Tim Lebbon



281pp/$24.95/November 2020

Cover by Natasha MacKenzie

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Tim Lebbon's Generations is the fourth original Firefly novel based on Joss Whedon's short-lived television series and the first of the novels not written by James Lovegrove. Set between the events of the final Firefly episode, "Objects in Space" and the film Serenity, it takes most of the crew to the far reaches of the system to explore a derelict spacecraft after Mal wins a strange map in a card game.

The two major settings used throughout the television series are in space and planets with a Western feel to them. Lebbon includes both of these settings, opening the novel with a visit by Serenity's crew to Golden's Bane where Mal allows himself to get talked into a card game in order to keep Jayne from raising a ruckus. At the end of the game, he finds himself with an ancient map that has passed from hand to hand and which nobody can decipher. Although one of the other players hadn't shown any interest in the map, as soon as Mal won it, she decided it was of utmost importance. Lebbon proceeds to undercut many of the expectations he has set up about the map and the situation in the best possible way before River not only announces that she can guide them to the map's destination, but also that it is imperative that the crew travel there.

In the film Serenity, Joss Whedon created a situation in which two of the characters, Inara and Book, are no longer on board the ship. Although Lebbon could easily have set his story after their departure from the ship and before the events of the movie, he instead sets it before their permanent departure, however he does jettison both characters early in the novel, with Inara flying off to an assignation and taking Book with her on a mission to sell some ancient books he had recovered. This allows him the opportunity to right for those characters, but also focus more closely on the remaining characters. His focus on those characters pays off, demonstrating an understanding of who those characters are and how they speak that has been missing from the earlier novels in the series.

River's guidance takes them to an apparently derelict ship at the outer rim of the system, but it is one of the generation ships that brought humanity from Earth-That-Was to their new home. While Simon, River, and Wash stay on Serenity, Mal, Zoe, Jayne, and Kaylee explore the derelict to find what River was so excited about and to see what the could retrieve to allow the journey to pay for itself, or perhaps even provide them with a profit. However, things go awry with the discovery of Silas aboard the ship. Prior to being placed on the ship by the Alliance, Silas was able to release a map to his whereabouts into the 'verse, which eventually led River and the rest of Serenity's crew to him.

The exploration of the derelict ship feels cinematic in many ways, recalling scenes from the movies 2010 and Alien, with a pace that builds at Serenity's crew discovers more and more of the secrets that await on the ship and eventually must also deal with the possibility of an appearance by the Alliance to figure out who has accessed the supposed derelict. Lebbon's book very much captures the feel of an episode of Firefly and brings in familiar elements with an interesting twist that makes the universe feel both smaller and larger at the same time.

Even moreso that the earlier novels, Serenity flies again in Generations, capturing the spirit of Whedon's television series as well as the specifics of the characters who came to life in those episodes. If Lebbon chose to focus on fewer characters to flesh them out more, that is a welcome decision, even if it means that some characters are practically absent and some of the characters who do appear, notably Zoe and Simon, seem to be given short shrift. With luck, Lebbon will return to Whedon's 'verse for another foray into the black.

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