Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Firefly’

It may surprise some, considering past reviews posted here, that I deigned to read James Lovegrove’s Firefly: Life Signs, his fourth volume in the ongoing Firefly series, but I did.

I haven’t been shy with my disappointment in Lovegrove’s past entries (as seen here and here). In fact, my disappointment was so great that I didn’t even bother to review his third book in the series.

Thing is, though, it’s Firefly. I adore the show, the characters, the setting, the language. I’m a Browncoat for life, so I couldn’t not read it.

The book released just prior to this one, Generations, by Tim Lebbon, was an exceedingly pleasant change from Lovegrove, so it was disappointment layered upon disappointment when I learned that yet another Lovegrove entry was on the schedule. (FYI: the next in the series is not a Lovegrove title so, fingers crossed.)

With all that as prologue, I’m sure you’re asking: Why the hell is he reviewing this one?

The answer is two-fold.

First, Life Signs deals with a crucial bit of the Firefly canon: Inara’s terminal illness. As fans of the show, we knew about this part of Inara Serra’s planned story arc—plans cut short by the show’s abrupt truncation—so a novel that deals with that is worth exploring.

Second, this one wasn’t as bad as Lovegrove’s previous work. In fact, for most of its length, it was quite readable. (If you’re thinking I’m damning him with faint praise, that’s not my intent.)

The book is not without issues, but let me start with what works.

As Lovegrove demonstrated in previous books, he is able to evoke the pattern and rhythm of the Firefly ‘verse without reverting to caricatured patois. Rather than peppering us with g-less gerunds (e.g., fightin’ and stealin’), he leans more on the syntax and the language, which makes the dialog—and there’s a lot of it—much more readable. Once we read a few phrases like “I reckon . . .” and “Seeing as how . . .”, the g-less gerunds follow without us having to stumble over all those apostrophes. In other words, here, less is definitely more.

Moreover, his dialogue is exceptionally well-paced, which is good because, as stated, there’s a lot of it. Lovegrove successfully runs scenes of banter between three or four characters with ease, giving us just enough clues as to keep us straight on who’s talking without slowing things down. And though (once again) we have someone monologuing in the midst of a crucial action scene, this time it occurs during a brief lull so, while it’s not the optimal time for someone to explain their backstory, at least it’s not with bullets are whizzing by their heads.

The plot, while wholly improbable—and let’s face it, if you have an issue with improbable plotlines, you’re not a Browncoat anyway—is also straightforward: Inara is sick, and terminally so, but there’s a sketchy doctor who might be able to help, only, ruh-roh, he’s been incarcerated on a prison planet. (I’m not telling you anything that isn’t in the publisher’s blurb.) As expected, hijinks ensue.

The characters—canon and new—are pleasantly fleshed out. With the established characters, Lovegrove goes beyond what the series established, developing them and giving us emotional content that simply must be there, given the plot. (In this, I feel for the bind any author of these books must be in; the novels take place between the Firefly series and the movie Serenity, so with those as bookends, there’s only so much you can do.) For the characters specific to this novel, Lovegrove gives us sufficient context to understand the why of their actions, which was also a nice surprise.

However . . .

I’ve complained of this before, but Lovegrove is not great at world-building. I admit, it’s a pet peeve of mine, and it will not bother many (possibly most), but when (on the first half-page) I read of an alien world that has cicadas singing in the mesquite trees, well, that just seems a tad lazy to me. Even if we stipulate that it was a barren rock that’s been terraformed, who in their right mind is going to bring mesquite seeds and cicada larvae across interstellar space? This laziness permeates the book as much as any of his others. [sigh]

Past the first few pages, though, Lovegrove hit his stride, and I sped through the book. Some of this was illusory, however, as most of the chapters were only two or three pages long, meaning that, with a half-page for chapter header and a half-page (or more) for break to the next chapter, there’s a lot of white space in the book. Well, it’s one way to make your book a page-turner, I guess.

There are clunky bits of writing, mostly due to his use of adverbs. I’m not averse to using adverbs, in general, but Lovegrove often commits Classic Error #2, using esoteric or tongue-tying adverbs. Mostly, it’s fine, but when I hit three words like “despairingly,” “understandingly,” and “languorously” within a single chapter (did I mention how short most of the chapters are?), my mental Adverb-Overload switch flips and I need to put the book down until I reset.

