If you liked Survivor’s Quest, you will like Outbound Flight
I had been waiting for Timothy Zahn’s next book for a while, as I think he is probably the most gifted of the Star Wars authors. While Outbound Flight does indeed give us some clues to future developments and a solid background of Admiral Thrawn, it is not the tour de force that the Thrawn trilogy was, nor does it match the epicness of the Spectre/Visions duo logy. It is an enjoyable read, mostly along the lines of Survivor’s Quest, though a bit more involved in ways, and a bit less in others.
Outbound Flight was the main focus of Survivor’s Quest, so it is fitting that the book that explains the history of the Outbound Flight project would be very similar to that book in length and composition of story. With that said, Outbound flight includes all the characters that you met in Survivor’s Quest, as well as some new ones, and of course some old favorites (most notably Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker). Most of the characters not invented by Zahn act in the way you would expect them to act, with Obi-Wan’s righteousness and subtle direction and Anakin’s dangerous ambition coming out as clear as day.
However, as has been faulted to Zahn before, some of the characters seem perfect to the point of being flawed. This was always the complaint about Mara and Thrawn. People who disliked the Thrawn character because he was so calculating and seemed to know all the right moves will find more of the same in Outbound Flight, as Thrawn is clearly on the top of his game even pre-Clone Wars. We also meet a pre-super Car’das, who shows a clear talent for scheming and catches the eye of Thrawn, which was interesting. The C’baoth character is odd in that he is very much like his clone from the first trilogy. Although, because of events in Survivor’s Quest, I assumed C’baoth would be crossing into the darkside, I did not expect the seemingly indifferent attitude from the rest of the jedi cast in this one. I suppose the Jedi at this point are losing their powers to see the darkside in others (after all the Emperor is right under their noses), but the way C’baoth is acting it is quite obvious.
Apart from those character flaws, the book is written cohesively and follows a very good story line about the Outbound Flight project. There are, of course, more clues about the mysterious “threat” from outside the galaxy that was a major theme in the last duo logy and the reason why we remain conflicted about Thrawn’s goodness as a character. Is he fighting for power and gain, or does he fight to protect our galaxy from an unseen invader. You find in this book it may be the latter, and we find that the Emperor may agree.
I would definitely recommend that fans of Zahn’s work read this book, as well as anyone with an interest in Star Wars. However, if you have not yet read Zahn’s previous work, start with the Thrawn trilogy (Heir to the Empire, etc), then the Visions duo logy (Spectre of the Past, Visions of the Future), and then Survivor’s Quest. To get the most of this book, at least Survivor’s Quest should be required reading.
The biggest disappointment is that everyone is even more excited about a large magnum opus that Zahn seems to be building up to, but hasn’t got the energy to write. Who wants to read the book(s) where everyone from the previous books must work together in a conflicted and convoluted way to defend the known galaxy from these terrible invaders? Hell yeah. Zahn should no longer be concerned with keeping his books in line with all the mediocre Star Wars authors, as catering to their ridiculous plots and characters seems to bring his books down. Just continue on and create the masterpiece and we will enjoy it.