Category: Sci-Fi Café


Browncoat alert! 

It’s been 15 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.  Author James Lovegrove is a frequent mention on our borg annual best-of lists, and for the Firefly series he has penned Big Damn Hero (reviewed here), The Magnificent Nine (reviewed here), and The Ghost Machine, reviewed here earlier this year.  Fan-favorite author Tim Lebbon (whose work has been frequently reviewed here at borg, and we interviewed Lebbon about his Alien tie-in novel here five years ago) is stepping in for the fourth book in the series, Generations, available now here for pre-order.  And now we have a cover reveal below for the fifth Firefly novel.  James Lovegrove’s Firefly: Life Signs is now available for pre-order here at Amazon.

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It’s been a little more than two years since BOOM! Studios took over the Firefly comics license from Dark Horse Comics.  Since then BOOM! has offered up the twelve-part Unification War story arc, a second twelve-part New Sheriff in the ‘Verse arc in compilation editions (Vol. 1Vol. 2, and Blue Sun Rising so far), and the one-shots The Sting and Watch How I Soar BOOM! has also followed Marvel Comics’ template after acquiring Star Wars and is reprinting the Dark Horse classics in new omnibus “Legacy” editions.  For its next series BOOM! is shooting ahead 20 years, long after the crew of the Serenity has departed, and the ship is now captained by someone entirely new:  Emma, the child of Wash and Zoe.  Meet the same ‘Verse in different time periods–the future and a look to Earth before the TV series–in the new six-part series Firefly: Brand New ‘Verse Can there really be a Firefly without Jayne?  Find out in this new series.

Check out a preview of the first issue, and some variant and future covers in the series below.

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It’s been more than 18 years since we first met Mal Reynolds and his (usually) loyal crew of the Firefly class ship Serenity.  Fans of the Firefly series and 2005 film Serenity, will never stop loving their travels around the ‘Verse, and are always looking for more adventures and tie-ins.  The next will be a celebration of artwork in the pages of Firefly Artbook: A Visual Celebration.  We’ve taken a look at multi-artist tribute concept books before at borg, including the excellent Alien: 40 Years/40 Artists, The Thing Artbook, Star Trek: 50 Artists/50 Years, and The Mike Wieringo Tellos Tribute.  Any time we showcase a major benchmark in comic book titles, like Detective Comics 1000th issue, Wonder Woman’s 750th issue, and The Amazing Spider-Man Issue #800, or charity projects like the Wonder Woman 100 showcase, we see a great new spin on favorite characters from a new vantage: a variety of artists interpreting an icon of popular culture.  In Firefly Artbook: A Visual Celebration, Browncoats everywhere will get to see the next artists’ interpretations.  The new tribute arrives in March, but you can pre-order a copy now here at Amazon, and check out a preview below:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We previewed the Firefly Artbook back in February.  It’s been more than 18 years since we first met Mal Reynolds and his (usually) loyal crew of the Firefly class ship Serenity.  Fans of the Firefly series and 2005 film Serenity will never stop loving their travels around the ‘Verse, but as we get further away from the short-lived series fans are seeing less and less content available.  We’ve taken a look at multi-artist tribute concept books before at borg, including the excellent Alien: 40 Years/40 Artists, The Thing Artbook, Star Trek: 50 Artists/50 Years, and The Mike Wieringo Tellos Tribute.  Any time we showcase a major benchmark in comic book titles, like Detective Comics 1000th issue, Wonder Woman’s 750th issue, and The Amazing Spider-Man Issue #800, or charity projects like the Wonder Woman 100 showcase, we see a great new spin on favorite characters from a new vantage: a variety of artists interpreting an icon of popular culture.  You’ll see how a range of dozens of less well-known artists interpret the show in the Firefly Artbook available now here at Amazon and at brick and mortar book stores everywhere.

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Nathan Fillion–with a moustache?  One of the more interesting panels from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con and one certainly not to miss for Browncoats everywhere is a panel devoted exclusively to the star of Firefly, Castle, and The Rookie.  It’s definitely one of those atypical panels (even for 2020) like we saw Fillion host back in the days of Nerd HQ, this time with added wacky editing and Fillion stepping in to provide commentary along the way.  That’s right, Fillion has enough pop culture street cred to get a panel to himself.  But he also knows how to share the stage.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Fifteen years after the last time we saw the crew of the Serenity, the next novel of Joss Whedon’s space Western universe is here to quench your thirst for more Firefly.  James Lovegrove’s third Firefly novel, The Ghost Machine, again takes place between the events of season one of the TV series and the Serenity film, but unlike his first two novels (Big Damn Hero, reviewed here, and The Magnificent Nine, reviewed here), which felt like movie prequels to the 2005 film, this new story feels like the next episode of the TV series.  It borrows a lot from the series, which will make Browncoats feel like they’re nestling back into familiar territory, while also tapping into tropes fans of science fiction will be familiar with.

