Books

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine – Review

Although it has been nearly seventeen years since the first episode of Joss Whedon’s Firefly aired, fans still lament the show’s abrupt cancellation after only fourteen episodes. The 2005 film, Serenity, filled some of the void left by the show’s absence, but it did not heal all wounds due to fans having to endure the painful deaths of some of their beloved characters. When a sequel became increasingly more unlikely it seemed as though the only place for fans to get their fix would lie in the realm of fan fiction, until Dark Horse Comics released some short-run stories set in the ‘Verse.

Now though, there is a new outlet for fans to explore, in the form of novels released by Titan Books, the second of which is Firefly: The Magnificent Nine, written by James Lovegrove. Set in the period between the end of the TV show and the film, Lovegrove has taken inspiration from The Magnificent Seven to tell a tale of a community needing help against a gang of bandits known as the Scourers. Led by Elias Vandal, who claims to have once run with the Reavers, the Scourers are terrorising the town of Coogan’s Bluff and threatening to take away their water supply.

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One of the residents of the town is a lady called Temperance McCloud, an ex-girlfriend of Jayne Cobb’s, who reaches out to him for help thinking he might be able to bring a big enough force to drive off the Scourers. Instead, after having to do a lot of convincing on Captain Malcolm Reynolds, Jayne turns up with the eight other crewmembers of Serenity – not exactly the army Temperance was hoping for. Added into the already volatile situation is Temperance’s teenage daughter, born less than a year after Temperance and Jayne parted company, a daughter by the name of Jane McCloud.

At 336 pages long the story is what you would expect from an adventure involving the Serenity crew: a lot of blunders and desperate situations, crazy plans that ‘just might work’, and a lot of thrilling heroics. Lovegrove manages to capture all of this as the plot develops and is also able to add in his own twists to the tale. The chapters are relatively short and scenes end abruptly and switch rapidly, but this makes the events of the book feel as though they are unfolding as they would have done on the show. It keeps the action moving and it makes the book very hard to put down, which is a good thing.

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All of the Serenity characters feel spot on in their characterisations and there are not any moments where you feel they are acting out of turn. There are also a lot of throwbacks to events that happened in the show, and occasionally it feels as though there are too many – as though Lovegrove wanted to reference as many of the high points as possible when there really was no need. He is able to give us new action that feels as though it has stepped out of the screen and onto the page without all the mentions of things that have previously happened.  

There are lots of laugh-out-loud moments due to the high jinks and situations the crew get embroiled in, but Lovegrove also manages to pull on the heartstrings with little mentions of things that will not come to pass, due to the events of Serenity. He conveys an underlying feeling of melancholy due to the knowledge that this family unit will not remain together for very long and soon some goodbyes will become permanent ones. He is also able to give us deeper insight into characters’ actions, especially that of Jayne and how he deals with Temperance’s daughter, that perhaps would not be so easy to do had there been seasons and seasons worth of events to draw on. Firefly gave us a lot in such a short space of time, but there is still room for talented authors to reveal more things about these characters that we had not yet discovered.

The Magnificent Nine is a worthy addition to the Firefly setting and well worth a read by any long-established Browncoats or newcomers to the beloved Whedon creation.

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