Sadly, though, it’s in the climactic final sequence where Lovegrove (as usual) face-plants. If this was a one-off issue, I would grimace, make mention, and move on, as I did in previous reviews of his work, but this has now happened in every Lovegrove book in the series: to wit, he shows either a stunning disregard or an unforgivable ignorance of how things work, whether it be scientifically*, practically**, or (in this case) both. I mean come on! Doesn’t Titan Books hire editors? Shameful, mostly because they are fixable errors.

In summary, did I like it?

It’s a quick and mostly fun read with a stumbling start and a flawed finish that deals with a crucial part in the life of a beloved Firefly character, so . . . yes, I liked it, in spite of itself. And I will grudgingly (see? adverbs) recommend it to fans of the Firefly ‘verse. It has the standard Lovegrove issues, but it did pull me in for most of its length and, at times, touched my heart.

k

*Newtonian physics and the laws concerning conservation of kinetic energy are tossed out the airlock as Lovegrove misapplies the Kessler syndrome (which deals with space debris travelling at high speeds in low-Earth orbit) to pieces of space junk that are stationary relative to one another. A nudge from Serenity on one rather small piece of space junk would not cause a cascade that makes every other piece of space junk, including much larger pieces of junk, to fly about like billiard balls on a pool table.

**In every aircraft (and, presumably, spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight), the steering yoke adjusts roll and pitch, the rudder pedals control yaw, and the throttle controls the thrust. Anyone who has flown a plane, played a flight simulator, or hell, just been relatively observant when watching film of someone doing the same, knows that if you pull back on the yoke, the plane goes up, and if you push it forward, the plane goes into a dive. In no aircraft does pushing forward on the yoke make it go faster; that’s the throttle. Different thing. Again, where are the editors here?

Read Full Post »

As I mentioned a while ago, my mind is once again calm enough to allow me the enjoyment of reading fiction. In fact, I’ve read four novels in the past few weeks, which is about three more than I read in all of 2019.

Seriously. It was that bad.

The first books had been in my TBR pile for a while, but this latest one was a recent arrival, and it was a serious break from the “literary” works I’ve been reading. Written by Tim Lebbon, Generations is not only science fiction, but (gasp!) a television “tie-in” novel, the fourth novel set in the Firefly ‘verse.

The previous titles in this series, all written by a different author, were (to put it mildly) a tremendous disappointment. I reviewed the first two (here and here), but frankly, I didn’t see the point in bothering you with a review of the third one, so I read it and tossed it aside.

Seriously, they were that bad. (more…)

Read Full Post »

As regular readers know, I’m a Browncoat for life. However, I am not the sort of über-fan who will buy anything they slap a “Firefly” logo on. Yes, I have Firefly-related t-shirts, a couple of “behind the scenes” books, and on the back of my car there is an “I aim to misbehave” sticker, but I’ve passed on most of the comic books, the graphic novels, and other paraphernalia that’s out there vying for my Browncoat credits.

A series of novels, though? Sign me up.

The Magnificent Nine is the second installment in the new Firefly novel series, penned by James Lovegrove, who also gave us the first in the series (a review of which can be found here.) I was underwhelmed by Lovegrove’s first title, but I enjoyed the book despite its flaws.

Alas, this title also has its flaws, some of them serious.

But first, what’s good . . . (more…)

Read Full Post »

 

Full disclosure: I am a Browncoat.

I wasn’t an early adopter, in that I never saw Firefly during its brief broadcast on FOX, but once a friend lent me his box set of DVDs, I knew I had found my all-time favorite science fiction television show.

That said, you might think I’m about to go all gosh and gee-willikers about Big Damn Hero, the first official Firefly novel.

And you’d be wrong. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Over the New Year’s Day holiday, we screened a bunch of movies. There were a couple “meh” movies, but also several I liked (and I’m pretty hard to please), so it was a good movie-weekend for us. But of the ones I liked, two stood out and demanded specific mention for their “writerly” content.

