(Update: Shortly after this review was originally posted we received an email from Insight Editions with a message from the book’s editor regarding the issue of Mal’s and Zoe’s rank in the Independent Army. Here’s the explanation we received:
“In most of the flashback sequences and supplementary material, we know that Mal and Zoe were officially ranked as Sergeant and Corporal respectively during the Unification War. According to the movie, Serenity, however, Mal’s rank is listed as “Captain, Independent Army” (as seen on the Alliance files shown on the Operative’s screen at 36:38.) The “Criminal Record” on Page 9 directly reflects the Alliance’s files on Mal as shown on-screen.
From what I could piece together, this discrepancy in title was likely due to an unofficial battlefield promotion earned in the thick of it all during the Battle of Serenity Valley, when many of Mal’s superior officers were killed and he had to rise through the ranks and take command of around 2,000 troops. The promotion was one that would never be officially reflected in the Independent Army records (obviously, due to their surrender), but was just official enough to be noted in the Alliance records upon Mal’s post-battle processing. Of course, the fact that the soldiers in the pilot episode of Firefly (“Serenity”) still call Mal “Sergeant” during the Battle of Serenity Valley could also mean that Mal lied to the Alliance about his rank when captured… or that the Alliance later assumed that he was a Captain in the Independent Army based on the fact that he was widely known to be a Captain (of Serenity) after the war. Either way, the choice was made to reflect the on-screen Alliance files accurately in his “Criminal Record” section in this book.
As for Zoe’s rank, all my records seem to show her as Corporal, as reflected in her official Independent Army records on Page 21. So when she states on Page 20 that she was a lieutenant, well, I’m frankly not sure how or why that happened. I would love to say that she received a similar unofficial promotion as Mal in those final battles… but the truth is, as far as I can tell, it seems to have just been an unfortunate error that didn’t get caught along the way. My sincere apologies for the confusion.”
In recent months we’ve seen a number of new Firefly and Serenity products hit the market as 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios have expanded the amount of officially licensed merchandise that is available to fans. One of the benefits has been that there is a new wave of books that are scheduled to hit the shelves featuring brand new stories about our favorite Firefly-class transport ship and its crew. In February it was announced that Titan Books would publish a new series of original Firefly novels that will debut this October, but Browncoats won’t have to wait that long to delve into a book that takes a fresh look at Serenity and her crew.
This week Insight Editions will release Marc Sumerak’s The Serenity Handbook: The Official Crew Member’s Guide to the Firefly-Class Series 3 Ship. I recently had the opportunity to preview this impressive book, which reads like a manual that is a clever mixture of technical blueprints and crew members’ first-hand descriptions of Serenity’s features.