex-military pilot turned celebrity treasure hunter, except her biggest score didn’t pan out the way she’d hoped. All of this is set to the backdrop of space with a magical twist, because in this world, sorcery is as much a part of daily life as technology.

Which means, if you’re one of the few extremely rare people born without magic, things can really suck. Lizzie “Boots” Elsworth has long accepted that as her lot in life. She’s a veteran of a war that saw her home world destroyed, and now she makes her living selling fake treasure maps to gullible or desperate adventurers hoping to strike it rich with one lucky salvage. It’s mostly harmless, though Boots did make the mistake of selling one of her counterfeit maps to her former captain from the military, and now he and his crew are coming after her for some payback. While attempting to evade them, Boots runs into Nilah, a young woman who is in a terrible bind of her own. A pro racecar driver, she has just fled from the biggest event of the racing world after it was interrupted by the use of illegal magic. One of her rivals was murdered during the course of the spell, and the perpetrators have pinned his death on Nilah, forcing her to go on the run.

Both Boots and Nilah’s escapes are cut short, however, when Cordell, Boots’ old captain, intercepts the two women and holds them captive aboard his ship. And now, whoever is after Nilah is after him and his crew too. Realizing he’s been caught up in a greater conspiracy, Cordell has no choice but to keep running with his new prisoners in tow, learning more about their mysterious pursuers from Nilah and Boots’ accounts. Turns out, there actually might be real treasure out there, and somehow, it’s all connected to the maelstrom of chaos happening all around them.

Sometimes, no matter how much you want to like a book, you just can’t justify giving it more than an average rating. Still, average meant it was okay—it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad—and that’s pretty much how I felt about everything in this one, from its story to the characters and even the somewhat different-from-the-norm world-building. The reality is, there have been a number of these ensemble-crew-adventure-space-opera-type novels released in recent years, most of them attempting to capture the action and atmosphere of popular sci-fi franchises like Firefly or Star Wars. And quite honestly? I’ll keep reading them as long as they keep coming. I do love this genre, though admittedly, things can start to blur together the more of it I read, and at some point, my tastes must have become more demanding.

So technically, there really isn’t anything wrong with this novel. Still, while the people, places, and plot were all pleasant and entertaining enough to read about, they never truly cross the threshold into becoming interesting or memorable either. The characters have great backstories, but their personalities are archetypal, and they think and act in very predictable ways. Story-wise, we had our high points, though the plot on the whole is still your typical generic space adventure fare. The world-building, which should have been the novel’s crowning glory, also fell short, and I think it failed to shine for several reasons. First, any time you have both magic and technology in a sci-fi setting, things can get messy. To the author’s credit, he did manage to keep this mashup somewhat clean and easy to understand, though in doing so, I think he also played things a little too safe. We have some cool ideas here, like auto-racing with magic, but we only ever get to catch a brief glimpse or scratch at the surface. There’s a vibe of “just go with it” to many of the concepts, and most of the systems here, both magical and technological, are only lightly touched upon. The wider implications of a society having both at its disposal are also not considered or explored in depth.

In any case, A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe wasn’t a standout for me, though granted, I can be quite picky when it comes to this genre. Still, if you enjoy fun sci-fi adventure stories about treasure hunters and heists in space and are looking for a light fluffy read won’t require too much time or deep thought, this one might just do the trick.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,624 followers
January 12, 2019
A twistily plotted magic-and-tech story with lots of fights, a willingness to kill important characters, and a strongly female-led cast including a f/f romance. Extremely sinister villain and a terrific premise once we actually learn what's going on, which isn't till the last 25% or so. I didn't have a strong emotional connection to the characters to go along with the plot rush, which might be the book or might just be me.
Profile Image for Adam.
391 reviews170 followers
July 13, 2018
What do you get when you combine futuristic car racing, intergalactic treasure hunting, evil government conspiracies, renegade space pirates, and universe-spanning glyph magic? You get Alex White’s incredibly fun and engaging A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe, the first book of the “Salvagers” series. This is a solid pick for a summer beach read, an action-heavy adventure with a nearly all-female cast of kickass protagonists that feels ready-made for a blockbuster film treatment. Although there were a few plot holes that required some mental gymnastics to bypass, this book was a pleasure to read and provided an excellent escape into a fresh and inventive universe.

