Publisher: Titan Books (Hardcover Format – 19 March 2019)
Series: Firefly – Book 2
Length: 331 pages
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Fresh off writing the fantastic first book in this new series of Firefly tie-in novels, author James Lovegrove has crafted another amazing Firefly book that focuses on one of the more entertaining members of the Serenity crew, the hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne.
As I mentioned when I reviewed the first book in this new series of Firefly novels, Big Damn Hero, and in one of my subsequent Waiting on Wednesday entries, I am a massive fan of the Firefly franchise and was particularly eager to read the second book in this new series, The Magnificent Nine, which sounded liked it had an amazing plot. As a result, I made sure to order this copy online well in advance and was extremely happy when it came last week so close to the worldwide release date. I managed to read through it in about a day, and once again had the amazing feeling of being transported back into Firefly universe.
Out in the darkness of the verse, the crew of the Firefly class ship Serenity is up to its old tricks, searching for smuggling jobs that will keep them flying, while at the same time staying off the Alliance’s radar. While Captain Malcolm Reynolds is used to anticipating the needs and wants of the inhabitants of his ship, he is completely thrown when a request for an unpaid mercy mission comes from one of the most unlikely members of his crew. Serenity’s resident disgruntled mercenary, Jayne Cobb, suddenly asks that the ship be diverted to the backwater world of Thetis. An old flame of Jayne’s, Temperance McCloud, has reached out requesting aid. A vicious bandit, Elias Vandal, is threatening her small town of Coogan’s Bluff with a horde of trigger-happy thieves and murderers. Mal initially does not take the request seriously, but then Jayne does the unthinkable and offers up his most prized possession, his beloved gun, Vera, as payment for the crew’s help.
Arriving at Thetis, the crew find that not only are the inhabitants of Coogan’s Bluff reluctant to get involved in any sort of fight, but a well-armed force of killers is waiting for them and spoiling for a fight. However, the most shocking discovery is the fact that Temperance is raising a teenage daughter, born less than a year after Temperance and Jayne parted ways and named Jane McCloud.
This was a pretty epic read and one I had a lot of fun with. Lovegrove once again hits it out of the park with this amazing novel that featured a great story, excellent coverage of the Firefly crew and some new interesting characters and events. The Magnificent Nine is set between the events of the television series and the film Serenity, before Inara and Shepherd Book leave the ship. Once again, I liked how this new entry into the Firefly book series felt exactly like a new episode of the television show, although it uses some of the show’s existing episodes, like Jaynestown or Heart of Gold, as inspiration. I also quite liked how the story emulated some classic westerns such as The Magnificent Seven, which obviously inspired this book’s name, while also utilising science fiction elements. I actually enjoyed this book a bit more than the preceding Firefly novel, Big Damn Heroes. I felt that the story was more fast paced, significantly more action packed, and less widely spread out that the first book. I also quite enjoyed the author’s use of the existing characters from the show as well as the intriguing new side characters that are introduced in this book. The main story contains some interesting twists and turns, some of which are easy to see coming, but one or two of which come out of nowhere and are quite surprising. The end result is a thrilling and character driven story which is enhanced by its association with the Firefly television show.
One of my favourite things about this book is the focus on the character of Jayne, especially as we get to see his underutilised noble side come out once again. Throughout the run of the television show and most of the follow-up movie, Jayne is a selfish mercenary more concerned with his own self-interest and personal gain than the lives of his fellow crewmembers. Jayne is not above sacrificing or betraying members of his own crew, namely the Tam siblings, if it will benefit him in some way. His joining the crew of Serenity even involved him betraying and shooting his former captain when Mal offered him a better paying job and his own room on the ship. That being said, there are a few instances where Jayne will do the right thing and act the hero, resulting in some memorable moments for the character. The most notable of these occurred in the episode Jaynestown, where Jayne’s core beliefs are rocked by an entire community who venerate them as a great hero of the masses. In The Magnificent Nine, Jayne’s noble side once again comes out when he receives a request for help from his former lover and her daughter. As a result, he makes a series of impulsive and foolish actions throughout the book in order to try to do what he sees as the right thing, and these often result in some excellent sequences throughout the book.
Seeing this more noble version of Jayne emerge once again is fantastic and will be greatly appreciated by a huge number of Firefly fans. Jayne is always a widely entertaining character in the Firefly franchise, and I felt that Lovegrove did a great job of portraying the character in this story. I really enjoyed seeing another Jayne-centric storyline, and I liked how the author makes sure to utilise a number of classic Jayne elements throughout The Magnificent Nine, including the return of his iconic bobble hat and his favourite gun, Vera. However, there are some interesting new Jayne moments as well, as Lovegrove goes back and explores some elements from his past, including how he met Temperance, and how she helped turn him into the man he is today. This is an outstanding novel for those fans who love the character of Jayne, and I had a lot of fun watching him get another personal adventure.
As The Magnificent Nine mostly focuses on Jayne, the rest of the crew do take a bit of a backseat in this book. That being said, all of them get one or two scenes focused on them, in one way or another. Lovegrove once again does a great job of capturing the characters from the show, and rehashing their various quirks, relationships and the other minutiae of their personalities, even with these limited scenes. While some of the characters do not get too much action in this book, I thought that Mal and River in particular were showcased well. In this book, Mal plays the long-suffering captain who finds himself dragged into all manner of trouble by his crew, which forces him to act as the ship’s annoyed father figure. River, the psychotic psychic, also gets a pretty good run in this book. While Lovegrove does not explore her mind to any great degree, she gets some fun scenes, including one where she takes out intruders in Serenity, and another where she steals Vera and uses it in a firefight.
The side characters introduced in this book are pretty memorable, and the storylines revolving around them were very interesting. Jayne’s former love interest, Temperance McCloud, is a pretty badass woman, and it’s fun to see the sort of woman Jayne would fall in love with. There are also a number of secrets from Temperance’s past that come into play and add some emotional depth to hers and Jayne’s story. The villain of this story, Elias Vandal, is a fairly dark antagonist, acting as a sort of Charles Manson-like character, forming a cult of personality that draws in the planets outcasts and loners while also claiming to be a former Reaver. I quite liked Vandal as the story’s villain. I thought he was well written out, and the various layers to his past and the way he controls his gang are quite intriguing. Young Jane McCloud is another great side character, and I liked her interactions with River and Jayne. She forms a great friendship with River, and the two get up to all sorts of fun antics. I also liked the unconventional father-daughter relationship that occurred between Jayne and Jane, especially when they were forced to work together.
As mentioned above, The Magnificent Nine contains a large amount of action, with a huge number of firefights and other battles throughout the book. I liked the way that many of the battles had a western theme, with the skilled gunfighting heroes fighting large swathes of bandits and goons. However, the utilisation of science fiction elements really helped enhance them and, in some cases, increase the humour value. I liked the Mad Max-like chase scene that featured not only horses but also dune buggies, motorbikes and Firefly’s mule. There is also a spaceship assisted lassoing that was quite fun, and I liked seeing a classic trope like a lasso assisted by science fiction elements.
I absolutely loved Firefly: The Magnificent Nine, which turned out to be another ultra-fun romp back into one of my favourite television shows. Lovegrove has a real skill for bringing these characters to life, and I really enjoyed the thrilling story he wrote for The Magnificent Nine. The author’s portrayal of Jayne Cobb really shines through in this book, and it was great to see another story based around this awesome and funny character. This book is best appreciated by fans of the franchise, although I feel there is a lot in this book for new fans to enjoy. While this book was an amazing amount of fun to read, I now have to wait another six months for my next taste of the Firefly verse; how will I survive?