#StarWars Outbound Flight Novel Mini Review
Set prior to The Clone Wars in an era of political and economic uncertainty, Outbound Flight is Jedi master C'baoth's pet project of exploration; intending to take a colony of Jedi, force sensitive individuals and colonists to explore worlds in the unknown regions of space.
The story begins with the possibility of the mission perhaps being axed permanently much to C'baoth's disgust, and we are treated to some of the political maneuverings of Senator Palpatine, who even in these early stages in his rise to power is already plotting and manipulating those around him to bring about the demise of the Jedi and solidify his eventual place as ruler of the Empire.
Obi Wan and his just teenager apprentice Anakin Skywalker also make an appearance in Outbound Flight. Following a request from Mace Windu, the pair board the exploration project with the premise of discovering what happened to lost Jedi Vergeer from the story Rogue Planet, but with the secret agenda of monitoring C'baoth on his mission.
They, together with C'baoth's recently graduated Jedi Apprentice Lorana (who throughout the story is obviously and painfully torn between her loyalty and respect for her master and wanting to do what's right) try to step in when C'baoth's form of leadership strays ever more from the path of the Jedi and towards that of the dark and tyrannous. Kenobi and his padowan plan to stay aboard the mission longer than originally intended, putting a spanner in the works for old Palpatine who quickly has to do some further scheming to make sure Anakin is not aboard the ship...
We are also introduced to a band of interesting smugglers, with key character Car'das. Upon suffering a hyperdrive malfunction on a mission for a Hutt, they inadvertently enter unknown space and meet the true star of the story, Commander Thrawn. Thrawn is of the previously unknown Chiss species and an exceptional military commander. Currently at loggerheads with a race known as the Vagaari, Chiss uses the smugglers to learn more about republic civilization, culture and technology, possibly searching for any advantage over his adversaries that he can gain. Thrawn has been trying desperately to overcome the brutalities of the Vagaari race whilst trying to maintain obedience of very strict Chiss rules and regulations regarding warfare.
The Chiss encounter the interception mission sent forth by Palpatine intended for Outbound Flight, aboard which are Palpatine's personal crony and members of the trade federation, as well as a battalion of droid starfighters. Due to typical Trade Federation tact, a battle ensues with the Chiss, leaving them stripped of command and with no apparent way to complete their original quest of destroying Outbound Flight... Only by way of further scheming and politics between varying groups of extremely well written and detailed characters, do the several plot lines coalescence.
Events spiral and we are treated to more galactic warfare on an epic scale, with some truly brutal tactics employed, particularity by the alien Vagaari. Timothy Zahn has done an excellent job of interweaving all the different schemes and sub plots together where they culminate in a rather exciting and not wholly predictable climax.
The story is gripping throughout; the detailed environments and character descriptions are always interesting and I always felt suitably gripped, whether it being from the subterfuge or the exciting combat. I especially enjoyed the character development of Car'das and his smuggler gang, working together with the brilliantly calculating Thrawn.
Much like the prequel trilogy of films, a lot of this story is based on the ever deepening corruption of Republic politics, with seemingly everyone - even the good guys having multiple faces and agendas. This, blended with the obvious descent of a Jedi Master toward the dark side and the exciting and brutal space combat make for an excellent entry in the expanded Star Wars universe and a real page turner.
I'm attempting to read through the Star Wars novels in Chronological order, and I'd say reading the Episode 1 and Rogue Planet novels prior to this was definitely a good move, though not essential.
An excellent read for any Star Wars fan.