Carl hops aboard the Serenity to review James Lovegrove’s thrilling Firefly adventure from Titan Books
The author James Lovegrove has a fantastic track record when it comes to writing about the dearly missed and much-loved show ‘Firefly‘. So far he has written three, ‘Big Damn Hero’, ‘ The Magnificent Nine’ and now, this new novel called ‘The Ghost Machine’. Every one of the books is an enjoyable and worthy read all by itself but ‘The Ghost Machine’ is one that will stick with the reader for long after they have finished it. Every character plays their part here despite two of them, Inara and Shepherd Derrial Book no longer being among the crew of the ‘Serenity’, a fact that is brought up early in proceedings but they appear throughout the book regardless. To understand why the reader must open the cover and dive into a rip-roaring and completely thrilling adventure.
Firefly – The Ghost Machine | by James Lovegrove
The novels are, of course, set in between the end of the show and the start of the ‘Serenity‘ feature film. This allows the characters of Book and Wash to still be able to appear even though we all know that the two of them perished during the film version. To be honest, without them, the books would feel incomplete, a furthering of the story so far maybe but we love the pair of them so much, we crave any chance for them to take part in the story.
The premise of the book is simple. Mal Reynolds, Zoe, and Jayne Cobb have been hired by Badger to collect, transport, and deliver a flight case. All is going well until it is discovered that the flight case has been stolen from Blue Sun. Mal refuses to accept the goods, leading to a gunfight out in the desert in which the gang holding the flight case are all killed. Jayne wants to accept the job and transport the case to Badger so he can get paid. Mal, however, refuses to even consider it and he and Zoe leave Jayne in the desert, ten miles away from Serenity in an attempt to teach Jayne a lesson in the chain of command. Mal jokingly tells Jayne if he can make it ten miles back to the ship with the flight case, he MAY let him take it onboard, something Mal has no intention of allowing. Jayne makes it back to the ship without the case and Mal thinks that the lesson has been learned. But Jayne has hidden the case just short of the ship and goes back and retrieves it late at night when everyone is asleep, bringing it on board and hiding it in his cabin. Inside the case lies The Ghost Machine, a device that will further the story as we go along.
The Serenity takes off the next morning with the crew none the wiser. But during their flight, every one of the crew will fall victim to elaborate illusions that drag themselves out from their subconscious. Mal’s illusion is of him, married to Inara with two small children and living a peaceful life away from the war. Zoe’s is of becoming a bounty hunter, tracking down and capturing or killing high ranking members of the Alliance. In her illusion, the Browncoats won the war instead of the truth that the Alliance was victorious. Jayne is back home with his mother and his brother, Matty who has miraculously been cured of Damplung. Wash believes he is a rich head of a universe-spanning business empire with a high-spec cruiser at his disposal. Kaylee is her father’s business partner in the repair shop while Simon Tam is living his dream by becoming a successful Doctor as well as being involved with Kaylee romantically. Only River is immune to the illusions, a fact that will become vital as the crew’s dreams turn into nightmares. An Alliance ship crashes on Mal’s doorstep, threatening him and his family. Zoe is betrayed and tortured. Jayne’s family is threatened by a gang of ruthless outlaws. Kaylee discovers that her rich client is involved in devious deals. Wash’s empire is suddenly hit by a series of mysterious events and Simon is threatened by his family to rid himself of Kaylee to marry a more suitable companion, even if it means killing Kaylee in the process. All the while, the Serenity is on a collision course with a barren moon with no one to stop her unless River can bring the crew out of their illusions.
All this takes place over the space of 336 pages and not one word is wasted. The story zips along at a great pace but doesn’t skip over characterization or play down events as it moves along. It is a look at what the crew would love to be their reality, to have what they desire and their deepest hidden feelings and emotions are brought into the light but are still only known to them as all experience their own pieces of bliss before they turn into horror and a fight for their lives. Lovegrove knows these characters and their traits well and with the help of the consulting editor, Joss Whedon, the creator of the franchise himself, the book is a great escape from the real-life horrors we currently face outside our own front doors. We find ourselves once more cheering and fearing for these characters but can’t help but feel sorry for them as their constructed dreams become total nightmares. Simon and Kaylee, to name just two of the characters, I really wanted to see move forward in this novel. Of course, by the end of the movie ‘Serenity‘, we know these two end up together. But we can’t help but want to scream at them both “Come on! Take the leap, will you?”. It’s the knowing where their story will end that makes the events of the book so fulfilling at the same time as finding them slightly frustrating.
What James Lovegrove has constructed in his novels based on the property keeps the characters and events strong in the reader’s mind. He has skillfully picked up on what we loved about the show and has built a construct that is thrilling and wholly enjoyable to sit down with as well as taking the story and characters forward. Take my advice. Grab yourself a copy and prepare to be once again thrust into a world we know and miss, with characters that still live on in our minds and our memories. And more importantly, within our hearts.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!
Editors Note | A big thank you to our friends at Titan Books for sending over our advance review copy.