Firefly: Big Damn Hero
© 2018 Nancy Holder and James Lovegrove
“Well, look-at-this! Seems we got here just in the nick of time. What does that make us?”
“Big damn heroes, sir.”
“Ain’t we just?”
I am a patient miser who almost never buys books new, preferring to wait until used copies hit the market. But when I learned that there was a Firefly novel scheduled for release, I preordered and didn’t blink. Set during the run of the show, Big Damn Hero delivers as close as we’ll get to another episode of the shiniest show that ever ran. At its opening, Mal Reynolds and the good ship Serenity are looking for work, trying to recover their reputation after the Niska disaster, and necessity compels them to take a questionable payload of explosives from the even-more questionable person of Badger. Mal’s been asked to see a local businessman about a smaller delivery he can handle on the way, but something goes awry: emerging from an epic bar fight, Zoe and Jayne quickly realized the captain’s been kidnapped. With destabilizing explosives in the hold, and Mal in the hands of parties unknown, Zoe and the whole Serenity gang have to work double time to figure out what’s gone awry before matters get worse.
Big Damn Hero offers a fast-moving plot (a two-day story) and all the flavor of the show that Browncoats should enjoy; Holder and Lovegrove have a good ear for the show’s peculiar mix of frontier drawls peppered with Chinese expressions, and none of the characters from the ship are overlooked in contributing to the resolution: it’s very much an all-hands on deck kind of story, bringing even Book and Inara into the thick of things. The show’s humor runs throughout, from Mal’s verbal harrying of his captors, to Zoe and Wash’s playful banter and Jayne’s mix of wiles and tactlessness. River is…well, River, playing a flute to calm the explosives down and providing just the right amount of insight to get the team out of tight corners. There are plenty, too; with so many members of the crew separated in the search for answers. Zoe, never a weak character — never — is in fine form hre, hobbling round town on a fractured leg, keeping the crew focused despite River’s episodes and Jayne’s fits and Kaylee’s near panic at the idea of leaving the captain behind. The only fly in the ointment is the questionable backstory about the Alliance and the Independents, as the settling of this system is portrayed simplistically with rich people buying the core planets and leaving the poor people to the frontier planets, and then there being some confusion about the independents “seceding” from the Union…which they were not part of to begin with. That’s relatively minor, though, perhaps on the scale of arguing about Klingon head makeup.
Big Damn Hero will find an audience, I think, not just because it’s a new story in a beloved franchise, but because it also adds to that Firefly universe by fleshing out Mal’s past and the people he loved and fought by. I enjoyed it thoroughly and hope this series keeps flying.