Salvage Trouble (Black Ocean: Mission One), by J.S. Morin
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]
About the best thing that can be said for this sub-Firefly story of misfits in space is that it was at least pleasant enough to read, as long as one did not think too hard about the defective moral worldview and authorial worldbuilding of the book, that one did not wish that one had the short amount of time it takes to read this space western back. If it is the equivalent of cotton candy for the mind, it is far less repellant and unpleasant than some books are. That said, before I discuss the plot, it is worth spending time on the worldview, because this is what separates a merely competent storyteller from a novelist worth remembering, regardless of the genre. Quite frankly, the worldbuilding in this novel is defective on a grand level. It manages to combine a naive faith in the power of magic, a wrongheaded view of Christianity, and a view of evolution that seeks to have the positive benefits of intelligent design (in that sentient beings tend to look human-like) without the rigorous understanding of the implications of beings being created in the imago Dei across widely diverse origins and locations. Clearly, this novel has a lot of unexamined presuppositions from its author that hinder the enjoyment of the reader.
And that is without getting to the novel itself. The best thing the novel has going for it is the fact that it has a well-constructed plot and that its cast of characters is appealing. These cover for a lot of flaws, and a lot of cliche, and make the book one that is worthwhile to read once and that even might make it worthwhile to read the remainder of the books in the series if one is looking for somewhat brainless but mildly entertaining fiction. The fact that the book consists of casual blasphemy and profanity is a mark against it that makes the book a lot less enjoyable to read, but such are the marks of those who want to appear gritty as writers without getting down to the brass tacks of a grim view of reality. One gets the feeling that this author is trying to pull a Bujold  by imagining a group of characters have the worst things possible happen to them while ending up successful, but that sort of authorial masochism only works well if one has the gift of making something meaningful out of that sort of suffering, rather than creating a group of characters that manage to escape mostly unscathed.
And so, one is left with the reality that this is a novel constructed by someone who is marginally competent as a novelist, whose philosophy and worldview are likely stitched together out of various superficially understood aspects of our contemporary culture, and who confuses crude language and outright blasphemy for psychological realism. How one feels about that will likely be determined by how seriously one takes literature. On a surface level, this is a pleasant caper about a group of misfits seeking to make a living in an unforgiving world, with plenty of backstory and drama, and a readiness to take what life has to offer. On a deeper level, this is immensely depressing material that serves as fairly mediocre genre reading, the sort of book that is praised as being perfect for someone who wants to see Firefly fan fiction. Sometimes, that is enough for a pleasant read, but not the sort of stuff one wants to read as part of a regularly balanced diet. Whether that is good enough for other readers, I leave it to them to decide.
 See, for example: