Firefly: The Magnificent Nine
Published: March 19th by Titan Books
“This was without a doubt the dumbest, insanest, reckless-est plan he had come up with, in a life marked by no lack of such plans.”
An old flame of Jayne Cobb’s, Temperance McCloud, sends a message to Serenity, begging him for help. She lives on the arid, far-flung world of Tethys, and bandits are trying to overrun her town to gain control of their water supply: the only thing standing between its people and dustbowl ruin. Jayne tries to persuade the Serenity crew to join the fight, but it is only when he offers Vera, his favourite gun, as collateral that Mal realises he’s serious.
When the Serenity crew land at a hardscrabble desert outpost called Coogan’s Bluff, they discover two things: an outlaw gang with an almost fanatical devotion to their leader who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and that Temperance is singlehandedly raising a teenage daughter, born less than a year after Temperance and Jayne broke up. A daughter by the name of Jane McCloud…
I was gifted an early finished copy from the lovely team at Titan books in exchange for an honest review, as a big Firefly fan, I absolutely jumped at the chance. This is the second tie in novel to the Firefly franchise but acts easily as a stand-alone.
For those who haven’t heard of Firefly before, (and it’s scary how many people that probably includes nowadays as it was originally broadcast back in 2002, seventeen years ago which feels crazy.) It was a TV show set in 2517 after humans have branched out into a new star system and follows a group of renegades, some of whom fought for the losing side in a system-wide civil war, turned crewmates aboard a Firefly class ship called Serenity. It was originally pitched as “nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things.” In Whedon’s vision, “nothing will change in the future: technology will advance, but we will still have the same political, moral, and ethical problems as today.” Although the creator Joss Wheadon had planned for it to run for seven years, it barely lasted one season due to poor ratings but still lived on in the hearts and minds of it’s fans (or Browncoats as they are often referred to) for years to come, going so far as to petition for a continuation of the series which sadly failed. DVD sales of the singular season, however, were strong and the show even won a Primetime Emmy award. Thanks to its late success Wheadon and Universal pictures produced a feature-length film “Serenity” in 2005 to continue the series and it has since continued on via various comic series. The events that occur in this book, “The Magnificent Nine” take place between the end of the TV show and the film.
Whoever works on designing the looks of the books at Titan is amazing, this is another gorgeous book. The fantastic artwork on the front of the dust jacket is textured with the series title “Firefly” and the silhouette of the ship itself in a smooth foiling. The back of the dust jacket is simple but perfect with some Chinese kanji and a beautiful description of the ship Serenity, including the quote “She was the very picture of Serenity. From the outside at least.” The actual book itself is a perfectly matched Brown (a great nod to the Browncoats perhaps?) and an addition that is fast becoming my favourite thing to be included in hardbacks, a built-in ribbon bookmark.
The first thing that really pulled me into The Magnificent nine was the use of language. The original show has such a distinctive language style in many ways that are all brought over brilliantly into the written word with this book, from the phrasing in general, words that are unique to the Firefly ‘verse and the inclusion of the sprinkled Chinese phrases just like in the show. This made it easy to fall back into the already established fictional universe of the Firefly franchise and gave a sense of returning home as soon as I read the first few pages.
I really felt that James has also captured the individual rhythms and voices of the characters in a way that not only pays homage to the way they’re portrayed by the actors on the show but also gives us a unique insight into the inner workings of each character. Jayne, in particular, shone in this book, as a character who can often be misconstrued as selfish, unintelligent and trigger happy we really got a good look inside his head and although he can be a little of all three of those things it was refreshing to see another side of him swallowing his pride, protecting others and acknowledging that at times he can rush into things but when things are important he takes the time to think his actions through, even if they are often still part of a terrible idea, that’s just Jayne and we love him for it.
The plot moves at a good pace with a few little lulls here and there but it reads like a two-part episode. The fast-paced action scenes are easy to follow and visualise without being too repetitive, James seems to have a gift for making each altercation feel fresh. There are some great twists and turns throughout and although by the time most of them happened I had them figured out so they weren’t a huge surprise, they were interesting and well thought out with some great foreshadowing, again this is in line with a lot of the episodic storylines from the show. Even with some of the reveals feeling obvious however there are some surprising moments and there are plenty of tension-filled scenes where you’re not quite sure what could happen next. I loved the introduction of new supporting characters and especially River’s interactions with Jane. I’ve always found River to be a remarkably interesting character and this book is no exception, seeing her interact with a girl reasonably close to her age was heartwarming and fun. Not to mention Jane is a firecracker of a character and brilliant in her own right.
James Lovegrove has done an amazing job bringing the Firefly universe to the page with “The Magnificent Nine,” the characters leap off the page and the story pulls you in like a Jen mei nai-shing duh fwo-tzoo (extraordinarily impatient buddha). Keep your eyes peeled for a Q&A with the man himself coming soon!
A third tie in novel by the name of Generations is due in October this year and will be penned by Tim Lebbon.