The Words,” is one of those films that crops up every few years, where the main character is a writer. “Stranger than Fiction” (brilliant, btw), “The Ghost Writer,” and “The Wonder Boys” spring to mind as standout Writer-cum-Main-Character movies of the last dozen years, and I’ll put “The Words” right up there with them, but I’ll go even further. “The Words” is the only one I’ll buy on DVD so I can watch it again.

Why? Because this movie is more than just a movie where the main character happens to be a writer. It’s more than a movie filled with the angst-steeped maunderings of a man who can’t seem to put pen to paper. This is a movie about the ethics of writing.

Watch the trailer and you’ll see the setup: Rory is a young, struggling writer who happens across an old manuscript, reads it, loves it, and submits it as his own work. Later, the real author of the book appears, and thence comes our conflict.

Well, the good thing about this movie is that the trailer is lying to us. The conflict actually begins well before that, and rightly so. Why does Rory put forth this book he found as his own? How does that act affect him? How does it affect his world, his wife, his life? When Rory finally meets up with the real author of the book, the conflict is well underway, and things definitely do not get better.

What I liked best about this movie though, was the way it developed the characters (all of them), their history (seamlessly inserted into the narrative), and built onward to what I thought was a truly believable, adult ending and denouement. The movie is structurally complex but this structure is (in the final analysis) comprehensible and, more importantly, necessary to the fullness of the story. This is a movie that, on second and third screenings, will provide greater depth and detail.

The second movie I thought had a definite “writerly” slant was one I selected on a lark. As most of you know, I am a Browncoat, a Joss Whedon admirer, and a genuine fan of “Firefly.” So, when I learned that Joss’s production company had come out with a movie (albeit not of his direction), I looked for it.

The Cabin in the Woods” is, on first glance, another of those ultra-violent horrors filled with dumb teenagers and sadistic monsters. I am definitely not a fan of the slasher/dead-teenager movie, but I’ve seen enough of them to know the formula, and my reaction was, “Seriously, Joss?” But then I read the blurb and I was hooked.

What we have here is a beautiful deconstruction of the genre. This movie takes every complaint you’ve ever had about the genre, takes every moment of predictable stupidity that made you yell at the screen, and takes every built-in senseless implausibility these movies provide and wraps them all up in a larger, even more implausible explanation. It’s both a send-up and love letter to a genre that’s had its share of both, but this one is done with true ingenuity, wicked humor, and the sharp, semi-self-aware writing that only Joss Whedon can provide. And, as a writer, I enjoyed seeing it pick apart each and every detail of the Dead Teenager Movie formula and prop them all back up again.

In short, I loved this movie, from the opening shot to the big reveal at the end. It was respectful of its audience and hilarious to boot.

k

Read Full Post »

I have often said, “Every book has its own lesson to teach, even the bad ones.”

Okay…now you’re looking off to the right and seeing the cover for the latest Richard Castle book and you’re thinking…”Oooh, guess he didn’t like that one.”

Wrong.

I liked it fine. It’s a tie-in, meta-reality, police procedural mystery, and as such, it worked just fine. It’s not high art or lasting literature, but it’s a fun read, and filled with all the little “Castle” and “Firefly” jokes that come from this clever and, dare I say, unique confluence of reality and fiction.

However, it wasn’t perfect, and through its imperfections, I learned something as a writer.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Obey the Kitty!I’ve spent some time on this blog bemoaning the flaws and poor implementations of Agile methodologies so, to be fair, this isn’t about that. I cannot blame Agile for the problems currently weighing on me at my Monkey-Boy-Day-Job. These problems go much deeper. It doesn’t matter what methodology you’re using; you can’t fix stupid.

Like most people, I want to succeed at my job. I want to do well and contribute to good outcomes. I really hate being set up to fail. But management-types don’t seem to grok that concept. So they do things like this:

  1. Create a situation wherein you need to do six months of work in six weeks.
  2. Ensure that the situation requires something you haven’t done before.
  3. Set people to work on it, but
    • Don’t give them details about what it is you want.
    • Pick people who don’t know the systems involved.
  4. Once underway, dribble in new and changed requirements.
  5. See what happens.

To quote Jayne Cobb, ” Where’s that get fun?”

k

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: