The crew of the Capricious are back for a third and final time in the conclusion to Alex White’s Salvagers series – The Worst of All Possible Worlds. As with the other books in this series (A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe and A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy) this is a non-stop thrill ride of action set pieces set around a treasure hunt for galactic mysteries while being pursued by an implacable foe. As previously mentioned, this series is a crazy mash up of a huge range of influences including Firefly, The Fast and the Furious, Star Wars and Harry Potter to name a few. And yet somehow it works.
The Worst of All Possible Worlds once again focusses on former grand prix racer and ‘mechanist’ Nilah Brio and former antiquities hunter and magic-free pilot Elizabeth ‘Boots’ Elsworth. Both have become imbedded in the de facto family that is the crew of the Capricious. Nilah is now in a relationship with quartermaster and fellow mechanic Orna, and Boots has well and truly been forgiven for conning Captain Cordell Lamarr and his crew many years before. They are still smarting from the loss of their first officer but keen to finish the job of ridding the galaxy of the Children of the Singularity cult who want to destroy all life. So when a chance comes up to track down a clue to defeating cult leader Henrick Witts, the crew take it, setting them off on a new treasure hunt that will take them to unexplored parts of the galaxy and back before a final, massive showdown.
Alex White’s universe is still a bizarre but enjoyable mash-up of science fiction and fantasy with many characters being able to use different types of magic. The big bad and his henchpeople are able to use that magic at “god-like” levels. The mcguffin in this volume is the secret to “alchemy” a form of magic that can trump any other form of magic and which Witts already has a small part of.
The Worst of All Possible Worlds is, like its predecessors, a series of massive action set pieces strung together in a quest plot anchored by engaging characters with plenty of heart. As it is the last book in the series and with one major character already dead, the feeling this time is that no one is safe and characters have to deal with a fair amount of personal tragedy along the way. But those action pieces are stunning. White has shown repeatedly in this series his capacity to write frenetic, chaotic action scenes featuring multiple characters and points of view and yet still give the reader a feel for how every piece is moving. There are car chases, robot battles, huge military clashes and one on one duels, all handled with similar aplomb.
The Worst of All Possible Worlds is definitely the last book of a series and is no place to start. White does not waste any time reintroducing characters and locations, or explaining the magic system which powers this universe. For those who like their space operas propulsive, big budget and packed with wise-cracking characters best to start from the beginning. For those who have already been along for the rest of the this superfast, action filled ride-with-heart this is an unmissable and fitting send off.