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Finding Serenity, edited by Jane Espensen
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Benbella
Published: 2005
Review Posted: 6/26/2005
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10

Finding Serenity, edited by Jane Espensen

Book Review by Fraser Ronald

Have you read this book?

Let's get one thing straight, I'm a "Firefly" fan. Not as in the word from which that term derives—fanatic—but certainly an admirer, follower and viewer multiple times of the DVD set. I had to get past my distaste of the folksy dialogue to become a fan (Corpsified? Come on, corpsified?), but beneath that western hick dialect was deep characterization and scorching dialogue.

Finding Serenity is a collection of essays about that much-lamented late TV show that is about to become the highly anticipated event movie of my year. Some of them are humorous and others are extremely serious, but all of them are interesting. I devoured the book over the last long weekend, though it took me about a month to actually get my thoughts down through the keyboard. As I finished each essay, I paused, thought about the ideas presented, but then got dragged into another essay, with more thoughts, more opinions and another view of the show.

If you are just waiting for a thumbs up, thumbs down thing, you can stop reading now. Definite thumbs up. If you are a fan of the show, get it. If you are not a fan of the show or have not watched it, first WATCH IT. Seriously, if you love speculative fiction and if you have any knowledge of that box people tend to have in their living rooms with moving pictures on it, get the DVD set and watch it. All of it. Quickly. Then get this book.

I can guarantee you that you will not agree with every essay, but that disagreement is likely to come in a considered, thoughtful manner. Even the essays that I deem absolute rubbish are presented in an erudite manner, well-written and easily digested. Because these are not scholarly essays per se, they escape the over structured, false neutrality of that particular type of writing while maintaining—for the most part—the rigorous need for proof and specifics rather than generalities.

And those essays that stray completely from the serious essay mode are completely priceless, like "Mirror/Mirror: A Parody" by Roxanne Longstreet Conrad—which compares the crews of Serenity and the Archer Enterprise—and "The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Firefly" by Glenn Yeffeth—which is comprised solely of false memos from a TV executive named Early "Nutcrusher" Jubal. This is some amusing writing that still makes a point. Ms. Conrad is absolutely correct in pointing out the immediacy of the morally flexible crew of Serenity as opposed to the distance of the ramrod straight Enterprise crew. Mr. Yeffeth is frighteningly spot-on as regards the short-sightedness of many a TV exec.

Two of my favourite essays were "Serenity and Bobby McGee: Freedom and the Illusion of Freedom in Joss Whedon's Firefly" by Mercedes Lackey and "The Heirs of Sawney Beane" by Lawrence Watt-Evans. "Serenity and Bobby McGee" is insightful and deep. It is one of those critical essays that seem to draw more out of a source than I believe any writer could have possibly, consciously put into it. I had never considered the dynamics of freedom in the story, accepting that the crew were "beholden to none." Now, I'm not so sure. "The Heirs of Sawney Beane" looks at an Earthly legend very similar to the Reavers and why such legends persist. It also made me rethink something I had accepted at face value. What are the Reavers, truly? Who are they? Perhaps the answer is forthcoming.

Now, I'm not going to name names, but there were a couple of essays that made me think the writer was trying too hard to look smart. The read was enjoyable, and it may have just been my natural contrariness, but the essays sounded too much like an individual with a little knowledge trying to inflate it to impress. Still, part of the fun was poking holes in the logic and assumptions. And the thing is, the essays I considered transparent may be the essays another individual finds the most illuminating. That's the way of opinions.

So, I have to recommend this book almost as strongly as I recommend "Firefly" itself. While more for ardent fans of the show, anyone who watched the program and thought "That's interesting," will likely find the show that much more interesting after a read.

And I don't have a favourite character. Sometimes it's Wash, sometimes it's Jayne. What does that say about me?
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