Life Signs–Firefly novel takes on the prison escape trope and more

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s been 16 years since we last saw the Serenity crew on the big screen.  If you’re like me, you’ve been enjoying every new Firefly tie-in novel since the first debuted in 2018, including Big Damn Hero (reviewed here), The Magnificent Nine (reviewed here), The Ghost Machine, reviewed here–all by James Lovegrove–and earlier this year Tim Lebbon’s Generations (reviewed here).  Lovegrove is back again with the fifth novel in the series, Firefly: Life Signs, now available here at Amazon.  Each novel in essence is a new hour-long episode of sorts that continues the story of Mal Reynolds and his crew after that first–and only–season of the TV series.  Just like a TV series, Firefly: Life Signs is a play on tropes from decades sci-fi history.

Overseen by Firefly creator Joss Whedon, Firefly: Life Signs only peripherally features Inara, despite her prominence on the cover.  In this story Inara is dying of a rare cancer, and nobody, including Mal, can do anything about it.  But there is close to a zero percent chance that a doctor in an unthinkable position in an impossible place might have invented technology that could help her.  Enter the Longshot trope.

And that impossible place?  Bring on the Rescue trope and the Prison Escape trope.  In every way Firefly: Life Signs is Star Trek VI’s Rura Penthe story as put through the Firefly universe (readers will find several callbacks to both Star Trek and Star Wars here).  Just as Whedon did with all his series, Lovegrove weaves in clever dialogue and pop culture references.  Keep your eyes open and you can sleuth out the finale.  But where this series of novels succeeds the most is getting each character’s voice correct, and the fun of this read is immersing yourself into the ‘verse again.

Enjoy another great series cover designed by Natasha MacKenzie.

One of the strictures placed on the novels because they take place between the series and the movie Serenity is the reader knowing the stakes of the crew are never really in question.  No major question is ever really answered from the series.  So at some point Whedon needs to allow the story to continue.  Lovegrove makes the best of it, just as Lebbon did in the last entry.  This is most noticeable in allowing River Tam to function as a relatively normal person.  River has been the best contribution of the past two stories.  On the other hand, Wash, because we all know he dies in the movie later, never really gets to take center stage, always relegated to the spouse role.  All of his actions seem to telegraph his doomed future.

Lovegrove never veers from his charge: this is 100% a faithful Firefly story, complete with a slate of all-new characters that fit right into this view of Earth’s future.

Browncoats won’t want to miss this latest story, which continues to keep these characters alive for its large fan base.  Firefly: Life Signs is now available here at Amazon.

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