Steven Brust’s My Own Kind of Freedom: A Firefly Novel

11110903My Own Kind of Freedom was written by Brust in hopes that the corporation that was producing the series would be interested in buying it for development. That didn’t happen and Brust very nicely released this under, and I quote, ‘“Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. This means you are free to share (copy, distribute, display, and perform) this book as long as you leave the attribution (author credit) intact, make no modifications, and do not profit from its distribution.’

Other than the novelisation of the movie, Serenity, I find no indication that any other novel was written, certainly nothing by anyone as stellar as Brust. Oh there’s lots of fanfic out there of varying degrees of craft. If what I read online is to be trusted, it’s set after the series and before the film as Book and Inara are not present. I just recently rewatched the series pilot called Serenity so the characters and particularly voices were fresh in my minds eye.

The plot starts off in typical Firefly fashion as they’ve landed on a world to deliver and pick up cargo in the usual complicated manner that their plots run. But for some reason, Mal is definitely both more grumpy and less trusting of the situation which is saying a lot. Brust starts off the novel this way:

“THOSE WHO appreciate ginseng—either for its supposed medicinal qualities, or for its distinctive flavor—are willing to pay inordinately high prices for it.

In the Southern Hemisphere of Paquin, about eighty kilometers east of the Scar (in the high foothills of the Napala chain) is a long, meandering forest called Runaround, full of oaks and sugar maples. It is the best place in the ’verse to find—or grow—the herb called panax, red berry, tartar root, and ginseng. It’s a plant that is absurdly easy to grow, given the right climate and soil: you cut a furrow in the autumn, drop in the seeds, pack them down, and spend the next five years tapping maple trees and shooting at poachers.

In addition to being the economic base of the region, Ginseng is the name of the biggest town, with a population of almost nine thousand, if you include the nearby rooters. The town has an effective sewage system, clean water, several paved roads, dozens of permanent buildings, and, temporarily, just past the smokehouse, it had a Firefly-class transport, hunkered down in a clear field like something that pounces waiting to pounce.
Brust actually does a better job of depicting a world than the series does which frankly is one of his stellar strengths as a writer. Ginseng is a superb product for interstellar trade as its hard to farm without the perfect conditions, is different in every terroir (local region), and can be fantastically costly.

The story is told in short seventeen chapters in just under two hundred pages. It’s just about two hours reading time presuming you’re a fan of the series as you’ll do what I did and read the narrative with the voices of the characters in your head. Brust really knows and has great affection for the all of the Firefly characters as his writing of them rings quite true.

No, I’m not telling you the plot as that’d be spoiling your fun if you’re a Firefly fan and haven’t heard of this which I admit is unlikely. A better question is if fans of science fiction in general would want to read this. Oh yes. It’s a wonderfully crafted sf novel that shows Brust at his best and Firefly at its best as well.

You can visit the website of Brust for a copy. Needless to say I highly recommend that you should acquaint yourself with the myriad novels of Brust as they are quite superb.

( Self-published, 2007)

About Cat Eldridge

I’m the publisher of Green Man Review and Sleeping Hedgehog.

My current reading is the Wylding Hall novella by Elizabeth Hand, Simon R. Green’s Night Fall, and listening to Rita Mae Brown’s Crazy As A Fox.

I’m listening to a whole bunch of new Celtic and Nordic new releases but I’ll dip in my music collection for such artists as Blowzabella, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, and Frifot as the weather stays nasty.