Anyone who knows me personally knows I’m a huge Star Wars fan, but there are a few reasons why I haven’t reviewed any Star Wars material so far. For one thing, I might never stop. I also consider the franchise to be more “science fantasy” than straight-up science fiction or fantasy.
Mr. Zahn is an author best known for redefining the Star Wars Expanded Universe with his Thrawn Trilogy, three novels set after the events of Return of the Jedi that chronicle a sudden rebirth of the waning Empire and the near-collapse at the New Republic at the hands of the military genius known as Grand Admiral Thrawn. I recommend that series for anyone who hasn’t read a Star Wars novel yet.
I picked Outbound Flight for two reasons. First, it’s integral to the character arcs that Mr. Zahn has explored in nearly all his Star Wars novels. And second, it’s a great first contact story. But if you want to blend these two parts together, then I’ll say that the central theme of this book is about expectations and how they hold up in a crisis.
The story is set a few years after The Phantom Menace. Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth has organized an expedition of Jedi Knights and potential Jedi to cross into uncharted space and push all the way into a whole new galaxy. However, as Zahn has set up in his earlier novels, this is an expedition that was doomed from the start, and Thrawn himself is involved in its downfall.
Here, Thrawn is a young commander of the Chiss Ascendancy. He is a brilliant tactician, able to achieve victories with rapid-fire Holmesian deduction, and constantly forcing the people he encounters from the “known” galaxy to reevaluate their opinion of him and his species. Thrawn himself has come to alter his perspective about others, being naturally curious and willing to go beyond his society’s traditions. At the other end of the spectrum is Jorus C’baoth, who is utterly convinced that the Jedi are born to dominate and that the Republic he serves is the epitome of civilization, against which such “lesser” beings as Thrawn could never prevail.
Outbound Flight is a well-written tale of adventure and intrigue. The alien encounters are engaging and every character is truly memorable.
Bibliography: Zahn, Timothy. Star Wars: Outbound Flight. New York: Del Rey, 2007.