A ship’s crew is like a family. They fight together, succeed together, love together and, if things go wrong, die together. As with previous installments of Alex White’s Salvagers trilogy, the crew of the starship Capricious does a little bit of all of these. The stakes have never been higher than in this last entry, The Worst of All Possible Worlds. But one of the best parts about reading books in a series is that by the end, you feel like part of the family, too.
Having just delivered one of the galaxy’s worst war criminals to an execution chamber, Nilah, Boots and the rest of the crew should be feeling like they’re on cloud nine. But the threat of Henrick Witts and his impossibly powerful space station hangs heavily over all sectors of space. After witnessing Witt’s destructive power firsthand, they find themselves in a race against time: uncover the mysteries of a long-lost colony ship and an ancient form of magic that might be the only hope to save everyone and everything.
With all of the space battles, massive creatures, AI-controlled mech suits and military techno-jargon, it’s a wonder there’s even time for White’s characters to breathe. But Worlds is a high-water mark for emotional precision in the space opera subgenre. White injects so much heart into their characters, and the toll the mission takes on them feels immediate and challenging. We’re far beyond the getting-to-know-you phase, and White takes full advantage.
That said, this book contains a flood of incredible moments. It’s hard to go 20 pages without finding a brilliant action set piece, and the driving pace is such that you never have a chance to guess what’s going to happen next. This gleeful intensity was a hallmark of the previous books, and it’s certainly alive and well in the finale. Balancing the action is White’s ever-present humor. A particular highlight is an AI hilariously named “The Devil” that drives a newly acquired war machine—just another tool in the arsenal for a crew that needs all the help it can get.
The crew’s goal—to find out more about Origin, the original human home world and the source of all magic in the galaxy—feels perfectly suited for the conclusion of the series. There’s poetic strength in finding where things began in order to get to the end, and it feels like the only treasure worthy of our treasure-hungry crew. As in the other books, there are nods to classic sci-fi and adventure, from James VanderMeer’s Annihilation to Isaac Asimov’s work to Indiana Jones. But it never feels like fan service. White’s creation is fully their own.
To really get the full experience, I recommend starting with the first book in the series, A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe. You’ll more fully appreciate the journey that these miscreants took to get here. But consider yourself lucky if you do have to start from page one; you’ll be on your way to experiencing one of the best sci-fi trilogies released in the last several years.