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Can’t Stop the Signal: A Review of Big Damn Hero from Titan Books

The crew of Serenity is back in league with the cockney crook Badger as they take onboard highly volatile mining chemicals which’ll go boom with the slightest jarring…or if they aren’t delivered quickly enough.

Trouble is that Captain Tight Pants himself turns up missing; and on Alliance Day no less – a small scale Unification Day celebration on the planet Persephone. And to make things even weirder, rumor has it that the Browncoats might be responsible…

The crew is torn between fleeing from the hailing Alliance patrol cruiser, delivering their explosive payload before said boom (made all the more tense by River’s insistence that the chemicals are “dancing” faster and faster; she speaks to them, of course), and allegiance to their lost Captain.

You’ll get a bar fight, a daring infiltration and rescue or two, some fancy flyin’, some quick thinkin’, that witticism we love, and more of Jayne’s wonderful knit cap and affection for Vera.

A Return to the Best ‘Verse There Is

Big Damn Hero is the first original novel to breathe new life into the much loved and much missed Firefly ‘verse and characters – although the comic medium has served the property well for years. It is, as best I can tell, a canonical offering as it makes several references to the happenings of the show. It definitely takes place before the happenings of the movie Serenity, but after “The Message;” an unaired episode in which Jayne receives his iconic hat. So this could well pick up right where the series itself left off!

And it features Joss Whedon himself as a consulting editor.


The most amazing part of Big Damn Hero is the fact that it reads and feels exactly like an episode of the show. That is a tremendous credit to the creative team behind this title. Here’s how they did it:

Firefly: The Pacing of a Television Show

Big Damn Hero wastes no time. It practically assumes you’re familiar with the crew, for sure; although there are little qualifying details scattered about in the event that you’re not. What I’m getting as is that there is no origin story or prolonged set up in the book. It hits the ground running.

Much like the show, the inciting incident that sets the stage for the rest of the narrative happens very quickly (by the end of the fourth chapter). Also like the show, the denouement is there, but it is relatively brief.

It feels very episodic, which again is in keeping with the formula we saw in Firefly. There is no cliff hanger leaving you desperate for the next book in the series (oh, yeah…there is going to be a series of these books!). But that is not to say you won’t long for that next adventure with the crew – that would be The Magnificent Nine which is due out later this month, but can be preordered here!

Firefly Books: Narrative Voice

The book’s third person omniscient narration is colored with the quirky language of the characters themselves – complete with the Chinese swearing! This gives every word that little bit of extra flavor that every fan will totally dig.

This also permits the reader to take a spin as each of the characters in turn, and every member of the crew is given that kind of attention throughout. You rattle around the brainpans of them all at some point during the narrative’s progress. No character is left out, although Zoe, Mal, and Shepherd get the lion’s share of narrative attention.

Firefly Books: Character Integrity

In the world of comics, sometimes you fear your beloved character falling into the “wrong” creator’s hands. You’ve seen it go horribly, horribly wrong as things get retconned or some element gets tweaked a bit and you feel it is a gross violation of that character’s very being.

Fear not! Big Damn Hero presents every last occupant of our favorite Firefly class spaceship exactly as we know and love them. Characterizations, chemistry, and interactions are spot on, and what’s more: A couple of them receive some new backstory development that grant new insight into who they are and why (or raise all new questions, as with Book!).

Mal’s flashback chapters are among my favorite material from the book, easily. I’d 1000% watch that show, by the way, if there are any TV execs among our readers. Forget Young Sheldon and bring me Young Mal and the Four Amigos. Like, yesterday.

Firefly Books: It Feels Like Home

Big Damn Hero absolutely nails it across the board for me. I still can’t get over how much it feels like the show. It brings back all of the familiar and beloved while adding in dashes of the new and unknown. This Firefly book is a no brainer buy for fans of the franchise.

We’ve been clamoring for years for the return of Firefly. That return is upon us, albeit in a different format than we might have hoped. But if Big Damn Hero is any indication of what the series will hold going forward, the books are far from a subpar substitute for the show.

You can grab a copy of Big Damn Hero from Amazon here, and keep a sharp eye out for future installments…as well as for Alliance cruisers and Reavers, of course.

[Disclosure: Nerds on Earth received a review copy of Big Damn Hero from Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.]

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