Review by C.J. Bunce

Despite its single season, despite the series going off the air 15 years ago this month, Firefly fans eagerly await the latest access to Malcolm Reynolds and his crew, and know that something new is always around the corner.  That’s because Joss Whedon and the licensees of Firefly continue to oblige, producing some of the best offerings of any fandom.  Whether it’s the Loot Crate Cargo Crate, or Firefly games, or the incredible variety of in-universe and making-of books available, Firefly is at the top of its game for providing new ways to keep the fans excited for their show.  That quality content continues this month with the release of The Serenity Handbook: The Official Crew Member’s Guide to the Firefly-Class Series 3 Ship, by Marc Sumerak.  A bit like The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual and the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Tech Manual in its hardcover presentation, design, and style, The Serenity Handbook is a new close-up look at the inner workings of Serenity for your favorite Browncoat.  It’s also the first in-universe book for Firefly and Serenity (keep reading borg.com later this month for a first look at the next in-universe book for the series and film).

This is an in-universe guide to the famous Firefly class ship, complete with graphics, schematics, and ship features, with margin notes from the Serenity crew, pointing to the ship’s quirks and best features, and contrasting the ship with other vessels.  Its best feature?  The volume of photographs, which seem like production continuity photographs of the set and props from the series re-purposed to become part of the reality of the show’s story thanks to inclusion in this Handbook.  So readers will find views they haven’t seen before of the ship’s bridge section, control panels and switches, the armory, the cargo hold, the galley and common areas, the infirmary and crew quarters, plus views of those vents, pipes, tubing, and display screens that make the ship feel so real.  The photographs look very much like the Polaroids that crew members of any production take on-set, as opposed to the usual screenshot you might find in a book like this (a feature I also loved in Princess Bride: A Celebration).  Set decorators use these images behind the scenes to ensure everything stays in the same place from take to take.  Since they were practical shots, they weren’t intended to be reproduced or seen by anyone else, so they are perfect for a book like this.

Sumerak’s writing in The Serenity Handbook takes this all a step further, creating a conversation between each crew member and the reader, much like a tour, as when Shepherd Book was first brought onto the ship.  All the commentary is true to the personalities on the ship, especially for ship mechanic Kaylee, who you would expect to have a key role in this book.  Many new or reproduced in-universe elements are peppered throughout, like brochures advertising the Series 3 class ships, a ship bill of sale for Serenity, maps, and a mock-up of Wash’s pilot’s license and flight school scorecard.  The ship diagrams provide the sort of detail that Star Trek fans have enjoyed over the years from concept artist Rick Sternbach–each similarly poster worthy.

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