The first act finds the crew on one of its trademark jobs to pick up for none other than Badger, the man in the bowler hat, certain strange cargo, that unknown quantity sealed in a can that we’ve seen the series pursue in episodes like The Train Job and The Message, and outside the stories of the ‘Verse in films like The Transporter (it’s not a person this time).  The second act reveals what is inside the crate with the Blue Sun label, which Captain Mal Reynolds ultimately decides is too risky to even take aboard his ship, and then wraps readers in a whirlwind of activity as the ramifications of the cargo are played out–sort of.  Recall that niggling feeling of the crew–and the viewers–from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect,” and the trapped in a parallel world vibe of the Voyager two-parter “The Killing Game” and dreamscape of “Bliss”?  But The Ghost Machine really kicks in with the third act, as everything you’ve read is taken to a different extreme, and a ticking clock propels the reader headlong into a gripping climax.  What will it take, and who is the right choice from the crew, to break the spell and reveal the truth behind this unusual Pandora’s jar?

Lovegrove, whose novels we’re reviewed previously here at borg–both from the world of Firefly and his Sherlock Holmes mysteries–is really good at endings, and that’s what makes this story a winner.  Along the way the author investigates each crew member’s ideal worlds–and their worst nightmares.  This is one of the darker tales from the Firefly ‘verse, on par with the episode “Objects in Space.”  Peppered throughout the novel, as you’d expect from anything sourced from the mind of Joss Whedon, who serves as consulting editor on these books, are the Easter eggs, particularly from the Western genre.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In his new novel Firefly: The Magnificent Nine, author James Lovegrove embarks on his next journey with the crew of Serenity following his highly successful launch point for the first ever novel series for the franchise, last year’s Firefly: Big Damn Hero (reviewed here at borg).  It’s been thirteen years since we last saw a Firefly story like these two novels, which each contain the contents of about an entire movie.  Along the way creator Joss Whedon has authorized some shorter tales via the comic books (discussed here).  Firefly: Big Damn Hero was the Firefly event of last year, and this year we’ll have two novels competing for that honor, with Tim Lebbon′s contribution to the series of novels coming this fall in Firefly: Generations So how did Lovegrove’s Firefly: The Magnificent Nine compare to his Firefly: Big Damn Hero?

As with Firefly: Big Damn Hero, Lovegrove writes the voices of the entire crew perfectly.  This is another space Western, the core of the original series, and both books feel like natural progressions following the original 14 episodes (Firefly: The Magnificent Nine fits between the last episode and the 2005 film Serenity, allowing the inclusion of two fan-favorite characters–and they’re all fan-favorite characters–Hoban “Wash” Washburne and Shepherd Book).  In a significant way the challenge of writing new Firefly stories is that writers only have 15 “canon” stories to build from, along with any notes from Whedon’s story development.  The potential pitfall is mining the original episodes too much for throwback references.  At 336 pages that’s not anything to worry about for Lovegrove.  Yes, fans will appreciate the Easter Eggs throughout the tale: Jayne Cobb’s famous hat (“a giant piece of candy corn gone wrong”) does not get ignored here, and neither does his weapon of choice, Vera.  But the framework of the story allows for plenty of opportunities for Lovegrove to do more with the characters.  It’s hard to beat his ability to get inside the head of River in Firefly: Big Damn Hero–a difficult character who didn’t get enough time to get fleshed out in the series.  But this time River takes a backseat and Jayne gets the spotlight.  As a completely original story Firefly: Big Damn Hero wins, but not by a lot.

As the title should indicate, Firefly: The Magnificent Nine is an homage to the classic, epic Western The Magnificent Seven, its source Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and countless adaptations since.  It’s notable and important that this isn’t another actual adaptation or full retelling of the story, as Lovegrove takes his own tangent from the story after setting up the novel’s first act.  But he peppers the story with familiar references, like using actors’ names and Kurosawa himself for new characters in his story.  He also has plenty of Louis L’Amour tropes and references.  One thing this novel makes clear is there are at least as many opportunities for new novels in the series as there are Kurosawa movies and L’Amour novels to pull good ideas from.  So this isn’t merely another take on The Magnificent Seven so much as establishing that the nine heroes of the Serenity are worthy of that title.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new encyclopedic view of Firefly rounds out a big year for Firefly fans.  First there was the release of two in-universe books, The Serenity Handbook followed by the Hidden Universe Travel Guide, then more recently we saw the first novel in the series, Big Damn Hero Rounding out a year of great books for Browncoats is Firefly Encyclopedia, by Monica Valentinelli.  Fans of past books for Firefly and the Firefly Loot Crate magazine will be familiar with the tone and design of this series overview.  From the cover to the layout of Polaroid-inspired snips, the book is part scrapbook, part in-depth look into the story in an in-universe style, part behind the scenes photographic essay.  You’re likely to find new images of the ship and crew, even if you’ve amassed all the previous Firefly books.

If this isn’t the biggest assemblage of ships, weapons, props, and sets, it comes close, plus the large photographs makes this the best designed look at the production so far.  The concept artwork for several characters is something we haven’t seen before, and here many designs for each character are showcased.  And at long last, fans have a Chinese-English translator tailored to the extensive use of the Chinese language in the series.

