Outbound Flight (Star Wars)
Publisher: Del Rey (January 31, 2006)
My usual caveat: I am a Timothy Zahn fanboy. I have yet to read a work of his I didn’t like. Some, of course, are better than others, but I’ve loved ‘em all. So read this review understanding that.
For those not in the know; a number of years ago, Timothy Zahn effectively re-launched the Star Wars novels with his Heir to the Empire trilogy. It was a smash hit, and rightly so. Zahn managed to capture the SW universe perfectly, while introducing plots and threats that were actually interesting, instead of just throwing our heroes up against another version of the Death Star (Kevin Anderson, I’m looking at you!). Zahn eventually followed that series up with a duology, and finally, a stand-alone book that serves as a bit of a prequel to the New Jedi Order series, which I have not read, though I own the first book of it. I can’t decide if I should read it or not.
But I digress.
Somewhere in the course of his novels, Zahn introduced the Outbound Flight—an
Outbound Flight is (surprise) the story of Outbound Flight itself. It begins with the last minute negotiations of the set-up, the flights launch, and its ultimate destruction. The story moves along at an appropriate clip, and as always, Zahn does a nice job of setting up some intriguing politics, mysteries, and manipulations along the way. We also finally get to see the original Jorus C’baoth, and the return of (or prelude to) Mitth'raw'nuruodo, aka Grand Admiral Thrawn, the greatest non-movie villain in Star Wars canon.
Outbound Flight has its downsides too. There’s a little too much Republic politicking that goes on, in part because of what seems to be a very forced cameo by Obi-Wan and Anakin. This takes up a part of the book that really could have been spent doing more interesting things with the Outbound Flight itself, or with Thrawn’s activities. It also ends up distracting from Zahn's characters, who are frankly, way more interesting than Obi-Wan and Darth Child. Besides, we already have a bunch of movies about them. I want to see other characters now! I have the distinct impression that this was editorial decision-making getting in the way of good storytelling, though I have no proof of that.
Also, there’s a twist/big reveal concerning Darth Sideous/Chancellor Palpatine/The Emperor that I really didn’t like. I GET why it’s there (it serves to tie ALL the SW stuff together) but it feels wrong to me. It also serves to make Palpatine vaguely sympathetic, which, in my opinion, he should not be (I love Palpatine, but sympathetic he ain’t).
In the end, I enjoyed Outbound Flight quite a bit, and any Star Wars fan, or Zahn fan, ought to read it (fans of both, doubly so). While Zahn is somewhat hampered by what I think are bad editorial decisions, he still manages to tell a fun and interesting Star Wars style romp, and answer some questions about Zahn-specific plots that have come up before.