Firefly: Life Signs by James Lovegrove, Narrated by James Anderson Foster

With Life Signs, James Lovegrove addresses one of the well-known–though never overtly stated–elements of the Firefly narrative. Had the show been allowed to flourish–beyond the abbreviated single season–it would have become a plot point that Inara was dying before she’d ever joined the crew of Serenity. There were hints and allusions in the existing episodes, setting the stage for that revelation, but Firefly didn’t have sufficient time to delve into the assorted elements it was establishing.
When it came time to create Serenity as a follow-up to the series, the fat had to be trimmed, to make a story that would appeal to both the disaffected fans of the original series as well as a new audience not already immersed in what had come before. There was no time to dig into the more obscure details that only the most die-hard fans were aching to see as the filmmakers’ focus. Thus, a whole narrative thread was snipped and allowed to drift away like a leaf on the wind.
Thanks to a team of writers who never stopped fleshing out the world of The Verse, there have been graphic novels as well as these supplemental novels providing us with answers to questions we had as well as some we’d never thought to ask.
This book, more than the other four, satisfies the Firefly fan by addressing Inara’s sickness. It also provides a much-desired glimpse into the story that was taking place between the conclusion of Firefly and the opening scenes of Serenity.
Because this story relies on the reader having been previously introduced to characters who weren’t set up during the television series, it makes sense that Life Signs is the fifth of these releases.
Learning of Inara’s terminal cancer, Mal is desperate to find some way to restore the woman he loves to good health. The knowledge that there is a scientist who might have developed a cure sends Mal and the crew of Serenity on a trajectory that leads to a distant, frozen prison planet where The Alliance deposits only those they most want out of sight and out of mind.
In the frigid wastes of Atata, the crew faces impossible odds as Mal’s desperation to save Inara endangers everyone. Alliance forces, dangerous inmates, mutated predators brought about by failed terraforming, and an environment unsuitable for human life might be less hazardous than the quixotic pursuit Mal leads Zoe, Jane, and Simon on as he drives them toward unknown dangers.
As with all of the previous installments in this series, James Anderson Foster does a superb job of bringing the characters to life with his expert narration.

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