Carnival (Firefly #6) by Una McCormack
Titan, pb, £8.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
It should be an easy, honest job for Serenity’s crew. All they have to do is guard an expensive shipment while the local law enforcers are busy with the Carnival, three days of decadence, drinking and dancing. But when the load is stolen, the cargo’s owner holds Zoë and Book as ransom. Either Mal pays the cost of the lost cargo, or his crew members will be killed. It seems an impossible task, but the crew are talented and resourceful, and the Carnival provides them with the perfect opportunity to rescue their friends. However, Zoë and Book are not for sitting around, and in their escape, they uncover the truth about the lost shipment…
There is only one word to describe Una McCormack’s Carnival; shiny. It’s perfect. McCormack captures the ‘verse so completely that reading Carnival is like watching a lost episode. Everything from the set-up and location to the crew’s bickering and Mal’s inevitable foot-stamping when things go out of his control is exactly what I’d expect if I was watching the series.
There is a scene about a third of the way through where Mal is planning how they will steal back the cargo while Wash is panicking about Zoë having her ears cut off, and Jayne is offering to shoot everyone and anyone. It’s chaotic and builds until Mal almost explodes, then Simon sideswipes him with a much better plan than anyone else had come up with. I could hear their voices, see their rage and fear, feel their relief that at least someone was doing something. I know I’m repeating myself, but it was perfect.
Another element I appreciated was how every crew member had a part to play. No one is left sitting in the ship waiting for the others, even Zoë and Book have their own plans, and each element is crucial to the plan’s overall success. The story-telling is so tight that although it may seem like the characters are going at a tangent, they’re not and ultimately contribute to moving events forward.
There are references to past occurrences, both the series and tie-in books, that won’t make complete sense unless you have a basic grasp of the ‘verse. That said, this is a brilliant entry point for dipping your toe in and then exploring more if you love it.
In short, Carnival is a masterclass in planning, pacing and tone, and a must for any fan of the series. And on a personal note, I was so blown away with the quality of McCormack’s work that I’m hunting down her Star Trek books and am hoping she’ll do more in the Firefly ‘verse.