My favorite aspect of this story are the characters. The book switches off chapters between two main points-of-view, though a couple of key supporting characters get nearly just as much narrative focus throughout the story. Nilah Brio is a young and brash race car driver, determined to break all circuit records utilizing her massive talent in the field. She is a bit of a spoiled brat, living a sheltered life in the rich upper crust of the galaxy, but she is easily likeable due to her extreme dedication to her craft and her well-honed physical and mental prowess. Like everyone else in the galaxy, she has a specialized magical talent. As a mechanist, she can “talk” to machines, which comes in handy while racing hyper-speed vehicles running on magical eidolon crystals for a living. But during her latest race, tragedy befalls a fellow racer, and Nilah is framed by an extremely powerful, time-stopping assassin named Mother. Suddenly Nilah’s fame and fortune become inconsequential as she’s hunted by malevolent forces on all sides. She has to clear her name but her situation worsens each day.

Elizabeth “Boots” Elsworth is a veteran pilot who has fallen from grace, two decades past a Famine War that saw the destruction of her home planet. She earned a flash of fame hosting a successful television show that focused on her finding lost treasure across the universe, but now makes a living selling fake maps to salvagers while barely keeping herself solvent. Boots is quite literally one-in-a-million; while everyone else in the galaxy has their own special glyph magic, Boots was born without the ability to cast. As if things couldn’t get any worse for her, she discovers that her old nemesis has tracked her down, and someone wants her dead.

It isn’t long before Boots and Nilah’s paths converge, and the plot’s many twists and turns links them up with a renegade space crew and launches them through a series of conspiratorial mysteries and lively set pieces. There is one memorable escape scene that spans three chapters (!) and spotlights White’s ability to write his way through chaotic atmospheres with style. Since the story takes place over 850 years into the future, White takes full advantage of the space fantasy setting with a heavy dose of technical wonders and magic-infused battle scenes. He a confident writer, deftly weaving through his conjured language of tech-speak like he’s giving a TED talk: comfortable and informative. I found it to be a nice balance of science fiction with fantastical elements that doesn’t lean too heavily into hard science, though certain realistic elements of energy and space travel do come into play.

White is skilled at creating protagonists that are easy to root for (especially Orna, a scarred mechanist warrior with an AI battle suit that follows her like a dog) and some truly vile enemies that are responsible for some unspeakable horrors. I enjoyed how each cast member is given their time to shine, and our few main characters progress along their story arcs in meaningful ways. It cannot be said that all characters have purposeful journeys; the antagonists felt rather one-note, but perhaps that will be fixed in future volumes. Overall, I recommend this book to those who might be looking for a fun popcorn science-fantasy adventure that feels like a female-led Mission Impossible movie in space, with lots of fun action, warm romance, and some cool magic and tech concepts that keep the pages flying by. The sequel is out this December and I’m looking forward to spending some more time with Boots, Nilah and the gang.

7.0 / 10
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,563 reviews2,938 followers
September 14, 2020
This is one of the books I picked up for #SpaceOperaSeptember and I am so glad to finally have tried this series out. It's a snarky space F1 with magic powered cars and space dwellers too :) lots going on and lots to enjoy, especially if you're into cars or racing as that's a big aspect.

We follow two main characters, Boots who is a retired member of the crew and part of a planet who's civilisation largely died out a few years back; we then have Nilah who is a race car driver and is aiming to become number one overall and take the title, but her fate changes drastically when she's accused of murder on the track, and the pace of the story takes off from there.

These two characters definitely get off on the wrong foot, but they're forced to work together when bigger events take over and their goals align. From then on I found it to be a fast-paced and very action-packed story which barely let up the throttle once it got started.

