Original Story Concept by Nancy Holder
Informational Note: I am reviewing this audiobook release of my own free will and with no additional incentive. However I have previously had contact with the narrator of this audiobook prior to this review and it is thanks to them that I knew an audio version existed.
It’s time to get out into the black as part of pre-Christmas fun! Let’s see how the crew of a certain Serenity – Firefly class cruiser – are doing. Firefly was very much a TV show that I fell in love with many years ago despite it only lasting one TV series and a sequel movie which was only greenlit after the much higher than expected sales of the DVDs. The easiest way to describe the show is a western in space which follows a group of various personalities on a transport/luggage vessel and their attempts to avoid the attention of the authorities. The show was devised and masterminded by Joss Whedon, creator of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV series and writer and director for the first two Marvel Cinematic Universe Avengers films amongst other things. That might already tell you if you’ll like it or not!
Firefly: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove based on Nancy Holder’s story concept is the first of – to date – four novels set inside the Firefly universe. Rather than being a continuation from where the movie ended the novel and audiobook is set deep into the TV series.
The story is as follows: The Battle Of Serenity Valley was the end of the war for the Independents – The Browncoats. Some Browncoat veterans are set in their mind that the battle could have been won. The war with The Alliance turned. That they were betrayed. And they know who by. Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds of Serenity. While on Persephone for a small job Mal is kidnapped by some veteran Browncoats – including some old friends and old rivals – who are convinced he betrayed them at The Battle Of Serenity Valley. Worst of all? It certainly looks like SOMEONE gave them up. But who? Will Mal be able to prove his innocence in front of this would-be lynch mob and will his crew be able to rescue their captain while having to deal with problems of their own at the worst possible time?
This audio release is very true to the spirit of the original Firefly. James Lovegrove has expertly found the inner voices of all the characters exactly how I remember them. Mal has his smooth talking manner with the appropriate level of sarcasm, ship pilot Wash is as jokey and playful as ever while his wife Zoe is appropriately serious and menacing when required. Ship mechanic Kaylee is just as much a sentient ball of hope, sunshine and positivity as she ever was and the same goes for the other crew members I haven’t mentioned. It feels so good to hear a new story with these characters after 15 years.
I’m smiling as I type this just thinking about it. Part of the reason for this is that the series of novels of which Big Damn Hero is part is being consulted on by Whedon and fellow original TV writers Nancy Holder and Tim Lebbon. So this isn’t like some other tie-in merchandise or novels where the original teams have no involvement. James Lovegrove and the other people involved have brought ‘The Verse’ back to life! The story is gripping and quite the page turner. You genuinely wonder what’s going to happen next? Who will show up? How will the crew get out of this one? This old space western has more than a few shots left in their six-shooter!
I will admit however there is one problem with this story for new arrivals. As much as I and some other fellow Browncoats may love the tale it is set quite far into the TV series and makes numerous references to events that occurred and characters that appeared in the TV show with only a little explanation to catch you up or remind old fans of the show. There are attempts to explain or explore more deeply some of the previous events that are particularly relevant to the plot such as The Battle of Serenity Valley or some other examples but a lot of information is referenced with little or no explanation for newcomers. In short if you listen to the taster of the audiobook and this sounds like your kind of thing? Or if the very concept of a space western following some interesting rogues sounds appealing? Watch the TV show first or you could find yourself ever so slightly lost.
The narrator for this release is James Anderson Foster who has admitted to being a self-confessed Browncoat and it shows in his narration. His voice is perfect for this setting. Be it a dignified sounding preacher, a long suffering mother who has had more than her share of bad luck or an ex-Alliance officer with some hidden secrets, they all sound like they walked out of the TV series. They could have easily been part of a would be series two or three if things had turned out different. Long story short? To use Firefly slang…his narration is gorram shiny! As I stated above I may have a small amount of bias but it fits. His narration belongs. My personal favourite narration he does being for either Shepherd Book or the ‘interesting’ River Tam. I just hope it won’t be long before I hear his voice again alongside the Serenity crew.
In conclusion this story is quite the shindig! I hope that this audio release does well so we get some more Firefly adventures in book and audio form. And hopefully it can persuade some new people to join the Browncoats! It’s time to go out into the black once again.