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Hugh Likes Fiction: A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

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A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe
Written by Alex White
Published by Orbit

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The Skinny: Spaceship is Magic

Alex White’s new novel, A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe is a seamless Sci-Fi/Fantasy adventure about the misfit crew of a smuggler ship caught in a galactic conspiracy. White is a remarkable stylistic juggler, matching magic and high-tech space opera in a believable, lived in universe filled with despicable anti-heroes you can’t help rooting for.
When well-to-do racing star Nilah Brio witnesses a bizarre murder on the track, her only hope may rest on the dubious shoulders of fighter pilot turned con-artist Elizabeth “Boots” Ellsworth. But after selling fraudulent treasure maps for years, have they stumbled on the real thing? And more importantly, can they avoid the powerful forces on their trail long enough to get it?
White’s novel is an action-packed thrill ride of an adventure novel. But what really impressed me is the well thought out universe White creates for his characters to bust their way through. The magic system is intricately crafted, and feels like a real part of the world rather than set dressing. The technology of the setting uses magic in a number of surprising and delightful ways. Each character has their own magic, of varying types, and they can use it like a signature, or to interact with technology, or even fire weapons. Everyone except Boots, that is, who is one of the rare people born without magic. It’s a nice bit of the story that builds the world and characters in interesting ways.
With this first novel, White offers us a character-focused look into a compelling fantasy future. Fans of Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet will find a lot to like in this scrappy crew of adventurers, with plenty of space-faring action and interplanetary politics to satisfy the most hard-core old school Space Opera fan. You can find A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe at your local independent bookstore, or from the usual digital suspects. I heartily recommend it.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Rocket #1

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Hugh Likes Comics: Rocket

Rocket #1
Written by Al Ewing
Drawn by Adam Gorham
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There are two ways to look at Rocket #1. On the one hand, this is the second “Rocket #1” to hit shelves this year, and it isn’t even June. Readers could lay that at the feet of Marvel editorial’s constant cycle of resets and reboots, in this case an attempt to catch the wave of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. On the other hand, it’s Rocket doing heists in space with Technet. Technet, you guys!
Technet is one of the lovely bits of obscure Marvel goofiness that just warms my heart. They are a wacky team of Space Mercenaries that served as antagonists for Captain Brittain and Excalibur in the late ’80’s. They all have unusual designs and strange powers, and are just about perfect for a Rocket book that pulls him away from the Guardians.
This comic works because it has a perfect voice and it knows how to use it. This is a beat for beat heist that doesn’t apologize for the over-the-top characters. It opens with Rocket drinking alone in a bar, when a dame in white walks back into his life. The fact that this is a space bar filled crazy aliens, and the dame is an anthropomorphic otter named ‘Otta Spice’ is treated as a given.
The layout and art really make this comic work. Each page is accompanied by a a column of spare prose on the left side that reads like a Parker novel. And the slick suit-and-sunglasses look for Rocket and his crew sells the genre conventions.
Rocket #1 could’ve just been another tie-in cash grab, but by so seamlessly blending archetypal genres, and bringing back some genuinely weird Marvel characters, Ewing and Gorham are starting something special. In the words of Technetter China Doll, it’s “Fun-fun-fun!” You can find it at your local comics shop, or digitally from Comixology.

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