Overall, I found this super easy and enjoyable and I want to know what will come next as this book has quite a big ending. 4*s
464 reviews401 followers
August 31, 2018
I got this from NetGalley/Orbit and I was really excited but I’m late for my review – sorry I got way behind schedule there for a little bit.

I didn’t know what to expect from this, I didn’t even read the blurb before opening it so when the first scene was about racing futuristic sci-fi cars with wings that run on magic I was sort of taken aback. It was fast paced and fun but took a sharp turn when one of the main characters, Nihla, is on the track and gets attacked. A creepy animalistic type woman ensnares her car in a time-spell and kills her co-pilot over information regarding a map. The attack itself was surreal and trippy, while stuck in a time spell Nihla feels like she can’t breathe or move, the air feels thick and almost like molasses, sounds are distorted and colors are wrong – they’re either faded to black and white or hyper-exaggerated. It created a very creepy and memorable scene. The map supposedly locates the legendary warship known as The Harrow, it’s rumored to have been powerful enough to destroy cities or countries but many don’t believe that never existed.

Mother believes it exists though, and she came after Nihla’s friend and crushed his skull – Nihla barely escapes with her life and hunts down a name she heard her friend say before he died – Elizabeth “Boots”.

Boots is a washed up celebrity of sorts, she made it big a number of years ago with a show called “Finding Hana”. She was a treasure hunter and still is, but she’s long since fallen out of the public’s favor. She’s a “dull” or a “none”, meaning that she’s completely without magical abilities. It’s a rare condition and those afflicted with it have a lot of difficulties fitting into society. She’s older now and sells maps and star charts that supposedly lead to treasures of different sorts. However, her merchandise is starting to lack in quality, many people are going on adventures and coming up empty-handed after expensive expeditions out to the middle of nowhere.

The two POV’s collide around 10% in, so it’s obvious from very early on how these two will be connected in the story.

Nihla tracks down Boots, right as Boot’s debtors find her and they both end up captured and on a spaceship called the Capricious – once upon a time Boots used to serve on this spaceship and these captors used to be peers. It makes for an interesting dynamic and things start getting tense when Mother finds them and attacks the ship with multiple cruisers.

The crew of the Capricious, willing or not, are now on their way to try and track down The Harrow before Mother can get her hands on it.

The world building in this was really unique, there are lots of different types of magic, healing magic, mechanical magic, data magic, life magic etc. Each person is typically born able to tap into one of these sorts of magic and sometimes people take on physical attributes that give away what kind of magic they use. I really love that things like crystal balls exist in the same world as holograms and spaceships – it creates a very fresh and unique atmosphere. Nihla’s magic is based around machinery, she has the Mechanist’s Mark and she’s able to almost meld with her car, she can feel the gears shifting, the tires heating up and wearing down, the pistons in her engine etc. There are tattoo’s that change color based on your emotions and a lot of other really neat stuff I haven’t seen done very often – big points for this book on originality.

I liked one of the characters, but I never entirely warmed to the other. Not surprising given my tastes though, I tend to prefer older characters and worn down characters so Boots appealed to me much more than Nihla. Nihla has grown up sort of pampered, she has enough money to own a small colony, and she’s sort of emotionally distant. She’s pretty self-centered and is absolutely obsessed with her racing which made it hard for me to identify with because I’ve never liked racing of any kind, not even really in video games. One exception being Mario Kart. So when Nihla was being chased by Mother with two battle cruisers trying to kill her, and all she could think about was the race she was going to miss, I sort of fell out of the moment. I did start to sympathize with her when she was being demonized in the media and her friends were turning against her, thinking she was capable of killing her co-pilot. Boots was much more my style, she has a lot of experience under her belt, she understands the situation they’re in and she’s capable of taking command and getting them out of bad situations.