Part one of Firefly Encyclopedia presents the Firefly story, the complete in-world tale seen in the series, as you may find in an encyclopedia.  Next is a look at the characters, each crew member–both in-universe and the actors behind the character, followed by a brief look at secondary characters.  The next section is a geography of the ‘verse, comparative looks at planets, tables, astronomy, and ships along with an interview with artist Ben Mund.  A table looks at the technobabble of the show, followed by a treatment of futuristic medicine in the series.  A wider chapter looks at even more costume designs.  A final chapter digs into the scripts for the series, including analysis and commentary.

Here is a brief view inside the Firefly Encyclopedia:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new cookbook has the recipes to get you through your travels wherever you are in the ‘Verse.  Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook pulls together foods seen throughout the series and some just inspired by it with lots of good in-universe commentary from Mal Reynolds and his crew.  I’ve been a fan of the sci-fi series since the San Diego Comic-Con 10th anniversary reunion (discussed here), and have reviewed every tie-in from the series released so far here at borg.  Banter of the crew is a great feature of many of the Firefly books published in the past ten years, and author Chelsea Monroe-Cassel gets all the characters right in her latest cookbook.  Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook is now available for all Browncoats from Titan Books–you can take a look at a preview of recipes below courtesy of Titan Books, and order a copy here at Amazon.

Among all the tie-ins, this is the first foray into the food of the series.  A great focus is placed on the types of meals that make sense in the ‘Verse for a ship’s crew, as well as Joss Whedon’s incorporation of a future filled with Asian influences.  Five-spice is a common seasoning incorporated into the recipes, along with ginger and soy sauce, and that simplicity of nomadic life that underscored the travels of Serenity come through, too, with everyday ingredients, like honey for a sweetener, and white sauce, brown sauce, and biscuits a key component.  You’ll find foods discussed on the series by the crew of Serenity, other foods tangentially seen on screen, with some added in a creative way to fill in the blanks in between.  The author includes appropriate specs for meals with simple ingredients but also some dishes from more extravagant fare (like you might find at a formal shindig on Persephone).  The only way to tell if a cookbook is good is to dig right in.  So I tested four of the recipes that appealed to me the most on paper.

First I made Simon’s Eggy Oat Mush from the Recipes for Shipboard Living section.  This turned out to be a hearty breakfast concoction, a savory oatmeal cooked with veggies, egg, and garlic.  The egg brings the flavors all together and it will fill you up for the day.  It had a unique flavor profile for anyone only accustomed to oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon or other sweeteners–different enough that you could see being stuck on a ship and coming up with this as a staple.  It took only 15 minutes to prepare, and would also make a good dinner side dish.

The prep for River’s Meat Pie could hardly have been simpler.  This recipe was in the Recipes from the Core Worlds–Underbelly section (as opposed to an “upper crust” item).  The result was a tasty dish, highlighted by the right amount of fennel, onion, and garlic, and a perfect pastry dough crust (pictured above, top).  I halved the cookbook recipe and it made four perfect hand pies, great for carrying to lunch any day of the week (think Hostess fruit pies, but savory).  The crust was well-suited for a hand pie, sturdy enough to hold everything in, yet nice and flaky.

Next up was the Blue Sun Canned Peach Cobbler:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Celebrating the 15th year of the end of the Firefly series, later this month Insight Editions will release the next travel guide in its Hidden Universe series.  This time writer Marc Sumerak and artist Livio Ramondelli are taking on the whole ‘Verse itself in Firefly: A Traveler’s Companion to the ‘Verse Who knew the backstory of the 14-episode television series was filled with more than 70 worlds and nearly 150 moons?  Yet all of that worldbuilding became the realism that made so many fans wish they could ride high in their own Firefly-class ship in a future beyond Earth, and it provides plenty of material to add another dimension to the Firefly experience for Browncoats everywhere.

Traveling from Hancock to Paradiso?  Whether you’re paying your respects in the Serenity Valley or Du-Khang, dropping some cargo on Whitefall, attending a shindig on Persephone, rescuing friends on Jiangyin, finding any excuse not to visit Canton, breaking into a hospital on Ariel, or getting Companion training on Sihnon, the Traveler’s Companion to the ‘Verse should be your starting point.  As with past volumes in the series, this guide is set up in sections by destination location, and includes the same kinds of breakdowns you’d find in any Earthbound guidebook: a little history and culture, sights and activities, etiquette, getting around, shopping and entertainment, dining and nightlife, lodging, and what to wear (Wash’s Hawaiian shirt is always an option, too).

The best sections feature “Tips for a Fun Trip,” including dos and don’ts and inside advice specific to each location.  Another bonus introduced in this volume is the addition of “handwritten” commentary by Mal Reynolds and the rest of the crew of Serenity.  As we previewed in our borg.com review of the new The Serenity Handbook here last month, the Traveler’s Companion to the ‘Verse is full of attitude from the crew, written in the familiar dialogue of Mal, Zoe, Wash, Inara, Kaylee, Jayne, Simon, River, and Book, and tucked into each section of the guide.

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