The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers was awesome! Not that I’m surprised.
I really liked that the prologue’s ‘voice’ paid off. It reappears a couple of times and I had wondered if I would get to find out who it was. The final section of this italicized voice reveals the character, who is both a logical choice and an unexpected one at the same time.
Mullen uses the same third person technique as in The Last Town On Earth – the overall narrative voice is close third person (sometimes bordering on omniscient) with chapter changes as the narrator peers over a different character’s shoulder. The protagonist is Jason Fireson, the eldest brother and head of the Firefly gang. Interestingly enough, by the end of the book I felt like I understood and knew Weston Fireson better than Jason.
There are three Fireson brothers: Jason, Whit and Weston. Jason enters the nefarious world of bank robbery first, then Whit elbows his way into Jason’s gang. Weston remains the presumed innocent of the three, holding down honest jobs and taking care of their mother day-to-day. Weston is the middle son and as a middle child myself, I felt for him. The oldest always causes problems and hence, receives all the attention. The oldest is often the prodigal child who evokes tears upon his return. The youngest child is forever the baby of the family and coddled as such. This leaves the middle child to hold down the fort, a thankless job with no perks, no happy reunions and tears, no coddling.
Weston struggles with the consequences of this brothers’ actions: his employer threatens to fire him for PR reasons, the beleaguered Bureau of Intelligence hounds him, he sees his mother’s worry and can do nothing to alleviate it. His resentment and love and anger are balled together, a messy batch of emotions that rang true for me.
Whit is the simplest of the Fireson brothers and as such did not pique my curiosity. His Communistic tendencies are mildly interesting but understandable – this passion and anger of his allows him to make sense of a world that has disappointed him.
To me, Jason is the least understandable out of the three. Maybe understandable isn’t the best term. Jason is enigmatic and charismatic and complicated. Despite spending most of the ride with him, he is shrouded in mystery. Even his girlfriend Darcy learns more about him through other people. I think thw shadow that seems to linger across Jason is a result of a mysterious subplot that is hinted at and burns slow to the reveal at the very end. This secret directly ties into the overarching mystery of the novel so it must be buried well. I didn’t really see Jason until the final twenty-five pages and then many things clicked into place.
As I get older I am more open to ambiguity in the stories I read. There are times when I prefer a clean ending, whether happy or not – so long as it is satisfying, I’ll take it. But more and more I can appreciate unresolved questions. A novel can still end in a satisfactory manner without everything spelled out.
The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers had that type of ending. It ended in stages, a series of moments that wrapped up everything that was going to be wrapped up. I found that when I closed the book and set it on my night stand, I could still nod my head and smile. The world is filled with questions with no answers. The Firesons’ world was the same way. So art imitates life and that skill makes me smile.