This was very fast paced, there was something going on in every chapter almost from beginning to end. That’s to be expected I guess when the storyline is about racing, warships, and a crazy woman named Mother. There was a lot of humor in this, although it didn’t always land for me this would definitely qualify as a funny book for some. The humor was often juxtaposed with darker events including character deaths, so maybe it was a tone thing that didn’t work for me, I’m not sure, honestly. There was also a very distinct writing style, words like “holy cats, beat feet, heater” were used a lot and I didn’t totally connect with it.

Overall, I’m really torn on this one, there were parts I really liked and others that just didn’t work for me. I would suggest trying it out and seeing if it’s for you, the world building certainly was fun and it was very original and fresh.


Science Fantasy
Lots of magic
lots of tech
space battles
multi pov
female pov
fast paced

Plot: 11/15
Characters: 10/15
World Building: 10/15
Writing: 11.5/15
Pacing: 12.5/15
Originality: 13.5/15
Personal Enjoyment: 6.75/10

Final Score: 76.25/100
Profile Image for  Charlie.
477 reviews220 followers
December 14, 2018
One of the best sci fi space junkie books I’ve read in ages. It’s got some wonderful characters that end up feeling like family, breath taking action sequences, massive galaxy encompassing stakes and also captures the spirit of some of my other favourite books and movies. The plot unfolds at a frenetic pace and gives the reader no time at all before they and the characters are thrown in the deep end. The writing is never slow or bogged down with too much information, the magic system is undefined but gloriously accessible and the fight scenes are really, really, ridiculously well done. I am so glad I picked up this book and I’m going to jump straight into the brilliantly titled “A Bad Deal for the Whole Universe”. Everything I enjoy about Becky Chambers books, everything that reminds me of why I love Firefly, everything I wish the movie Solo could have been; this book has it all and more.
Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews235 followers
September 17, 2019
A fantasy\sci-fi blend that's really a 101 class in either but yet I liked it. The characters were enjoyable. The story predictable but fun. Lots of genre memes that read like YA but yet there was a dark undercurrent I found enjoyable.
Profile Image for Holly (The GrimDragon).
1,051 reviews232 followers
December 21, 2018
"This whole treasure hunt had been one weird thing after another--gods and prophets, culture arks and secret bases, mutineers and secret branches of the Taitutian military. And of course, there were the racetrack glyphs, too."

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe opens strong. It quite literally begins with a race. A race across a massive spaceship. In sorcery-powered race cars. Yes. SORCERY-POWERED RACE CARS! Then there is a crushing scene that puts all of the proverbial pieces on the board and we see that SHIT IS ABOUT TO GO DOWN! This book begins at a frenetic pace and rarely slows down from there!

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe gave me whiplash with all of the badassery happening! A galaxy-spanning race with space pirates, a treasure hunt, boss ass bitches, interstellar combat, gory gore. PLUS IT'S QUEER AS FUCK! ::pumps fist into the air::

The world-building is just incredible. I could hear the whizzing and whirring of the race cars on the track; the distorted sounds vibrating through my ears when Nilah is attacked; the crunching and grunting and breathing of battle. I was able to visualize Capricious and the misfit crew that inhabits it; the way certain people use their magic; Mother in her bonkers exoskeleton who will FUCK YOU UP. It's all just so vibrant! Not to mention how brilliant the magic system is! I feel like White is just barely scraping the surface of what is to come. 

I loved everything about this book, but it's the characters that truly captivated me. This may be one of those divisive opinions because the two main POV's could be seen as unlikable, but goddamn. I loved them from the minute I met them! Especially Boots. She is such a rad character. One of an extremely limited in the universe that was born without the ability to cast magic, Boots is known as "dull-fingers." I found it utterly fascinating how she grew throughout the book, dealing with her lack of magic and oh.. THE DESTRUCTION OF HER PLANET YEARS BEFORE. Life has not been kind to Boots and it shows. But that's why I fucking adore her so damn much!

Alex White writes such deliciously engrossing action sequences .. but the more human moments stand out just as much. For all the grittiness and bloodshed, there are these tender, raw, genuinely beautiful interactions between characters as well. This book has such a tangle of emotions, which speaks volumes about the kind of writer White is. I am locked in and wanting more!

