A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Firefly meets The Fast and the Furious in this science fiction adventure series that follows a crew of outcasts as they try to find a legendary ship that just might be the key to saving the universe.
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 certain: whoever finds it will hold the fate of the universe in their hands. And treasure that valuable can never stay hidden for long....
Listen to the audiobook that V. E. Schwab called "A clever fusion of magic and sci-fi. I was hooked from page one."
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|Listening Length||14 hours and 13 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||December 11, 2018|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #52,731 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#104 in Genetic Engineering Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,089 in Space Opera Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#1,312 in Genetic Engineering Science Fiction (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on August 7, 2019
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Top reviews from the United States
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White’s explanation of the magic system in this book is perfectly timed. No ‘info dump’ here. The reader learns of each character’s specialties as the pages move forward. First is the driver, Nilah, who is a machinist. She’s able to link up with any piece of machinery and manipulate it’s purpose. Each character brings a new set of skills and a new conflict for the crew to try to deal with. Money, wits, and some wanton struggles… There’s also a Terminator-like robot named Ranger and a little cube that contains the AI of a past shipmate. Fun stuff!
Some dog fights, some fist fights, and a slew of magic-infused treasure hunting… this ship shouldn’t fly under the radar for long (I know, horrible).
The last time I read a science fiction story with racing done this well is Piers Anthony's "Hard Sell". "A Big Ship" certainly is NOT the pod race from star wars inserted for coolness of the visuals.
One of the focal character is a race car driver with all the selfishness combined with team spirit regularly seen in Nascar and other racing styles. I love her developing out of a childhood-celebrity isolation into adulthood. Best character development arc I've seen in a while.
The other POV (point of view) characters is a washed-up up ex-military who landed on the wrong side of the war. The juxtaposition between their two value systems and life experiences provides tension in-and-of itself. (Adding the Illuminati level bad guys takes the tension to galaxy-spanning levels.)
I also really enjoyed the science-fiction magic world. Everyone is born with one magic gift - some at high levels and some at low levels. The high-level rare types are sought out just like specialized high intelligences in this futuristic tech/magic base.
Great characters, with development, great plot, and great worldbuilding.
Characters, cuts, action:
I enjoyed reading Big Ship, but finished wishing White had a sterner editor. The pacing and cuts between character points-of-view was uneven and rough, and the action sequences went on forever. Forever. Big Ship’s characters fit into stereotypical categories for the genre, but they were mostly interesting, with slight development as the story unfolded.
Magic and science:
White does a fair (if occasionally perplexing, mostly on the race cars) job of balancing science and magic, so kudos for that. For Big Ship we’ll define magic as manipulation of energy, mind, matter, space and/or time by using arcane mental energy, or ritual, or a combination of the two. This definition dovetails with Clark’s law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. So a glyph-powered end-of-the-universe scenario might be blamed on either/both these causes. I was sort of buying it by the time I was three-quarters through the story.
Then I got to the end of the story to find that the Crazy Evil Villains wanted The Outcome That Shall Not Be Named. How very . . . tedious and short-sighted. I always think of Spike’s complaint when I reach this point in a story:
Spike’s complaint: “I’m going to destroy the world . . . that’s just tough guy talk. Strutting around with your friends over a pint of blood. The truth is, I LIKE this world . . but then someone comes along with a vision . . .”
It’s a vision that just isn’t interesting. Universal subjugation . . . universal elimination of sugared and caffeinated beverages . . . universal requirement to be a lifelong learner. The Horror! But one-upping Thanos by universally eliminating living things is . . . why?
I’ll probably read the next installment. I’ll wait for a price drop on the projected $9.99.
I found new things to love around every twist and turn, many of them evoking some of my other favorite properties, like Firefly and Avatar: The Last Airbender, but many of them unique to this universe, with its custom blending of fantastical and science-fictional elements. The noir-like atmosphere that surrounded Boots Ellsworth was my favorite, but every character brought their own unique chemistry to the story.
The woman known only as "Mother" made for a terrifying antagonist that provided a compelling threat while our heroes searched for a legendary treasure, chasing everybody to an action-packed and very satisfying resolution.
To say more would risk spoilers, so I'll leave it at this: I loved it.
Also, I've taken this few minutes to write this review even though I'm itching to jump into Book 2, so I hope you can all appreciate my sacrifice.
Top reviews from other countries
It's not just that it's badly written. Although it is. The author takes some time at the end to thank the other hands involved, so it's been badly edited too. Otherwise, you imagine, road-bumps like "recalcitrance" and the obvious confusion between "previous and "prior" would have been nipped in the bud.
Above and below that, though, it's broken at every level. The structure doesn't work. There are two point of view characters, both introduced as if they're the protagonist but neither of them ever really assumes the role. They both have redemption arcs, and both go through the exact same experiences to get there. They're also 2 out of 3 leading-ish female characters who all have the same stick-figure, slightly broken, isolated, angry, arrogant, single-minded personality. The story doesn't shift cleanly or evenly between them. And because all the characters have the same monovoice, it's never completely clear which one's on stage or in focus.
It's just "redunditrance".
For a story that's been praised for the characters, it's depressingly light on character and very heavy on event. I would say plot, but there isn't really any single thread that drives the story. The title's "Big Ship" isn't important to either PoV. One wants to retire to a farm, and the other is a grand prix racing driver who wants not to be wanted for murder anymore. The only person the "Big Ship" really serves is the author, because it's the crowbar to get his projected write-to-market series-setting spaceship and ragtag crew of supporting characters involved.
