I've never read fan fiction before. I consider it hyperventilation from nerds who can't write and should be getting back to their coding RSN. (This coming from a nerd herself.) But Brust is an actual sci-fi author, albeit a bit strange (his Wikipedia picture needs no words) and prone to creating novels set in other authors' universes.
Perhaps because he was writing fan fiction, he released this novel under a Creative Commons license allowing users to download, share and read the novel without purchasing it. Normally, I would have assumed it was crap, but because it was Brust and because I'm a monstrous fan of the doomed Firefly series, I had to give it a go.
Not bad. Brust did his homework-- the characters all speak and act as they would have in the television show, which is no mean feat. Each character had subtleties that I would have been hard pressed to describe in text, and Brust pulls that off. As well, he creates a tale that fits in the Firefly timeline and is akin to the stories we saw on TV. With some nice little bon mots thrown in (especially River's).
Problem is, it's really bloody obvious what's going to happen in the end. Why is Mal staying on the planet? Well, duh, any brain-dead reader can tell that from what Brust laid out early in the novel. Sigh. I know it's really hard to create mysteries, and that sci-fi mysteries are the hardest of them all. Which is why we should honor those who can and Whedon above them all.