Firefly: Generations–Tim Lebbon captures the essence of the series in next novel

Review by C.J. Bunce

The fourth and latest novel in the expanded Firefly universe is the closest story fans will have encountered since the short-lived series’ first season.  Tim Lebbon’s Firefly: Generations leans into its science fiction roots as Mal Reynolds and his crew find themselves balancing the life of a crew member and her desire to fulfill a destiny promised from the first episode.  Two keys put them on their next adventure across the ‘verse: one key they’ve had all along, and the other is a bit of a treasure map that goes to the very heart of understanding the old Earth-That-Was.  Only they may find it’s not treasure waiting, but a ship.  And not just any ship, but a seemingly haunted ghost ship.

Tim Lebbon, author of the exciting Alien: Out of the Shadows reviewed here, delivers again another sci-fi thriller bordering on sci-fi horror.  It’s a mash-up of Firefly’s familiar “next job” and an encounter with an abandoned old, giant ship from the legendary Earth-That-Was.  A destroyer-sized transport ship that was supposed to have delivered thousands of humans to the outer reaches of space in the early colonization scheme was only one of many.  The timbre is here borrowed from sparks of other sci-fi franchises, of Super Soldiers, of Augments, of the “genetically enhanced” who arrived after a certain Simian Flu, of X soldiers, of V-ger visits, of monolithic UFOs that draw people in.  To a trap?  Most of all it’s a crew separated in a giant Hidden Fortress fighting their way to survive, rendezvous, and reunite back on their ship so they can escape.

“two-by-two, hands of blue”

After years of comic book and graphic novel stories–and a movie–Firefly fans finally see the complete picture beginning to form, the big through-line of River Tam’s backstory moving ahead, albeit inside the parameters between the first season and the movie Serenity, which is where the novels are firmly footed.  At last consulting editor Joss Whedon and writer Tim Lebbon peel back some of the secrets behind River, her past, and her special abilities, at least moreso than before–much is still unknown.

Lebbon has the best grasp on the characters and dialogue of the series of books so far, and he avoids the tired re-hashing of season one crew caricatures and banter retreads that have bogged down the tie-ins since the series ended and were beginning to make the franchise seem stale.  Perhaps it is refreshing because it’s not just another Western movie retelling, going with a sci-fi thriller framework instead.

It’s a mix of Metropolis, Passengers, the Star Trek Voyager episode “One Small Step,” and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and maybe Captain EO, The Mummy, and Frankenstein.  And a big mix of Alien franchise tropes.  Any fan of sci-fi will enjoy parsing all the components and similarities to the past in this voyage.

From all the angles, it’s the best, most exciting and most fun Firefly story in two decades, and a read that fans will likely gobble-up in one sitting.  Firefly: Generations is available here both in hardcover and now in paperback (both priced the same on Amazon as of the date of this review).  Don’t miss it!

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