To say I love stories about people on spaceships is an understatement. Throw in magic IN SPACE and diverse characters and insane battles? This is like if Firefly had a three-way with Farscape and Killjoys and somehow this was born. I'm smitten!

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe completely blew me away! It is most certainly on my favorite books of 2018 list. I couldn't love it more!

(Thank you Orbit Books for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!)
Profile Image for Robin Bonne.
632 reviews141 followers
December 21, 2018
This is the space opera that I didn’t know I even needed. Between Boots and Nilah, there was so much badass female energy and nonstop action.

I must read the next book!
Profile Image for Lata.
3,773 reviews208 followers
January 1, 2019
A fun, light, fast-moving space opera with some interesting characters. There was nothing deep about this book; just frothiness and fun.
Profile Image for Audrey.
1,076 reviews167 followers
January 21, 2019
A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

There’s nothing I didn’t really like about this book. I just didn’t love it. It’s about a rag-tag spaceship crew. There are a lot of those, and most are a lot of fun. I never liked this crew very much. Their personalities were rather bland and indistinct. If they were in danger or got killed, I had zero emotional reaction. It also took about half the book to actually become a cohesive team, and I like my space crews and heist teams to work together from early on.

There are a lot of action scenes that are generally pretty good, but when they got long I would zone out. I didn’t always understand what was going on.

But it’s still a good plot overall, and the combination of magic and tech is cool. It has a light tone, sort of like Kings of the Wyld.

Minor language; sexual content is implied or “off-screen”; moderate violence
Editing is average (i.e., a few blatant errors and random use of commas).

Book Blog
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,204 reviews3,686 followers
March 11, 2021
A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe is a fun, action-packed romp through space with a ragtag crew trying to find a mythical ship. It's got a "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to world-building, blending magic and technology in all sorts of ways.

If you love a book that is plot driven and high on action, you are probably going to love this book. If you prefer a more character driven story or want a big emphasis on the intrigue or mystery parts of the setup, I'm not sure I would recommend this as highly. It's a fairly lengthy book at well over 400 pages and a LOT of that is action scenes. The characters are interesting and diverse, but remain at an arms length and I didn't have a lot of feelings when people died or nearly died. Similarly I appreciate the attempt to include an LGBT romance, but it didn't feel super believable, and as another reviewer said, the timing of the kissing sometimes seemed inappropriate. Like at the site of a mass murder. (see review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...)

The mystery and intrigue elements are also very interesting, but the book spends a relatively small amount of time on them. As a reader who prefers a character driven book, OR a plot that is all about the intrigue, this wasn't my favorite version of science fiction. However, the tone is definitely fun and it's a book that I think will appeal to a lot of readers. It's a good version of what it is.
Profile Image for Howard.
1,288 reviews80 followers
August 30, 2022
3 Stars for A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe (audiobook) by Alex White read by Charlotte Blacklock.

The story is ok but it’s kind of long and a lot more YA than I was expecting. The voices that the narrator does also seem to add to the YA vibe. I’m sure that I’m not the target audience for this one.
Profile Image for Justine.
465 reviews296 followers
January 21, 2020
Originally posted to I Should Read That

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe is a book that caught my eye with its gorgeous cover, amazing blurbs (Nicholas Eames!), and fun premise. Despite buying it over a year ago, it sat on my shelf until January (typical) when I picked it up for a buddy read with a friend. Unfortunately, I came away from this book incredibly disappointed! The buddy read is the only thing that kept me from DNFing it early on.

This book seems pretty divisive -- people either love it or hate it -- and I’m so sad that I am among the latter. I’ve been pondering the reasons why for the past couple of weeks and I think I’ve figured it out -- this book just fell short in every way. It promised fun and adventure, but I felt totally detached the entire time. Magic and science fiction in one book should have been an outstanding combination. It should have had an amazing, quirky gang of misfits but they all felt flat and I just didn't 'get' them, their actions, or their motivations. The incredibly high stakes didn’t feel particularly high and I didn't get a sense of urgency. I think the reason for all of this is that the writing feels very immature, almost as though someone watched Firefly, decided ‘that's easy, I can do that’, and wrote a very shallow story that had nothing going on beneath the surface. One of the things that makes science fiction great is that even in fun romp-y books, you still get a deeper sense of meaning from the characters and their struggles. I got none of that from this book.

