In Outbound Flight, Timothy Zahn takes us back to 27 years before Yavin and to many a beginning for characters he created. At that time, Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth aggressively pushes for his pet project Outbound Flight to be funded. With a big ship and thousands of volunteers, he wants to explore and settle the Unknown Regions and eventually other galaxies. The Galactic Senate, Chancellor Palpatine and the Jedi Council are all not convinced the project’s merits but Darth Sidious covertly supports it for his own reasons. When Outbound Flight finally takes off, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Padawan Anakin Skywalker are to observe its progress.
Meanwhile, small smuggler Jori Car’das meets mastermind Thrawn, now a mere Commander in the Chiss Expansionary Defense Force who struggles with Chiss aggression regulations. Once they realise they are like-minded despite all cultural differences they come to trust and teach each other; a development neither one’s boss agrees with.
It was very interesting to finally read the back-story of Outbound flight which was rediscovered in Survivor’s Quest and all the other great characters of Zahn’s. Having read The New Jedi Order I was particularly intrigued by mentions of the Far Outsiders in the context of the Empire; did Palpatine really mean good taking the lead or did he just use the notion of extragalactic invaders to bend upright people to his will? But most importantly, we finally get the origins of Thrawn; how he came to leave his people and serve the empire had been a gap left unfilled for far too long1. I greatly enjoyed his screen time; even then, he was a brilliant commander and able to manipulate everyone to his liking.
Outbound Flight ranks somewhere between brilliant and above average. I had fun reading it and enjoyed all the little puzzle pieces. It is definitely one of the better Star Wars books and to be recommended to any fan.
- Actually, this tale is told in Mist Encounter, a short story included in the book. ↩