cover image A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

Alex White. Orbit, $15.99 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-0-316-41206-3

White’s assured debut is an entertaining throwback with some fun worldbuilding and two great lead characters. In the distant future, well after space has been colonized, almost all humans have magic powers, conveniently divided into RPG-like classes (machinists are great with tech, fatalists are perfect shots, etc.). One of the few who doesn’t is Boots, a former space rebel and reality TV star who makes a living producing fake salvage maps for desperate space captains, including her former captain, Cordell. While trying to avoid his retribution for her fraud, she runs across star race car driver Nilah, who has just survived an attack by a mysterious mage and a group of murderous mercenaries. Cordell captures them and brings them onto his ship, where they immediately meet the crew and help fight off an attack. As the adventure continues, plenty of White’s action doesn’t hold up to serious scrutiny, and some expository dialogue is painful (“Malik has sleep magic. Keeps them young,” one person explains to Boots, who presumably already knows how sleep magic works). But this space adventure is calling back to an era when such flaws were woven into the genre, and readers looking for a modern take on it, complete with many female and nonwhite characters, will be pleased. Agent: Connor Goldsmith, Fuse Literary. (July)