Star Wars: Outbound Flight

Another post, another Star Wars book review. I’ve found myself inundated with time and as I never really did a lot of reading for fun while in university, here I am, striking back.

Outbound Flight is a prequel of sorts to the Thrawn trilogy. The action centers around the Outbound flight project, which was an experiment to explore the outer edges of the universe. Headed up by Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth, the Old Republic attached six Dreadnaughts together and along with a huge complement of Jedi and settlers, set off for the unknown. Things get ugly when C’baoth, who was already very egotistical, takes complete command and begins separating Force-sensitive children and their families and begins casting snap judgements on his passengers (similar to what Joruus did on Jomark in the Thrawn trilogy). Anakin Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi tag along for a bit, too (free trivia: Zahn originally envisioned a huge role for a clone of Obi-wan in his trilogy), and Darth Sidious/Palpatine plays a large role, too, along with his agent, Doriana (who unwittingly and hilariously serves as Sidious’s double agent in the employ of Palpatine).

At the same time, a trio of smugglers find themselves stranded after an attack and are rescued by the Chiss and their expansionary group, led by Commander Mitth’raw’nuruodo, who would later be known as Grand Admiral Thrawn. The Chiss are expanding into Republic space and, with this chance encounter, hope to gain some knowledge of the core worlds. Smuggler Jori Car’das finds himself swept up in the intrigue between various Chiss families, and ultimately having to pick between his fellow smugglers, the Republic, and his new friend, Thrawn.

Outbound Flight is a very compelling book and definitely expands on some of the legendary characters Zahn has created while creating even more ones. The development of Thrawn, for example, was especially well done, along with a look at the mysterious Chiss themselves. He develops an incredibly interesting and very believable society that is based on tradition, reason, and, oddly enough, peace. Thrawn, even among his own people, represents changing attitudes and even independent thinking. Thrawn continually sets himself apart from his subordinates, his peers, and his superiors. He is never one to stay the course and is ultimately a pragmatist. A rule in Chiss society is only to respond when attacked; the Chiss never start fights or wars, they only fight them. Thrawn poses to his new friends a question: is attacking first ever appropriate, even if it is a peremptory measure and even if it results in fewer lives lost? It is one that plagues many Star Wars novels. The Jedi are constantly walking a fine line between guardians and warriors which is an issue that becomes especially relevant in the New Jedi Order books. The issue is often one of measuring the value of life itself and whether or not killing several to save many is right or wrong. While Thrawn and others obviously take a side, we’re still left to come to our won conclusion (which may just be, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do).

We do get an excellent depiction of many Jedi, but watching the unraveling of C’baoth, especially having read the Thrawn trilogy, is both rewarding and tragic. We know C’baoth is a man of questionable moral values; in the Thrawn trilogy his clone (spoiler) is insane and Thrawn and Pellaeon wonder whether it is due to a flaw in the cloning process or C’baoth himself. This book certainaly tends to lean on C’baoth himself going nuts. But you also have an excellent depiction of how the Old Republic Jedi failed and why, especially in the New Republic books, the order has such a hard time rebuilding: the self-righteousness of Jedi. C’baoth is arrogant and believes himself to be better than most (if not all) other beings. He believes that as a Jedi he knows best, and isn’t beyond forcing his will on others. And many other Jedi, young ones especially, look up to him for this, Anakin Skywalker included. For Jedi, helping the helpless is just what you do; but do you help those who refuse help, or those who intentionally put themselves in harm’s way? In C’baoth’s mind, it is a no-brainer because he knows best. You can definitely see the beginnings of Joruus’s madness in C’baoth, especially his bent to directly control other individuals, and it is well handled, right up to the point where C’baoth goes from flirting with the dark side to, well, being a Dark Jedi himself.

Outbound Flight is yet another excellent entry in the Expanded Universe by Timothy Zahn. I wholeheartedly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Thrawn. Next to the Thrawn trilogy itself, it is my favourite Star Wars novel. Even if you haven’t read the Thrawn trilogy, I’d recommend picking this up (it might even make the latter work even better!)

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