Joan and her starship crew are in the business of slaves—specifically, rescuing as many as possible from the oppressive Empire. After dropping off their latest passengers and resupplying, Joan and her second-in-command, Luana, decide to ferry out citizens looking to escape imperial clutches. It means they risk taking on spies, but when the first meeting goes well, they decide to chance it.
But a trip that starts well soon turns sour, between problems with the ship, passengers asking uncomfortable questions, and a confession from Luana that Joan fears will only end in disappointment and destroy the friendship they’ve already built.
I actually really enjoyed At the Edges, and I say it like that because I suspect quite a few readers are going to have difficulty reading it. The author moves from the present storyline, showing us the crew of the Starburst and the missions they undertake, to scenes from the past that show us how Captain Joan assembled the crew of her starship. Unfortunately, it isn’t obvious or immediately clear when we’re moving from the present to the past and back again, and this makes it very jarring the first few times it happens in the book. Even once I got used to it happening – because it happens throughout most of the book – I still had moments when the time shifts were disorienting.
With that said, At the Edges was a great sci-fi read. The rescue missions that the crew take are both dangerous and commendable as the world they live in is VERY unaccepting of beings who are different than themselves, outlawing same sex relationships and interspecies relationships, and refusing to accept those who are neither male or female. Fortunately for those that Captain Joan and her crew help, they do not hold a high regard for the Imperial’s heavy handedness. And considering how well they all get along, this is vital because the crew is largely made up of beings the Imperial’s laws would punish for simply existing, including an asexual, a lesbian, a literal genderfluid, and a ménage à quatre relationship/family unit. And as Reedy moves from their current missions, giving us a feel for the crew as they are now and how well they do work together, to the past, she does it in such a way that we get to see why the Starburst is a good home for them, and why they’re so loyal to their captain and each other.
This is kind of spoilerish, but I hesitate to call At the Edges a romance because the relationship that is being “considered” between two female members of the crew involves an asexual female, who has so little an interest in sex that the thought of it actually makes her nauseous. So while this means no steamy scenes, there is still a large amount of relationship development, especially when the captain learns one of the hardest lessons of all: You don’t always know what you’ve got, until it’s gone. But despite the lack of the kind of romance I expected, I didn’t find the book to be any less enjoyable because I liked the sci-fi aspects of it. So even though At the Edges wasn’t quite what I was expecting, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more from Reedy.