GENERAL DISCUSSIONS

The Killer Angels

POSTED BY: DONCOAT
UPDATED: Saturday, May 27, 2006 13:38
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Friday, May 12, 2006 1:37 PM

DONCOAT


I recently read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, which Joss Whedon has mentioned as the book that led to the germination of the ideas behind Firefly. It wasn't what I expected. I thought it would be about Civil War veterans in their lives after the war. In fact, it's a historical novel about the Battle of Gettysburg. If you've seen the miniseries Gettysburg you'll find the book very familiar -- the movie was based largely on the book.

The main links I picked up between The Killer Angels and Firefly/Serenity were subtle ones, primarily in the ways the characters behaved and the motivations behind their actions. Firefly's Malcolm Reynolds is a man who has lost faith in his fellow man -- allies and enemies alike -- and is now living day to day, forming around himself a kind of substitute family in the form of his crew. He's not so much embittered as numb and drifting. This attitude was not uncommon among the Southern survivors of Gettysburg.

On the other hand, some on the winning side were stunned and rather humbled by the futile gallantry of the Confederate infantry. The sacrifices made on both sides were almost unimaginable by today's standards. No, that's not strong enough -- make it totally unimaginable.

In Firefly, we're told, Mal has survived a very similar life-altering battle. The underlying theme of the series (Serenity included) is an examination of how one can pick up the pieces of a shattered life and belief system.

Have any other Browncoats read the book? If so, I'd really like to know what you thought of it, and how you think it influenced Joss and sparked the creation of the greatest science fiction series ever.

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I don't disagree on any particular point.

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Friday, May 12, 2006 1:48 PM

FOLLOWMAL



DonCoat, my Dad was a Civil War buff and I read the book shortly after he did several years ago now. I loved it at the time, but that was before my exposure to Firefly/Serenity.

My Dad passed away a year ago this last Christmas, and when I found out that Joss had read The Killer Angels and that he was inspired to write Firefly afterwards I wanted to read it again and see what I thought had inspired him. I'm afraid until just this month I was unable to read it.. too many memories of my Dad... a bookmark still in it, some notes re: another book to cross reference to.. things of that nature. But my grief has mellowed to the point that I was able to take it off the shelf last week and think of reading it again.

I will start it this weekend, and I'll come back here and let you know what I think inspired Firefly.. Joss' masterpiece, IMHO.



"You hold. Hold 'til I get back." Mal

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Friday, May 12, 2006 1:53 PM

DONCOAT


Wow, FM, that's sad and sweet and touching and... I don't know what to say. I hope it's not too traumatic for you, and I'm very much looking forward to your observations.


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I don't disagree on any particular point.

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Friday, May 12, 2006 1:58 PM

FOLLOWMAL




No, DonCoat, not too traumatic ... a joy now.

I want to know what Joss was touched by in it.

And by the way.... my Daddy would have been such a fan of Mal's! And he would have reread the book to see as well.

I'll be back and let you know.

"You hold. Hold 'til I get back." Mal

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Friday, May 12, 2006 5:04 PM

WEREALLJUSTFLOATING


I've read the book too and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I only read it because of Joss and I'm glad I did. I was surprised that Shaara focuses so much on the human side of battle, and I love the characters. It did reminded me of Firefly in a subtle sort of way, particularly the generals and stuff, and their dedication to their cause. I'll come back when I have more time and elaborate on what I mean. I'm sure there's plenty more I could say on it, but I'm going to bed now

We're still flying.

That's not much.

It's enough.

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Friday, May 12, 2006 5:59 PM

FLAUTISTFIRST


I just picked this book up at a used book store, all because of what Joss said about it inspiring Firefly. I haven't started it yet, but am looking forward to reading it soon. I'll let you know what I think of it after then.

BTW, I'm learning to play the oboe. Started today. So reading may be on the backburner for a bit while I focus on not sounding like I'm stepping on a duck.



There's no place I can be since I found serenity.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006 3:10 AM

DONCOAT


Ducks is nice.

Maybe not when being stepped on, though.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I don't disagree on any particular point.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006 4:27 AM

FLAUTISTFIRST


I just finished reading this novel. I really thought it was well done. Again, I was surprised at how much of the novel was dedicated to character development. Very little to actual battle scenes.

I'm wondering which character inspired the creation of Mal. Was it Longstreet, who clearly lost his faith at Gettysburg? Was a Lee, who was devastated by the loss? Was it Armistead, who didn't have to live with the loss of faith for long? Probably a combination of them all. I know Mr. Whedon has said that his fascination was with how one goes on after that experience. And that he wanted to tell the story of the "little" guy, the guy history stepped on. So perhaps Mal is the young low ranking officer who has held it all together for what is seen as nothing after Gettysburg. And we didn't exactly meet him in the book, other than the description of the gray, white face of the shocked men as they retreated on day 3.

Some of the details Shaara related in the novel about the battle of Fredicksburg remined me of Zoe's speech to Simon about Serenity. She referred to stacking up dead bodies for cover. Also details about the rations, or lack there of, and the oppressive heat also made for vivid recreation of the event.

At the end of the novel, I found myself quite frustrated with Lee for not listening to Longstreet. I don't know if this is even close to how it actually happened. But it was very frustrating to read how one general was so sure the attack was right and one general was so sure it would fail. I don't think Shaara ever depicts Lee as losing faith as a result of the loss. I only saw him showing regret on Lee's part, whereas Longstreet lost faith and the will to continue.

As this Memorial Day weekend begins, I can't help but think of all the men and women involved in conflict today. I have nothing but the highest regard for them, their families, and their sacrifices. And this respect extends to all veterans of whatever conflict.

I do recommend this book--a very good read. I'm surprised that it took 32 years after its publication for me to even hear of it. It should be required reading for US History classes.

Well, I'm off to quack like a duck on the oboe. I will get to play with our local municiple band at the annual Memorial Day program (on flute of course), and I'll be thinking of all those who fought and died at Gettysburg.



There's no place I can be since I found serenity.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006 8:35 AM

MALACHITE


Have you read Jeff Shaara's, "Gods and Generals"? It is my favorite of the trilogy. (Killer Angels is the second book of the trilogy). They definitely flesh out what the Battle of Serenity Valley could have been like. Heroism on both sides. The huge cost in human life, each individual with a unique history, family and hopes of a future...

May have been the losing side...

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Saturday, May 27, 2006 1:38 PM

FLAUTISTFIRST


Nope. I'll check into though. I really enjoyed "The Killer Angels." Thanks for the reference.



There's no place I can be since I found serenity.

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