On the bright side, I did like our two main characters, Nilah and Boots, well enough. Nilah starts the story as an incredibly privileged celebrity who is a bit of a brat and is forced into a situation beyond her control. I enjoyed watching her evolve and react to the various situations she found herself in. Boots is a woman after my own heart -- an extremely grumpy, ageing soldier from the losing side of the war who is trying to scrape by. I enjoyed her point of view the most. Unfortunately, two decent characters can’t save the story, especially when their counterparts are so flat they’re basically cardboard cutouts.

I’m frustrated that’s because this book had so much missed potential! It could have been a favourite of the year, but instead it flopped in a pretty big way. I definitely wont be continuing on with this series.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews227 followers
December 6, 2018
A fun science fiction adventure story with magic thrown in, but extremely derivative of popular SF.

In a far future humanity has spread throughout the galaxy and also has access to magical powers through a new part of the brain. Nilah Brio is a race car driver and mechanist (magic that allows her to mentally join with and control technology). As she's leading her current race, a powerful magic user appears and assassinates another driver after briefly interrogating him. The murdered driver mentions the name Elizabeth "Boots" Elworth in Nilah's hearing. When Nilah is blamed for the murder, she tries to find Boots only to get caught up in yet another attack. Elizabeth Elworth is a former soldier who now makes her living selling fake treasure maps, only it appears that she's hit close enough to someone's treasure in one of them that she's in a lot of trouble. Cue an encounter with her former commander, and we soon have both Nilah and Boots onboard his ship and being chased by dark and powerful forces.

This is Firefly and Star Wars in a blender with a veneer of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (which the title is a clear nod towards) only with the whole thing written at about a YA level. It's exciting and fun, but it's a good thing that the book invokes magic so much, because not much about the galaxy in this makes sense without it.

There's a queer romance between Nilah and another cast member, but in general a lot of the chunkier stuff between characters is sketched in at best, although there's a solid core of a good story. It just all takes a backseat to the relentless pace.
Profile Image for ~Dani~ .
312 reviews55 followers
October 1, 2018
Read this and more reviews at Book Geeks Uncompromised!

Space is a pretty big place and sometimes you need a map to find the real treasures out there. Lizzie "Boots" Elsworth is a washed up treasure hunter who sells fake treasure maps for a quick buck. When she sells a fake map to an old crew of hers but Little did she know that she would soon be with that old crew again looking for the legend of a ship, The Harrow.

Nilah Brio is a famous Race care driver and when she is framed for the murder of a fellow racer ends up with boots running from people that happen to want both of their heads. What follows is a space adventure with fighting robots, magic, and the occasional snarky comment from Boots herself.

Alex White has made a universe that has just been through war. Boots' own home planet was nuked and lost the war after suffering  years of famine. From the different worlds that are traveled to, they are all fairly generic in your space adventure book. One is a sleazy port station, another is a beautiful technology advanced world, and old ruins with booby traps. While all of these worlds are fine, there is nothing that truly stands out or is memorable about them.

Unfortunately this is true for many things in this book. Characters like Boots and Nilah are both good characters with growth. The others don't stand out as much in any way. They do have interesting things about them, but again nothing new is brought to the table. This stands true with the plot, characters and just overall story. These things are not bad, but at the same time not great either.

One thing that does stand out is the magic system. Yep, a magic system in a sci fi book! Every person in this world is born with a glyph that is unique to each person. While many can be placed in similar categories, they are all different in slightly different ways. Nilah can access machines and can manipulate them to her bidding. The captain of the ship can create magical barriers for protection up to the size of his ship or on himself.

