Informational Note: I am reviewing this audiobook release completely of my own free will. However I have had some previous contact with the narrator of this audiobook prior to my reviews of the Firefly book series as a whole and as such must be honest with my readers
Hello again to my readers! Now if I remember correctly last time I promised you all a return to Firefly? A return to the ‘Verse’? It’s been quite some time since the release of Big Damn Hero so why not have some good old fashioned space western fun!
For those of you who need a slight refresher, Firefly was an American space western TV show which followed the misadventures and chaotic lives of the crew of the Firefly class transport, luggage and generally all purpose vessel known as Serenity. She was captained by Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds and had quite the rag-tag crew. Unfortunately because American companies are sometimes ridiculous the show only lasted one television series before being unceremoniously cancelled. The show did get a film sequel which was thankfully received but there were no official continuations beyond that point.
The book series is one of a decent handful of modern Firefly related projects and has a fairly heavy level of involvement from the original television crew including creator Joss Whedon and writers and producers such as Nancy Holder and Tim Lebbon.
The plot of The Magnificent Nine is as follows: The crew of the Serenity are experiencing money troubles. Again. The ship herself is in desperate need of new parts to the consternation of ship mechanic Kaylee, running low on medical supplies despite medic Simon Tam’s best efforts and Mal is searching for some good paying work. Unfortunately the planet Thetis has certain other ideas. On the planet Thetis lives a Temperance McCloud…an old friend of Jayne Cobb…and Thetis is having bandit troubles with a unsavoury Elias Vandal and his Scourers. Out of desperation Temperance reaches out to Jayne and when the crew of the Serenity land on the dustbowl to protect the inhabitants of one small town, they meet Temperance…and her daughter Jane McCloud.
This story is quite the page turner for Firefly fans! (Affectionately known as Browncoats.) Very obviously inspired by The Magnificent Seven and Seven Samurai the book is very entertainingly written by Lovegrove. All the major characters are written very convincingly with their reactions to events coming across as completely genuine especially with regards to Jayne. Just as Big Damn Hero was very much Mal’s character piece, Magnificent is the same for Jayne. As things gradually become more and more serious over time you feel yourself getting pulled into the character’s mindsets. Regardless if they wait to stay and fight, to break certain captainly orders, or to fly like a leaf on the wind. The same can also be said for the various book original characters who feel very true to Firefly as it was in its TV days
This book – and I believe the entire series of books – is set after the television series but before the events of the movie. There are multiple references throughout to events in the show such as the Heart Of Gold ‘incident’, the little ditty known as Hero of Canton and Mal’s duelling history to name just a few examples. As this may indicate, the series is very much written for and aimed at an audience of already existing fans. As such although I highly enjoyed the book (to the extent that the ending made me cry! Congratulations Misters Lovegrove and Foster!) I would not recommend it unless you’ve already watched or could be interested in watching the television series (which I do think would be a worthwhile time investment with the current lockdown!)
The narrator of this audiobook is a James Anderson Foster who performs his duties very well. Between the combination of Lovegrove’s already excellent writing and Foster’s narration style which captures the western adventure vibe of Firefly, the audiobook comes across as a true return of the show. Several characters sound like they came out of the television. He also does a brilliant job of making the threat of Elias Vandal particularly clear. He is NOT the kind of man you want to run into! The only criticism I have for the audiobook – and this is very much something which is on a person by person basis so it may just be me – is that the voices for Jane McCloud and River Tam, good old moonbrained River Tam,are just slightly too similar. You can still separate them and the audiobook is very enjoyable but it is something I noticed over time. Even still though it’s very much a personal nitpick over a very enjoyable story. In my personal opinion Magnificent Nine is superior to Big Damn Hero which I also enjoyed immensely.
In conclusion I highly recommend both The Magnificent Nine and Firefly overall as a series. I had a great deal of fun going back out into the black and experiencing life aboard Serenity once again. The audiobook of book three in the series The Ghost Machine was originally due for release at the end of April but has been pushed back to mid June. Hopefully these books and their audio versions do well so we can get some more adventures! Now if you’ll forgive me, before I start singing Hero Of Canton it is time for me to go.