A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White
Publication date: 26 June 2018
Genre: Science fiction
Page count: 480 pages
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review.
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 my friend and fellow BookTuber Amber. Unfortunately, I came away from this book incredibly disappointed! The buddy read is the only thing that kept me from DNFing it early on.
Furious and fun, the first book in this bold, new science fiction adventure series follows a ragtag group of adventurers as they try to find a legendary ship that just might be the key to clearing their name and saving the universe.
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.
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.
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Have you read A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe? What did you think? Let me know!