Boots is the odd one out in that she was born without magic. It is a extremely rare case, only 1 in 6 million are reported. While the system is not dived into or explained, it works well for this adventure. We get the basics that are necessary for this journey and it is all written well that there is little to no confusion on the magic.

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe is a enjoyable read that does not push beyond you generic space adventure. It is not a bad book in anyway, and has some genuinely funny characters and sad moments that come out of no where. If you are looking for a good adventure book, this is the one for you.

I don't know if this is just a case of the wrong book for me at the wrong time but it just didn't really do it for me. The fact that this book has both magic and spaceships and space should have made it a shoe-in for an incredibly exciting read. However, the characters and the really the story itself just didn't stand out to me at all.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,530 reviews979 followers
March 13, 2021


She was the fastest in the PGRF. Her reflexes were legendary. Her rookie year had shocked even her staunchest critics. Her eyes were quick, able to discern perfect detail at long distances. Her ears were finely tuned to the sounds of machinery. Nilah Brio was a galactic talent, and it was time to prove her mettle.

Nilah Jones is on top of the world : rich, young and talented, she is fighting for the pole position in the galactic racing league [PGRF] . Something weird, something magic happens on track, and Nilah suddenly finds herself on the run, accused of murder and hunted by a ruthless predator with supernatural powers.

Boots Ellsworth, a fighter pilot and one of the few survivors of a civil war that destroyed her home planet, is selling fake treasure maps in far flung corners of the galaxy. Her former battleship crew is hunting her for selling them such a fake treasure hunt.

Somehow the two storylines come together as Boots and Nilah join the crew of a smuggling ship. Together they hunt for a sort of mythical Death Star kind of spaceship, trying to survive persistent attacks from those supernatural hunters.


This is a good space opera, of the sort of popcorn and adrenaline rush that seems more fitted for a beach or an airport read, something fun to kill the time until a better book comes along. I decided to go easy on the author, seeing as this is a debut novel, and he is really good at writing action scenes. There is room for improvement, and I might consider reading the next book in the series.

Having said that, the premise is a popular one, and inevitably ‘The Salvagers’ will be compared with other rogue crews hunting for galactic treasure, the likes of the “Tales of the Ketty Jay”, “The Expanse”, “The Murderbot” and “Firefly” . With such competition, this new series seems a little lacking in originality and sparkle, but it doesn’t miss the mark by much.
Personally, I believe I was turned off early by the blending of science and magic. I like my science-fiction to have a stronger basis on physics, even if it is speculative in nature. The other improvement I would like to see is a sense of humour. All the series I name-dropped earlier have captured me by being irreverent, tongue-in-cheek and witty in dialogue. The Salvagers , at least in this first volume, is trying for some comic relief, but the focus remains on super-fast action, worldbuilding and pain (physical and psychological).

Conclusion : interesting new space adventure, with room for improvement.
Profile Image for Mili.
395 reviews35 followers
December 7, 2018
I've been hyped to read this book by many readers on instagram and it did not fail! This is a stunning action packed crazy fast paced space adventure. Holy farts, it's good! The characters are fun and lovable with all their own quirks. The way they are introduced and form a bond is exciting to read. There is also magic in this world, people have all kinds of specific magic that they can wield, a few sadly dont. Right from the beginning things escalate and one of the characters gets chased by a very ominously described human that resembles a creature! I was hooked~ and after that you race through the story with beautiful interactions and crazy bad ass adventure, avoiding death and searching for a warship. But there is something bigger entangled into this! I need the sequel!

I'm waiting on the preorder to continue this month!

Make sure you give this book a chance! It wont dissapoint :)
Profile Image for Tracy.
639 reviews25 followers
February 27, 2020
This was so entertaining. Fast paced, funny, great characters. Especially Boots, although Nilah really grew on me as she evolved from an over privileged brat to a woman able to see the inequality all around her. Also a terrific AI named Kinnard. This is a universe where Science and magic are equally important, and the novel was like the love child of Star Wars, Firefly and Oceans Eleven but with far higher stakes. I look forward to the next book in this series.
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