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Book Review: Firefly: Still Flying: A Celebration of Joss Whedon’s Acclaimed TV Series by Joss Whedon

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Joss Whedon's Firefly is a show that refuses to die. Despite the fact that FOX aired only 11 episodes back in 2002, the series has won the hearts of fans across the world. Sadly, there were not enough of these so-called Browncoats to make the big screen follow-up Serenity a box office success. Thankfully, though, there are enough to convince some companies to keep the show alive in other media.

The aptly titled book Firefly: Still Flying is testimony to that. Recently released by Titan Books, this 160-page volume is an addition to that publisher's existing Firefly library. Titan has previously issued two Official Companions to the series. Firefly: Still Flying is a worthy follow up to those excellent publications.

Like the Official Companions, Still Flying is a large format, full colour book printed on glossy paper. It has photographs, sketches or other artwork on every page and largely consists of behind-the-scenes material and contributions from the cast and crew.

You might think that after two books there wouldn't be much more to say about a series that didn't even air a full season. That may be true as far as the cast and characters are concerned. The sections in Still Flying for each of the regulars consist mostly of short quotes taken from elsewhere. These are entertaining but insubstantial. There is plenty of in-depth behind-the-scenes material elsewhere, though. Topics include script writing, props, costumes, stunts, fans and designing the series' spaceships. There is also plenty of anecdotal material from production personnel. Several pieces have a humorous tone to them, including an article on the kidnapping of an orange monkey beloved by propmaster Skip Crank. It is an amusing diversion from the more conventional content.

The non-fiction articles are supplemented by four short pieces of fiction. These are likely to be of greatest interest to fans of the series because the writers — Jane Espenson, Brett Matthews, Jose Molina and Ben Edlund — all contributed to the show and are well respected in genre television. Espenson wrote the Firefly episode 'Shindig' and has also worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Battlestar Galactica and its prequel Caprica. Matthews penned 'Heart of Gold' for Firefly and co-write two graphic novels with Whedon based on the series. Jose Molina was executive story editor on Firefly, wrote the episode 'Ariel' and co-wrote the episode 'Trash' with Ben Edlund. Molina has also contributed to the crime procedurals Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Without a Trace and Castle (which stars Firefly's Nathan Fillion). Aside from contributing to 'Trash', Edlund wrote the episode 'Jaynestown' and has worked on Angel and the CW's Supernatural.

The stories by Espenson, Matthews and Molina are between five and seven pages long. Espenson's story, 'What Holds Us Down', is a suspenseful tale focusing on the characters of Kaylee and Wash (played in the series by Jewel Staite and Alan Tudyk). 'Take the Sky', by Molina, is a touching tribute to Fillion's character, Malcolm Reynolds, with a neat twist. Matthews' 'Crystal' has some touching moments but I found it to be the least interesting by virtue of it being based on a familiar idea (River has premonitions of the deaths of each of the Serenity's crew members). Edlund's contribution, 'Fun with Dick and Jayne', is a bit different from the others. It's not a story as much as a vignette in the form of a two frame comic strip across two full pages. One of the images is somewhat violent and you might want to consider this if you are thinking of buying this book for a child.

Firefly: Still Flying maintains Titan's high standards for film and TV tie-ins. Intended as a celebration of Joss Whedon's creation, it is a fine complement to the show and to Titan's Firefly Companions. If the content is within your sphere of interest, I highly recommended this book.

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