Alex White’s Salvagers Series Could Be an Epic, High-Flying Sci-Fi Film Trilogy

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Hello, fellow readers! I write to you today still feeling caught up in that “I’ve just finished a series” lull. You know the one—it’s an emotional state where you feel at once happy about how much you loved spending time in a fictional world and very  sad that it’s over. Such is my mental disposition after turning the final page of Alex White’s Salvagers series, which includes three wonderfully titled books: A Big Ship at the Edge of the UniverseA Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy, and The Worst of All Possible Worlds.

What better way to revel in that post-series feeling than to write about how ripe Salvagers is for possible adaptation? Let’s get to it.

The Story So Far

Silence, stark and stunning, like the vacuum of space.

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe was released in 2018. The sequel followed later that year, and the epic conclusion came in 2021.

I’ve combed Alex White’s website and read a whole bunch of interviews with them. I couldn’t find any evidence of a possible adaptation in the works. I’m not overly surprised. Salvagers garnered plenty of praise, but wasn’t a mega-hit. Hard to catch the attention of money-mad movie executives with a truly great but lesser-known series. “Please Adapt” readers know full well that ain’t gonna stop me from making the case! Salvagers practically begs for an on-screen adaptation, and here’s why…

Lightspeed, Camera, ACTION

Salvagers follows the crew of the spaceship Capricious as they seek a derelict ship full of powerful secrets. Nilah Brio—one of the two POVs we get—is a professional race car driver. Nilah ends up on the Capricious after some nasty shit goes down during a race. She joins Boots Elsworth, our second POV, as the latter reintegrates with her former crewmates after years off-duty. I’m using broad strokes here—there’s a lot of backstory to unpack, but that’s outside the scope of this piece. Read the series for all the juicy details!

Nilah, Boots, and the rest of the crew soon take off on a hunt for the Harrow, a warship that can wreak unthinkable destruction on the galaxy. They try to track down the legendary ship before it falls into the wrong hands.

Oh, and that’s just book one.

“Here there be treasure” may as well be the motto of the Salvagers series. The books are intergalactic space-faring treasure hunts. Imagine National Treasure meets Indiana Jones, then add spaceships, magic, and advanced weaponry into the mix. It’s like Guardians of the Galaxy without the burdensome MCU-meddling.

This leads me to the first reason Salvagers deserves an adaptation: the action. Alex White is one of the most talented action writers I’ve ever encountered. They have an amazing eye for pacing and description when it comes to action sequences. Fights. High-speed races. Thrilling chases. The series’ massive set pieces would put the Fast & Furious franchise to shame.

A Salvagers film trilogy would have so much room for playful and unique action scenes. I imagine we open on Nilah Brio during the race. She’s chasing that win, a massive prize at stake—then something goes terribly wrong. What a way to kick off a new sci-fi blockbuster!

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Of course, a movie can’t simply be action scene after action scene (please, nobody tell Michael Bay I said that!). Characters should drive the story and help to build a meaningful connection with the audience.

White excels at this in their Salvagers series overall, but an adaptation could fix some of the first book’s characterization issues. I thoroughly enjoyed A Big Ship, but the book spent a lot of time on the cast’s lack of trust for one another. The crew of the Capricious includes a strong cast—I debated listing them all here, but I’ve decided to leave it out in case you wish to come to the book without any secondhand impressions. In that first book, though, it can be a grating dynamic when most of the characters hate and/or can’t connect with one another. A movie version could establish those key connections faster, in part because the medium requires it.

White significantly improves on that issue in books two and three, going so far as to expand the crew with newcomers. On the screen, I can imagine how these characters would pop, breathing new life into already-amazing personalities. Plus, White’s cast is diverse, providing ample opportunity for historically marginalized groups to take on main roles in all the movies.

The Magic of Melding Genres

There’s another type of teamwork at work in Salvagers: the combination of sci-fi and fantasy. I have at least one friend who can’t get enough of works that might be labelled “Science Fantasy,” and this series slots neatly into that categorization.

In the Salvagers universe, most humans are born with a cardioid, a sub-organ on their heart that grants them access to a specific type of magic. Mechanists (like Nilah) can interface with code and machinery. Datamancers can extrapolate conclusions from data sets as though they were a computer. Cordell, the Capricious’ captain, can create shields.

Even in a ho-hum fantasy novel, this magic system would probably be good…great, even. Plopping it into a sci-fi world makes it crackle with possibilities. There’s the way Nilah Brio uses her magic to communicate mid-race with her vehicle faster than any other human could possibly pull the proper levers or press the right buttons to accomplish a given task. Or the fact that Captain Cordell gets the crew out of a number of binds using his shield magic throughout the series.

Magic and space are a fun combination, simple as that! This series could be a fresh take on the genre in an age when big-budget sci-fi movies are a dime a dozen. The special effects budget would need to be hefty, but White’s story is well worth it.

Outlook: Mildly Optimistic

This outlook is based solely on vibes. We’re in something of a big-budget sci-fi renaissance, with films like Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and James Cameron’s Avatar sequel leading the charge. A Salvagers film trilogy could be just what the cinematic genre needs to stay fresh.

Take those vibes away, and I think this outlook shifts to pessimistic. Without any tangible news of an adaptation or word from the author, a Salvagers adaptation seems unlikely…but that won’t stop me from hoping I’ll get to see one, sooner or later.

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