Outbound Flight

May 2, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

flightOutbound Flight by Timothy Zahn

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My entry into the Expanded Universe (well, the “Legends” part of it, at least) was with Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, so I was excited to read Outbound Flight, since it was supposed to give more detail into Thrawn’s origins. I was expecting to like it, since Zahn’s reputation in the EU is pretty high, but I was surprised to find that I liked it as much as I did. I think I like this novel more than I did the Thrawn trilogy.

The difference, I think, is in how Zahn creates Thrawn’s character. The personality is the same, and he still shows a remarkable ability toward military command, but this time he’s presented as a protagonist instead of an antagonist. Also, he’s not a strict protagonist, since his motives drive him to do whatever it takes to protect his own people, but since he strikes up a temporary alliance with some Corellian smugglers, there’s an honor and respect about his character that’s lacking in the earlier trilogy. In short, Thrawn is more likable, which goes a long way toward accepting how good he is at what he does.

Jorus C’baoth (not Joruus) also makes an appearance in this novel, which is interesting because here he’s a Jedi Master whose arrogance and determination make him walk the razor’s edge of the Light Side and the Dark Side of the Force. He’s supposed to be one of the heroes of the story, but his insufferability makes him about as likable as a mosquito, meaning that he becomes the antagonist of the story. Readers will key in on this early in the novel, but to see where Zahn takes the character should be a surprise.

Outbound Flight was mentioned in the Thrawn trilogy, as six connected Dreadnaughts hooked together around a central storage container, on a mission into uncharted space to see what exists out there. The story of this novel is how the mission begins, and how it progresses. Zahn does a great job building up the story, which isn’t a surprise, but his narrative flowed more cleanly and naturally than I remember it flowing in the Thrawn trilogy. The difference could be that he’s telling a story on a smaller scale, or just that he’s telling a story with his own characters, and not featuring existing characters in the universe.

Well … almost. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker make appearances here, but they felt forced in, possibly as a means of establishing the timeline of the events in the novel. They are passengers on Outbound Flight, but only for part of the trip, and their contributions to the mission are negligible. Palpatine also makes an appearance in both guises, but they’re slim. His plan regarding Outbound Flight is huge, and affects the entire plot, but Palpatine as a character is just barely there. Most of the story is about Zahn’s own characters, and I think this helps to make the story better.

The novel includes a bonus short story, “Mist Encounter”, which shows how Thrawn went from high commander of the Chiss army to becoming a commander for the Empire. It’s a bit of an aside, really, but it’s still a relevant piece of the EU, since the novel itself doesn’t clarify how Thrawn makes that transition. I’m surprised to see how many short stories I’ve encountered so far that exist just to bridge different stories together, sometimes by doing some kind of retcon. There are other Thrawn stories out there, and I wonder if I will encounter them as I continue reading the novels.

Zahn established himself as a prominent writer in the Star Wars universe with his Thrawn series, but he cements his reputation even further with this novel. Originally, I only expected to read that trilogy in the EU, but those three books encouraged me to take the plunge into the entire series of books. Zahn has several more books left in the EU, and I look forward to reading them.

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1 Comment

  1. 2016: A Review | Veni Vidi Verkisto said,

    […] Outbound Flight […]

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