Cowboy Bebop: A Syndicate Story–Netflix series writer digs into backstory in prequel novel

Review by C.J. Bunce

Along with a comic book limited series, a new novel is the best bet for an additional space Western fix for anyone saddened by the cancellation of Netflix’s fantastic sci-fi series, Cowboy Bebop.  Cowboy Bebop: A Syndicate Story–Red Planet Requiem provides the full space mobster origin story for both lead hero Spike Spiegel aka Fearless and his one-time friend and partner, Vicious.  As a bonus, this novel, now available in paperback here at Amazon, is written by a member of the writing staff for the series.

Writer Sean Cummings brings the pulse of the series into his story, a true prequel taking place a decade before the series told in parallel with a few years earlier when Fearless and Vicious meet in a teenage boys’ competitive, prison-like street fight to the death “pit” game.  Although we only meet him briefly in the Netflix series, Vicious’s father Calaban is as loathsome as you might expect, creating the villainous gangster we’d later meet as an adult.

Compared to the TV series, Fearless and Vicious have a few role reversals across their relationship, and this layered character building adds to the TV series in more than merely a superficial way.  Absent from the novel is the aura of cool–since Jet Black is responsible for the jazz music vibe throughout the anime and live-action series and he’s absent here, we’re really left with a Dickensian street kid world, just updated and reset on a future, colonized planet Mars.  It works, but be prepared for a feel closer to that of Altered Carbon than the TV incarnations.

The biggest problem is the cover, which includes characters Jet Black and Faye Valentine, neither of which appears at all in the story.  It’s understandable to want to include the key stars on the cover, but maybe this would have been a more apt image from the Netflix series (also inspired by the scene in the original anime series):

Who are Fearless and Vicious and how did they become the opposing forces in the series?  Cummings answers those questions and more in his story.

It’s a good read–and consider it a must-read for Cowboy Bebop fans and anyone looking for an Altered Carbon or Firefly-type space Western setting.  Cowboy Bebop: A Syndicate Story–Red Planet Requiem is available now, only in paperback, here at Amazon from Titan Books.

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