by Keith R.A. DeCandido



260pp/$6.99/September 2005


Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Serenity is Keith R.A. DeCandido’s novelization of Joss Whedon’s film of the same name.  While remaining extremely close to the film’s script, however, DeCandido does bring in additional information about characters and the universe which weren’t included in the film.

The novel opens with a depiction of the Battle of Serenity Valley, as shown in the original pilot to the television show “Firefly.”  This introduces us to two of the main characters, Serenity’s captain Mal Reynolds and his second in command, Zoë Alleyne.  DeCandido then presents the backstory of Simon and River Tam, two fugitives who have joined Serenity’s crew.  As with the opening sequence, much of the details here also come from flashbacks from the television series.

The plot revolves around an unnamed Operative of the Alliance, the group which won the war depicted in the Battle of Serenity Valley.  He has been given the assignment to track down River and Simon, an assignment which puts him in direct conflict with Mal, who has begrudgingly taken on the role of their protector.  Along the way, the crew of the Serenity discovers the answer to a variety of mysteries posed along the way, both about the nature of the Alliance and they want River so badly.

The leisure of the novel allows DeCandido to provide more background information and motivation for his characters than is allowable in the film it is based on.  Much of this is taken from a variety of episodes of “Firefly,” while other portions, such as the background on Mr. Universe, is original to the novel. 

In addition, DeCandido moves between various characters, both major and minor to present the point of view.  This permits him to delve more deeply into each of those characters and give a different perspective on the actions of others, perhaps most notably the way the Operative is viewed, not just by the main characters, but by minor characters as well.

Serenity is a blend of humor and traditional space opera.  The crew of the spaceship move from one tight situation to another, building to a wonderful climax which seems just a bit hurried in the novel.  While the crew's attitude changes throughout the novel to fit the situations, the novel itself never devolves into the horror genre some of the events could have called for.

DeCandido has managed to incorporate the style of Joss Whedon’s witty dialogue into his descriptive passages as well, to give Serenity a complete feel, rather than the sensation that the description was written by one author and the dialogue by another.  This not only makes the novel read smoothly, it also makes the expository passages extremely enjoyable.

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