This is one of a new breed of books which try to merge sci-fi technology with magic, which just begs the question, why bother? Why reinvent the wheel? Most great space adventure technology is already, essentially, magical. For a start, interstellar space travel. Fantasy power sources provide inconsistently limitless power for anything from spaceships to ray guns, until the plot demands that they don't. Readers just buy in and get on with the job in hand. Even in the original Star Wars, the Force wasn't much more than a neat rationale for why the good guys were such great shots and the bad guys couldn't hit a barn. Should've left it there, Mr L.
The magic system in "Big Ship" isn't particularly imaginative. It generally just takes standard fantasy technology and says "because magic". It's also not consistent, especially when the plot demands a necessary impurity so that magic stops working. Most characters have a midichlorian-like magic gland, which like the Wild Card virus or the X-gene or terrigen mist bizarrely doesn't work the same way for everyone. Some people don't have the gland, and can't do magic, which means fair enough they can't do magic themselves, but it also inconsistently ends up making some magic not work on them sometimes.
On top of this there's a whole cake-and-eat-it thing going on where there's also bog standard technology at work. The problem there is, the author obviously doesn't entirely understand the real science he throws at the wall. Usually "inertia" or "momentum".
In a nutshell, it's terrible, and if I'd paid more than a daily deal price I'd be very cross. As it is, I'm just disappointed, mainly with myself for sheep-following all those 5 star reviewers.
If you're in any doubt that it isn't great, look at the number of those 5 star reviews that praise with faint damnation like, "it's great if you ignore the dumb stuff", or "it's OK if you don't care that the author doesn't get science".
However, I realised something once I'd finished it and mulled it over. It is a brilliant story and I ended up really caring about all the characters. I said out loud to my other half, having abandoned another book previously that 'I'm just not a fan of books about magic', but still I finished it and did so because I enjoyed it overall. The nuts and bolts of the plot were good and the characters well rounded, well written and believable. You can tell how much I enjoyed it because I almost bought the follow up once I had finished this one. That I didn't is only because of what I said earlier - I'm just not a fan of books based around magic and decided to read other books first and may loop back around eventually.
Had this book put the magic element of the plot into context with some sort of explanation I'm sure I would have given it five stars. That I haven't is more down to my personal preferences and the quality of it is reflected by the fact that I recommended it to a colleague who eats sleeps and breathes Harry Potter and they raved about it. Do I recommend it? Yes, completely. Just with that small warning that if you are a fan of more 'stock' type science fiction, that it may not be immediately accessible for you but to persevere because it is worth it when you get far enough into the well written story for it not to really matter about the setting. That missing star is mostly a reflection of my tastes as a reader, not the book itself.
Alex White offers the readers a universe in which high technology co-exists with high magic. In general I hate stories based on this premise unless they are very well thought out. As a general statement whatever you can do with high technology and rockets you can do with high magic and flatulent dragons. There only seems to be a point in juxtaposing magic and technology when that is what the story is exploring. Thus the writer's universe had neither purpose nor did it work very well. Within this universe the strange little story plays itself out. The strange little story is a bog standard McGuffin hunt in a noir coloured post-bellum Confederacy as Doc Smith style space battles play out in the background. The characters are paint by numbers characters, sometimes the lead characters can bleed into each other a bit. It reminded me an awful lot of Reynold's recent Revenger which I slagged off mercilessly in a previous review but which was head and shoulders above White's effort. It also appeared to me that the author was consciously echoing the last stand of the brown-cappers or whatever they were called from Firefly as background.
I should be going for one star here but there is a certain jauntiness in both the characters and the plot that stopped me putting the book down unfinished and for that reason alone I will give it two stars, just.
In fact, as mentioned in the blurb, it bares a a more than passing resemblance to Firefly: a space-set genre-blend, with a rag-tag crew of characters to follow on their various trials and tribulations. There are some striking similarities between the crews of Serenity and the Capricious - the number, general make-up, shared occupations, history, relationships and camaraderie of the latter evokes much of the former - but I wouldn't go so far as to call one a rip-off of the other.
The narrative follows 'Boots' - a bitter veteran of a lost war, scraping by as a fraudster (a little Mal Reynolds, perhaps, but there the similarities end) - and Nilah - an ace racing-driver from a silver-spoon upbringing - unwittingly dragged into an elaborate treasure hunt in an attempt to unravel a mysterious interstellar conspiracy.
The obvious route for such a pairing would be the typical buddy-cop/opposites attract narrative but, while their relationship and mutual-understanding/respect grow as you might expect, the very different lives they've led - and subsequent skills they've acquired - results in them having very different roles among the Capricious' crew, resulting in a mostly split narrative, rather than one wrapped around a core paring.
The perspective shift can be a little jarring at times, and more than once one appears to be building to some kind of crescendo only to jump, frustratingly, to the other, but it generally holds together well, and mostly saves either one from becoming stale.
It also lends a brisk feel to the narrative. It's not without its slow moments, for better or worse (occasionally it's nice to have a breather for a little character/relationship development), but overall it's a breezy read.
On the technical side of things, it's mostly solid, with the universe and its rules well laid out (with little reliance on exposition), clean language and good dialogue (though there's nothing groundbreaking here). The characters have their nuances, but the banter can be interchangeable, there are few surprises when it comes to the development of the key protagonists, and little (though not a complete absence of) development of the supporting cast.
There is also more than one instance of an apparently missed paragraph or piece of description, especially during the big action beats. Towards the climax, for example (no spoilers), a character is put into what reads like full-hand cuffs, but has free use of their hands a moment later, with no indication the cuffs were removed. And even without these notable absences, the action can occasionally be difficult to follow. If I had one recommendation for Alex White it would be to put a little more time into the choreography of his set-pieces.
These quibbles, however, are minor. 'A Big Ship...' is a fun, character-driven romp, with an intriguing plot, plenty of action, a brisk pace, and a satisfying payoff.
Looking forward to book 2.