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Star Wars: Outbound Flight
Timothy Zahn
Lucas Books / Del Rey, 453 pages

Star Wars: Outbound Flight
Timothy Zahn
Timothy Zahn's SF career began by selling SF stories to Analog magazine while he was a physics grad student at the University of Illinois. When his thesis advisor died, he decided to write full-time. He started with hard SF, writing the Cobra series of military SF novels. In 1984, he won a Hugo for his novella "Cascade Point." His writing has a distinctly humanistic touch, so it seems obvious to some that Theodore Sturgeon was an early influence. Zahn is perhaps best-known as one of the original authors commissioned to write novels in the Star Wars realm.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Night Train to Rigel
SF Site Review: The Green And The Gray
SF Site Review: Star Song and Other Stories
SF Site Review: Manta's Gift
SF Site Review: Angelmass
SF Site Review: Icarus Hunt
SF Site Review: Star Wars: Specter of the Past

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Maddox

Next year marks the 30th Anniversary of the original Star Wars Trilogy. But this year marks the 15th Anniversary of an equally important event, the publication of Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire, the novel that some have credited with restarting the modern day Star Wars fan phenomenon. It introduced readers to the Expanded Universe and created one of the greatest Star Wars villains never seen on film, Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Zahn has written some of the most engaging novels in the Star Wars universe and his most recent excursion, Outbound Flight, is no exception. A prequel to 2004's Survivor's Quest, the story takes us back to a post-war Naboo, before the inception of the Clone Army. The reader gets to meet a non-clone Jorus C'baoth and see the beginnings of the Outbound Flight project, which, theoretically, will take Jedi and settlers to the far reaches of the next galaxy.

Continuity-wise, this would seem to be the first appearance of Grand Admiral Thrawn, though at this point he is Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo of the Chiss Expansionary Fleet. Even as a young commander, his tactical brilliance is obvious, as is his ability to foster trust and manipulate those around him.

One of the more interesting aspects of the novel is perception. Even though the reader knows that Thrawn will terrorize the New Republic in the future, Thrawn does come across as quite the hero. With his innate honor code and desire is to protect his people from all threats, one can see how this will eventually translate into protecting the Empire from the Rebellion.

The story's hero and villain are, respectively, Jorj Car'das and Doriana. Car'das's files become indispensable to Flim in the Hand of Thrawn novels. Doriana (who goes by many names) is a new kind of adversary; a Sith bureaucratic pawn who has no power in the Force, but works as Chancellor Palpatine's right hand... without knowing he and Darth Sidious are one in the same!

Jorus C'baoth is an interesting take on the Jedi. A swaggering, self-righteous Master who believes the Jedi just know better than the average folk, he begins to set himself up as dictator of Outbound Flight's community. His choices, aggression and eventual fall will leave readers wanting to know more about the circumstances leading to his clone future.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker have a brief appearance, but honestly are unnecessary to the story line. This is a Star Wars novel and new readers need some characters to which they can relate. However, it is fun to see the interplay of a rapidly rebellious Anakin who hasn't quite reached Attack of the Clones defiance.

Fan of all Star Wars novels will find plenty of references to much in the Expanded Universe, including a hint that Darth Sidious' overall plan was to unify the galaxy against the coming Yuuzhan Vong threat.. But Outbound Flight stands alone as a tense SF thriller with well written and developed characters.

Copyright © 2006 David Maddox

David Maddox
Science fiction enthusiast David Maddox has been many things, including Star Trek characters and the Riddler in a Batman stunt show. He holds a degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University, and has written several articles for various SF sites as well as the Star Wars Insider and the Star Trek Communicator. He spends his time working on screenplays and stories, acting on stage and screen and giving tours at Universal Studios Hollywood.

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