Ah, Firefly. The greatest tragedy in the history of American television. Lasting less than a single season, this cult classic has left a hole in my heart that can never be filled. And believe me, I’ve tried. I watched Serenity (and felt the hole expand three times over), read the comics, if it had Firefly on it, I was there for it. But as the years went on, I slowly came to accept that this series was finally gone.
Then I found this book while scrolling through Audible and the process started all over again.
Firefly: Big Damn Hero isn’t the most incredible book I’ve ever read. In fact, I’d say it’s decent at best, mediocre at worst. But it managed something that very few Firefly products beyond the show could manage: it captured the spirit that made the series so wonderful in the first place.
The story begins on Alliance Day, a big holiday sponsored by our tyrannical overlords. Mal and the gang decide to take on two jobs at once. One, delivering highly volatile and explosive materials for Badger. The other, an unknown job from a man named Hunter Covington. The ladder turns out to be a trap, resulting in Mal getting kidnapped. Now, the rest of the crew must juggle trying to find their leader without getting caught or letting their ship explode. All the while, Mal faces a ghost from his past.
Let’s get all the criticisms out of the way. First off: some of the dialogue here is pretty bad. There are a few diamonds in the rough, but most of it is very stiff and awkward. It certainly doesn’t help that some sentences go on for far longer than they should.
Second: the plot is needlessly complicated. Between the half-a-dozen mysteries and twists and reveals, it can be hard to keep track of what is happening and why. It all comes together in the end, but the journey to that conclusion is far from a clean one.
Not to mention that the ending itself leaves a bit to be desired. It’s just ‘and then they went back to the status quo’. Mal doesn’t grow or change, none of the other crew members get any closer with one-another, nothing about the dynamic shifts in any way. You can tell that the writer was afraid to interfere with the canon established in the show, so they played it too safe.
They do realize that there pretty much isn’t a canon, right? There’s so little show to interfere with that you can basically do what you want.
Alright, now onto the stuff I liked. For one: all of the characters are captured perfectly in this story. They don’t feel like the author’s interpretations; if you translated this book to the screen, they’d feel exactly like they would in the rest of the show. Jane is still the lovable meathead, Zoey the badass with a silver tongue, Kaylee the bubbly engineer, River the brilliant and insane, Mal the captain who has no idea what he’s actually doing, so on and so forth. These characters, and the group dynamic between them, is so true to the show that I genuinely forgot that this was separate from that.
It also touches on some interesting points in the setting’s history, particularly with the Brown Coats. How did the Brown Coats come together? How do people view them now that the war is over? What have the other surviving Brown Coats been up to? How did Mal end up joining them in the first place? It’s interesting to see something that was so unknown in the original show get more thoroughly explored here.
This book isn’t some masterpiece. And it isn’t going to bring the show back. But it managed to capture the spirit of Firefly in a way that few other things have done. So, if you’re a fan of the show and you still miss it to this day, give this one a shot. If not, then you may want to find another bit of sci-fi.