Thursday, May 01, 2008

Review of My Own Kind of Freedom by Steven Brust

I adore the FOX SF series Firefly. I found it refreshing and unique in its approach and voice. Where Gene Roddenberry tried to make "wagon train in space," and came up with something special but different, Joss Wheadon truly hit the mark with "the Wild West in space" with all its raw energy, unsanitized morality and excellent combination of genres. It quickly gained critical acclaim and an incredibly faithful fan base.

Sadly, FOX didn't see things the way reviewers and fans did, and they canceled the series after 13 short episodes. Of course, as with any good show, you can't totally kill it, and Firefly lives on in fanfict.

Thus comes Steven Brust's novel, My Own Kind of Freedom. Even the title is distinctively Firefly--and he lives up to the expectations it sets.
The crew of Serenity actually has a legal mission for once--delivering a load of lumber to a rich landowner on Hera names Sakaya. The planet, home of Serenity Ridge, where Mal and Zoe fought the fateful battle where the Browncoats at last lost the war, brings back unwelcome memories, but all they have to do is unload, get paid, buy a grav boot and go. Of course, nothing is easy for this crew.

Jayne gets caught stealing from one of their contacts and leaves the crew in a huff after refusing to return the merchandise. Naturally, his next step is to contact the Alliance and arrange to sell out River and Simon Tam. However, doing so interrupts a major sting operation the Alliance had planned on Sakaya, as the agent has to drop his work to meet Jayne. This suspicious behavior tips off Sakaya, who sends out hit men. Mal and Zoe immediately catch on to the hit men's intentions and step in. Too bad they didn't know the intended victim was an Alliance agent before they thwarted their plan. But when Kaylee sees the terrible condition of the people under Sakaya's thumb and Jayne gets arrested for drunk and disorderly and instead of bail gets indentured servitude as punishment, Mal and the crew find themselves helping the Alliance to bring Sakaya down. And if that weren't enough trouble, it turns out Sakaya is actually the Colonel who mentored Mal in his military career, pitting Mal's old loyalties against his own kind of morality.

All the fun you loved in Firefly, you'll find in My Own Kind of Freedom. The ironic humor, the general banter, the crazy antics, even the mix of Chinese and English--it's all there.

Steven has the characterization and dialog dead-to-rights. My favorites were Walsh and River. Not only did he get River's disjointed but perfectly sensical monologs correct, but he came up with very believable thought-processes to go with it. When you're dealing with a psychic driven insane by brain manipulation as well as the horrible secrets in her beyond-brilliant mind, that's an accomplishment. Walsh has his own unique brilliance and way of communicating, and Steven caught this too: an entire page of Walsh's thoughts as he flew Serenity into the planet's atmosphere, about the difficulty, the challenge, the glory, the complete lack of appreciation by the rest of the crew. Yet when Mal asks how entry went? "It's an entry. They're all the same."

Steven fills it with the same great action and humorous situations fans loved with Firefly--from Jayne's jail cell fiasco to Zoe breaking orders to follow Mal back planetside while everyone else on Serenity breaks orders to follow her to River learning to fly the shuttle after reading the manual for 45 minutes. (It took that long because there were mistakes.) In addition, he had great touches with memories of the Mal's relationship with Sakaya (Then Colonel Bursa), Jayne's clueless inner dialogue, even the chapter titles: My Own Kind of Past, My Own Kind of Clever. Yes, Steven's certain applied his own kind of clever to my favorite show.

Hope he has more missions in mind for the crew of Serenity.

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