Reviews

FIREFLY: THE MAGNIFICENT NINE (Firefly #2), by James Lovegrove

It was March 2019 when I read and reviewed the first book of this new series which brings back the adventures of the Serenity crew after the premature termination of the TV show, and despite having promised myself that I would follow closely the new issues, I once again managed to take a trip on the road to Hell, paved with good intentions and missed books…

Better late than never, however, here I am with book 2, a novel that through the title (with its reference to The Magnificent Seven movie) and its cover (Jayne wearing the infamous hat seen in one of the episodes) showcases quite clearly Firefly’s successful mix of Wild West and Science Fiction, and promises to keep Jayne Cobb front and center in the story.

It’s business as usual aboard Serenity, what with not enough paying jobs, the ship needing costly repairs and the crew engaging in some squabble: the latest of these originates from River parading around wearing Jayne’s ridiculous hat and Jayne demanding bloody retribution – that is, until he receives a message from an old flame, asking for his help. Tethys is a dry, deserted world where only a few hardy settlers choose to eke out a meagre life, which is now jeopardized by a bunch of outlaws, calling themselves the Scourers: led by merciless Elias Vandal, the Scourers take possession of the area’s wells, exacting a price from the colonists for the water that should belong by right to the hard-working settlers, whose choices are either pay or be killed in the most brutal of fashions.

Temperance McCloud, Jayne’s old lover, begs him to come to her help and that of her fellow citizens, and the mercenary manages to overcome Captain Reynolds’ quite understandable objections – not that it takes much to wake up Mal’s inner Don Quixote. When Serenity lands on Tethys the situation looks even more critical: the crew is vastly outnumbered, and an attempt at resolving the issue through a duel sends Jayne to the infirmary, grievously wounded but still willing to do his best, particularly because of Temperance’s teenaged daughter, whose name is Jane and whose age raises well-founded questions about the identity of her father…

Even more than its predecessor, The Magnificent Nine recaptures the flavor of many Firefly episodes, with the crew of Serenity launching themselves into an adventure laden with unknowns and potential trouble, but doing it anyway because – no matter their outwardly skeptical approach to life – they are good guys and when push comes to shove their collective hearts are in the right place.  Jayne Cobb’s character is the one who gets the spotlight here, as well as the inkling that his cynicism might not be as deeply rooted as he shows the world: of course he remains the usual coarse-mannered, selfish individual we all know and love (?), but there are moments when some chinks in that armor let us perceive a different kind of person who might be buried deeply inside the rude mercenary, someone who is capable of selfless gestures and integrity.

The rest of the Serenity’s crew (with one exception) feels no different from what we saw on screen and their interactions, the gallows-humor banter and the speech style all contribute to make this story look like a seamless addition to the handful of filmed episodes that were aired during the too-brief life of this show. The overall mood is on the same level as the series’, with seriousness and humor twining together to offer an adventure that can be both hair-raising and funny – that is, until some bits of dialogue happen to foreshadow the upcoming events of the movie Serenity, reminding us that some members of the crew will not accompany us for the whole screened journey, and adding a poignant quality to those sentences. The one that proved most painful for me was the mention of a certain character’s old-time instructor, who advised his pupils to learn how to “soar like a leaf in the wind”. Talk about sucker punches!

The only exception I mentioned above is River: in most of her interactions she acts and speaks in far too “sane” a manner that is in stark contrast both with her on-screen portrayal and with what we know about her and the appalling treatment she received in the Alliance’s “special school” where she was trained to be… something else.  It’s a jarring divergence with all that we know and learned about River and a blemish on the overall characterization for this story.

The other issue I had with the novel was with some of the “bad guys”, because they fell into the trap of long explanations of their motives and intentions: these sections represented for me both an annoying trope and a slow-down of the otherwise fast pacing of the story, and in one specific case led to a too-swift and difficult to believe change of heart from one of the Scourers.  It was, however, only a minor irritation, and it did not prevent me at all from enjoying the book or from wanting to move forward with the series.

If you are a Firefly fan, this book (and most probably the others in the series) is the best way to recapture the “magic” of the show and to keep the Serenity flying in our imagination.

My Rating:

27 thoughts on “FIREFLY: THE MAGNIFICENT NINE (Firefly #2), by James Lovegrove

  1. I have not read this yet and I hate being behind with this series. Are there four books out now? I love the Jayne centric plot and hints that he might have a daughter (!!) Too bad about River, though.

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    1. The show is very peculiar and not everyone’s cup of tea, indeed: I have been trying for years to convince a couple of friends to watch, but they did not connect with it. And I’m surprised at my enjoyment of the series, because Westerns have never been *my* cup of tea! 😀

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  2. It usually takes a lot to get me to try things like this, where they’re about something I love but put out by different creators. I’m always worried about them diluting the series, or my enjoyment of the series. But seeing how much you’ve enjoyed these first 2 books does pique my curiousity. And I do miss Firefly. Might be time for a rewatch soon.

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    1. I’m always wary about tie-in books because in the past I’ve been sorely disappointed most of the times, but recently luck seems to be with me, both with these Firefly books and two of my latest Trek-related reads, so I’m more than happy to share these lucky finds 🙂

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  3. I suspect I won’t get round to reading these,I didn’t watch the show either to be honest and I’d already be hopelessly behind. But happy to see that you’re enjoying this and it seems like more books will be forthcoming.
    Lynn 😀

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    1. The books would indeed make little sense if you were not already familiar with the dynamics of the Serenity’s crew. But since the show consists of only 14 episodes, you might watch it one day and then surely enjoy the books 🙂

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  4. I actually never knew what Firefly was about yet I knew that there was a huge fan base for it. You definitely piqued my curiosity here. Would you recommend a “virgin” to take on the show, movie, or books first? 😮

    P.S. Your title is missing a letter! 😉

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  5. Ooops! Corrected, thank you! 👍
    And I would recommend watching the show first, because the books assume that you would be already familiar with characters and back-story. It’s a short, 14-episodes run, plus the final movie, so if you get the chance of watching it, I can only encourage you to do so 🙂

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