Let’s face it: We all want to feel cool. We want to place ourselves in our favorite story and imagine what it would feel like to win. Of course this vision is different for everyone. Yours could be belting out a hit song on stage in front of thousands, or making a last-second buzzer beater with your high school crush looking on or mowing down hordes of zombies before croaking out a one-liner. Here’s the good news about Alex White’s A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy: You get to feel unbelievably cool reading it. This genre-mixing sequel to White’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe turns up the action and attitude to 10 and never lets up, making for one hell of a ride.
In a future when humans have conquered the stars, the motley crew of the Capricious has almost no time to rest on their laurels from saving the Galaxy. Nilah, the temperamental yet brilliant racer, and Boots, the world-weary former treasure hunter, team up with the crew to investigate rumors of a galactic cult bent on unlocking the secrets to an ancient and dangerous magic. Determined to thwart the designs of the cult’s mastermind, Nilah, Boots and the rest of the crew must use all the tools at the Capricious’ disposal to infiltrate and combat a group bent on galactic control.
This is a well-developed world with layer upon layer of detail and nuance. Not only does White meticulously script small things like how the crew communicates in combat situations, but they've also managed to build out large-scale geopolitical movements with similar ease. Keep in mind, this is the second book of a series, so this world and these characters have had some time to expand. It can sometimes be a bit daunting when details rush past in the heat of battle, but the payoff is a feeling of being plugged into the action.
Some might say a magic system doesn’t belong in a space opera, but White makes it work. Many characters in this world are able to control specific magical capabilities like hacking electronic systems or reading minds. It’s an interesting way to give the crew a different level of interactivity, both with each other and their adversaries (of which they seem to have many). In one sequence, Nilah is trying to outrun a massive enemy machine, but chooses to try to hack its systems with a magic spell. Readers can look forward to many other small magical moments throughout the narrative.
It’s clear from the get-go that A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy wants to take you on an action-filled adventure across space. But at its core, it’s a story about a close-knit group of people, with both talents and scars, just trying to do the right thing. That’s what had me reading past my bedtime. It’s anything but a bad deal for the reader.