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A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by…

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

by Alex White

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Actual rating ~3.5. I feel like this book had several significant problems with how the 'magic system' was handled, and the narrative was left fragile in the process with no real gain.

I'm all for soft magic (read: Sanderson's Laws of Magic) and leaving your magic system vague and mysterious, but when that's the case, you *can't* use magic to solve the problems the characters are facing or it feels like a cheap cop-out. You can't invent new abilities when a challenge arises, or it feels like a cheap cop-out. You can't build up tension only to have it punctured by a new mechanic that was impossible to predict, or it feels like a cheap cop-out. This novel commits all of these sins.

The bit of precognition thrown into the middle, in the form of a 'prophecy', was a mistake. Lampshading it afterwards doesn't actually make it any more realistic or forgivable as a narrative tool, when absolutely nothing else in the story supports such an ability being possible up to that point. How the characters then reacted to the prophecy was also a mistake. Any logical human being, and Boots is shown time and again to be the only person in the novel actually using their brain, so I'm assuming she's supposed to qualify, would run statistical analysis on the placement of the data crystals, redundancy of the data (are those the only 4 crystals with those parts of the message data saved?), chances of those data crystals being caught in the firefight, etc. All of that would be able to determine if the 'scene' where the message was discovered could have even *theoretically* been staged. That's the absolute first thing to do- you can argue about the possible legitimacy of the prophecy itself only after discovering a less than .01% that the message could've even been accessed- that would lend it weight all on its own.

Even more importantly though, the prophesy wasn't actually necessary. The message could've been entirely generic "he created a cult, we worshiped him, blah blah blah" and served its purpose to give a little bit of data about the people presumably chasing down Boots. They could've sent it to her because she's a well-known 'treasure hunter', historical expert, navigator, whatever- the bits about 'using the umbral shadow of the planet to destroy them all' wasn't necessary, because when they got to the point where that information made sense, they were already detecting (from visual inspection alone, but still deducible) that the planet was tidal locked and the ship they were looking for might be on the dark side of it.

The prophesy, and it being delivered to Boots, didn't *have* to serve any real purpose, and yet it violated the First Rule of Magic three different ways by propelling the story forward on its own and solving problems with magic in an unpredictable and unrealistic manner. To what end? It only cheapened the narrative.

The other mistake is one that many many authors have been guilty of lately- cranking the stakes up too high to be taken seriously. I could buy that a bunch of psychopathic bankers burn a planet in order to inhale the fumes and get high, but I can't really buy destroying the whole damned galaxy. That's not realistic- one madman might dream of it, but at that stage they're no longer going to be operating effectively enough to make much headway. A group conspiracy to burn everything to the ground isn't just improbable, it's silly.

However, I can't really give this less than 3.5 stars, because at the end of the day it actually was a really entertaining read, and entertainment trumps everything else. Also, truly badass female leads are few and far between, and casually including same-sex relationships without emphasizing the paradigm is worth bonus points. ( )
  LysanderMSND | Jan 19, 2019 |
So this was not what I expected, but I really enjoyed it! I was expecting a sci-fi adventure, and that's what I got, but there was a super cool magic system involved as well.

Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe was fun, action packed, and filled with great characters. Nilah was kind of annoying at first, but she grew on me, and I really liked Boots as well. The writing did a pretty good job of explaining the magic system, and really showed you the characters underneath it all. I liked where the plot went, and how we got to the main conclusions.

Overall, this was an exciting adventure and I can't wait to read more from these characters and grow with them! and to learn more about this really interesting magic system. ( )
  jdifelice | Sep 16, 2018 |
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Space opera with magic. Battles galore. Good guys always win. Bad guys always lose. ( )
  seitherin | May 23, 2018 |
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"The first book in this ... 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"--

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