Big Damn Hero (Firefly: 1) – James Lovegrove

Title:Big Damn Hero (Firefly: 1)
Author:James Lovegrove
Publisher:Titan Books/Jonathan Ball Publishers
Date published:2020
Star Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer:Jonathan Ball Publishers kindly sent me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review

Contemporary culture would be a very sad place without TV producer, writer and director Joss Whedon and his catalogue of television shows which include Buff the Vampire Slayer (a personal favorite of mine), Buffy’s spin-off Angel, the short-lived Dollhouse and the even shorter-lived Firefly which lasted all of one season. Sadly Firefly was cancelled so abruptly that fans of the show were not even given a satisfactory finale until 2005, when they released the film Serenity to give closure to the beloved characters of the show. Lovegrove’s Big Damn Hero is the first in a series of novels that takes place immediately after the last episode was broadcast back in 2003 and before the subsequent film. As a massive fan of this incredible show I was absolutely delighted to discover that the crew of Serenity would finally be revived.

The world of Firefly takes place on planets deemed habitable after Earth no longer is. Set in the year 2517 after a civil war between America and China, the two Earthly superpowers merged and formed a larger superpower known as the Alliance. Firefly is an American Space Western, and the characters often switch between American English and Chinese Mandarin, and pilot ships known as Fireflys through the galaxy between planets. Like the television show this first novel, Big Damn Hero takes place on-board Serenity, the ship that houses nine very different people.

The crew of Serenity are mostly made up of those that fought on the losing side of the civil war, and the few misfits they picked up along the way. Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynold is Serenity’s captain, and he along with his second-in-command and best friend Zoe Washburne both fought in the war, and are considered traitors on the planets that favored The Alliance. Mal is both charming and stoic, and while he is known to crack a joke, he is also prone to brooding and reminiscing over his time in the war as a member of the Browncoats. Zoe, who is married to Serenity’s pilot, Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburne, is tough and unflinchingly loyal to Mal, whilst her husband is the comic relief.

The other members of the ship include Kaylee Frye, the mechanic with an endearing naivety, and a sense of childlike enthusiasm that allows her to always see the good in everyone and everything. In contrast to this is the ships ‘muscle’, Jayne Cobb, who was once a mercenary and tends to go where the money is, as opposed to what is necessarily ethical or right.

Inara Serra is the beautiful and elegant ‘companion’ who pays rent to be on the ship, and is extremely tough and powerful in her own ways, which include the ability to know all the right people. Her profession isn’t always viewed favorably, whilst Derrial ‘Shepard’ Book is the exact opposite being that he is a man of religion and whose position on the ship is that of the ‘voice of reason’ and the crew’s sense of morality.

Lastly Simon Tam and his sister River are aboard the ship quite by default, and though Simon being a doctor is a great asset to the ship, his sister’s presence proves challenging because not only is River in possession of some pretty extraordinary talents, but she is also on the run from the Alliance who subjected her to a series of experiments that may have heightened, if not caused, the young girl’s unique abilities and eccentricity.

Serenity survives (just barely) by doing the odd transport job, and not everything they are hired to transport is simple (or strictly legal). In Big Damn Hero the ship has been hired by a mysterious character named Badger to transport cargo that just so happens to be explosive. With pressure high on the ship, which is not made any easier by River’s strange reactions to the cargo, the crew also find themselves amidst massive celebrations on the planet Persephone where the inhabitants are not favorable towards the Browncoats. When the unthinkable happens and Mal goes missing, the crew find themselves separated on a very unfriendly planet, and with little time in which to depart Persephone and deliver the dangerous goods to their destination. With his crew searching for him in dodgy bars and down alleyways, Mal’s past and his role in the war and his life long before Serenity are being dug up, and it’s all very, very interesting…

Lovegrove does a fantastic job of re-inhabiting these beloved characters, and if anything this novel feels just like an episode of the show. For a fan such as myself it was an absolute treat to be able to indulge in some background history, and who better to begin with than the show’s star, Malcolm Reynolds, whose portrayal in this novel was so perfect I could almost hear Nathan Fillion’s voice as he effortlessly tore through a southern accent. Big Damn Hero may not be the return of Firefly but it comes pretty damn close!

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