Take Firefly. Cyberpunk it up a little...or maybe a lot. Then strand in something scarily close to Peter F. Hamilton's particular brand of weird and you have Ascension.
Jacqueline Koyanagi's debut novel is published by Masque Books, the digital imprint of Prime Books - a high quality small press. (Despite that, I do have a print copy, so they're presumably available).
Alana Quick is a down on her luck freelance starship engineer, who works on whatever ships need repairs while they're in port while struggling with a chronic condition. Until the Tangled Axon comes into port and she's talked into stowing away on a ship which is searching for her sister, the "spirit guide" Nova.
Ascension is not hard science fiction. There's too much in the way of psionics and just plain strangeness involved, making it closer to space opera. And it reads very much as if Ms. Koyanagi was mad that Firefly was canceled and, being a writer, decided to do something about it.
Something very, very good (if not good enough to make up for Firefly being canceled. Sorry, Jacqueline, not sure anyone can do that).
Ascension has some great ingredients - a spunky MC, a romantic I plot that's solid enough for romance readers and low key enough for speculative fiction fans. And when I compare it to Peter F. Hamilton? This book isn't as good as most of his work.
Assuming this isn't a one shot wonder, I may have a new author to watch. It's not flawless - few books are. The combination of psionics and quantum theory may not appeal to everyone, and gets a bit new agey in places (spirit guide as a term is just a little bit new age for me). And in some places the narrative gets just slightly confusing - at one point I kind of got lost about a couple of things. But it's an excellent effort and for a debut? It's exceptional.
So, why is it being produced by a small press, even a high quality one? I hate to say it, but I fear it may be because the MC is a disabled black lesbian and the romance is polyamorous...and many people aren't quite ready for that.
Bring on the next book, Jacqueline. I'm going to have to find space on my shelf for it.
Disclaimer: I got the copy free as part of the Capclave membership package. If you weren't lucky enough to be there, you can get your copy here.