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REVIEW: Finding Serenity

REVIEW SUMMARY: An Firefly love-in that any true fan will love. Otherwise, I think you’d best give this one a pass.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Anthology of 21 essays examining the cult (and canceled) TV series Firefly.

PROS: Some very intelligent writing and analysis and some well-done humor.
CONS: ‘Celebrity editor’ a distraction, all essays aren’t held to the same standards,
BOTTOM LINE: Fans of the series will love it – all others should probably skip it.

SF Signal is made up of many affirmed Firefly fanboys (of which I am one!) and so I was very much looking forward to reading this book. It was a blast to remember the episodes while reading the essays and getting a good view of how others felt about the series. It is unfortunate the book wasn’t held to a high standard throughout.

The best essays are by authors David Gerrold, John C Wright, Keith RA Candido, and Lyle Zynda – I really enjoyed getting to read all these different viewpoints in one text.

There are some weaker entries here to be sure – the treatise on Chinese in the series for example because it doesn’t have much in the way of analysis, but reads more like an internet post. There are also one too many essays about the women of of the show. I’m often pointing out how few strong female characters there are on TV – so I loved Firefly for that – but it was a mistake to include so many essays on that one topic. Certainly there are more things to write about than that?

The essay by Lyle Zynda commenting on the episode “Objects in Space” was the highlight for me. I really enjoyed reading about how clearly Whedon imbued his story with existentialist views and contrasted them between River and Early. I wish there had been more essays that discussed the influences on the episodes.

The worst part of the book isn’t an essay at all, but the amateur commentary by ‘celebrity editor’ Jane Espenson. The publishers must have decided that fans would give the book more credibility if a writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly was an editor. Jane might be able to write good TV but it is clear she’s forgotten how to write the written word rather than the spoken. Her writing is far too colloquial and very often inane. It often feels arrogant and immature to me (by way of example, see her notes on the essay’s by John C Wright and Jewel Staite.) In fact, her commentary reads like a collection of blog entries or forum posts – heaven help us if that is what is going into books of the future. Call me old fashion, but I prefer my anthology editors comments to offer insight into the authors, maybe tell the story of the way the particular entry was selected, and of course take a firm hand to ensure the entries all live up to a certain standard.

[Note, I suspect that the book is really edited by Glenn Yeffeth (credited inside the book, but not on the cover) and while I certainly think s/he should have held out for some higher quality essays, the book is overall edited well.]

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