Review: Outbound Flight
by Timothy Zahn.
Okay, the Star Wars universe is big — like, really big. And there are certain little throwaway lines and references that cause Star Wars fans to grow desperate, longing for the whole story. And because the galaxy is so popular, it’s pretty much a given that eventually, all things hidden will become known. Of course, Star Wars fans have then spent so much time obsessing over and wondering about the random incident that the real thing can’t possibly live up to their expectations, and then you get stuff like virus-level prequel hatred.
I resisted this book, sort of for that reason and also because I happened to know Zahn didn’t really want to write it because he figured Outbound Flight was played out. I always start prejudiced against stuff I know the author didn’t want to write (like The Merry Wives of Windsor).
However, in this case, as in the case of anything to do with Chiss, I’m sure, resistance was futile.
Meet young Jorj Car’das. You remember old Jorj Car’das, don’t you? Well, he’s young now. And he’s a navigator for a smuggling crew with a Hutt gunning for them. Desperate for an escape, he plunges their ship straight into empty space. Remember Han’s speech? “Without precise calculations, we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova, and that’d end your trip real fast!” It takes them four hours to safely extract themselves from hyperspace, by which time, they are well into Wild Space — the bit on the map where it would be painted “Here be monsters” if they did that in AGFFA.
But what sleek monsters! They are quickly made the guests/prisoners/science projects of one Mitth’raw’nuruodo of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Force. Car’das and Thrawn are mutually fascinated, and so the Corellians’ stay stretches into the realm of months while they trade language and become embroiled in increasing tensions from multiple fronts.
To propel the story in the midst of all this groundwork, another familiar character from the Thrawn Trilogy appears: Jorus C’boath, an intense Jedi master who is heading up a project to leave the galaxy altogether. And honestly, the galaxy wants him gone because he just sucks.
But he’s not the only familiar face! Obi-Wan Kenobi and his 14-year-old apprentice Anakin Skywalker have also signed up for the ride, and with the two of them watching C’boath for the Jedi Council, and Doriana watching C’boath for the mysterious Darth Sidious, and with all of them looking to run into each other out in Wild Space . . . well, you just know that there’s an adventure here only Timothy Zahn could accomplish.
As I said, I really wanted to dislike this book, but I couldn’t. Sign me up, I’m a cliche, I’m utterly fascinated by Chiss. Getting to see them up close and personal like this was too much to resist, with minutiae about their language and government, and getting to see Thrawn as a relative protagonist, a sympathetic Sherlock Holmes genius instead of the diabolical antagonist of the Thrawn Trilogy — that was pretty cool. My least favorite thing was probably Anakin and Obi-Wan, whose presence seemed contrived, but at the same time there was too much epicness to pass by. Also, the coherent and literate writing style has been a welcome change of pace compared to all the Star Wars crap I’ve been reading lately (looking at you, James Lucrapo). So, yes, I must conclude — there’s nothing wrong with this bit of realcanon, so enjoy away!