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A novel by Timothy Zahn (2006, Del Rey)
Companion novel to Survivor's Quest
27 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

As a very intimidating Jedi Master puts together a trip to colonize another galaxy, a Chiss warrior discovers that the Republic exists, and uses this knowledge to launch a preemptive strike on potential enemies.




Read February 20th to 27th, 2009  
    This was a truly enjoyable read. It is the prequel to Survivor's Quest, and even though I remembered very little about that book (hence my detailed reviews), I did recall that Luke and Mara were not warmly welcomed. Rereading my review, I see so many seeds that permeate both books, and make them better enjoyed as a whole. It's too bad I only got to read this book so many years after the other half.

The book takes place from three points of view, and in essence two parts. The book opens by having Car'das (whom we saw in Vision of the Future as well as briefly in Survivor's Quest) as a rookie on a smuggler's vessel, jumping away from a Hutt pursuer, into the Unknown Regions. There, Car'das, Quento and Maris are captured by Chiss ships, led by Thrawn. This answers at least one of my questions from Survivor's Quest, about why Car'das has such an interest in Outbound Flight.

Car'das takes an immediate interest in the Chiss, and Thrawn rewards him for it. Thrawn is a much more pleasant person than in the Heir to the Empire trilogy. Here, he is eager to show these "aliens" around, teach them his language, learn theirs (another question answered), show them his tactical strategies, and give them free reign over his hidden base.

Thrawn is in a terrible predicament. The Chiss, as we know, do not attack unless attacked first. But the Vagaari are a nomadic race who prey on various species, growing stronger as a result. He knows they will eventually turn toward the Chiss, but cannot do anything about it, probably until it's too late. Car'das joins him on the bridge of his ship as they take control of a Vagaari looting ship, and Quento is very interested in the plunder. Thrawn impresses everybody by being able to describe the social and physical characteristics of various Republic species just by looking at the looted art. Car'das then stays on the bridge during a Chiss observation of a new Vagaari attack, this time on the homeworld of a species about to be enslaved. There, he watches as Thrawn and his attack force steal a gravity projector, the first of its kind seen by either the Chiss or Republic. Thrawn will put the knowledge to good use later, of course.

The next time Car'das joins Thrawn is when he is under investigation by Admiral Ar'alani, his superior. Thrawn receives word that alien ships are nearby. I find it strange that it takes four hours to get to Outbound Flight's final stop in Republic space, where it takes six hours to get to the Vagaari stronghold. Are the Chiss so close to Republic space? Regardless, here, they encounter two Trade Federation battle ships, with Techno-Union escorts and thousands of droid starfighters. The Trade Federation ships were there at the behest of Darth Sidious to destroy Outbound Flight.

Thrawn easily out-maneuvers the Nemoidian commander, resulting in the destruction of more than half the droid starfighters, all of the Techno-Union ships, and one battleship. Thrawn used the gravity projector to keep them from jumping to hyperspace, while out-guessing all their maneuvers and strategies. It was really fun to read this part of the book, to see Thrawn's genius drawn out.

Thrawn, of course, gets in trouble for this, even though there was clear sign of aggression from the Trade Federation ships. Doriana, the human leader on the Trade Federation ships, who is in contact with Sidious, tries to make a deal with Thrawn to complete the task they had intended to perform. Thrawn, however, has other plans, and a trap is taking place within his mind.

When the time comes, Thrawn sets up his gravity projector to pull Outbound Flight out of hyperspace, and announces a parley with the Jedi on board. C'boath, however, is a very unstable person, and one who feels superior to everybody else. He refuses to even hear Thrawn, and prepares to fight.

While Thrawn is away, Car'das (who still has free run of the Chiss station) escapes on a mysteriously-convenient shuttle, and heads to the Vagaari, intent on getting them to attack the Chiss asteroid base, and free the humans being held there, and get back to Republic space. I don't quite know, even after the story is finished, if Car'das was willingly being used here. Since we are privy to his thoughts, we know how he feels, and what he thinks in this section does not look like he is aware of the part he is playing. But when he meets up with Thrawn later, he acts as if he was in on it all along. There is something strange here, but it's not that important, since the whole thing is interesting. Car'das gets the Vagaari leader interested in the Chiss by way of two destroyer droids that were on board the shuttle, and which would obviously give the Vagaari a huge advantage.

On their way to the Chiss asteroid, however, the Vagaari fleet, hundreds strong, is pulled out of hyperspace to meet the negotiating Thrawn and Outbound Flight. I have doubts that one single projector could hold all those ships, but maybe it has quite a range. The Jedi recognize the Vagaari as the greater threat, and join into a meld where they take control of the Vagaari minds, something very Sith-like. Thrawn uses this distraction to attack with the droid starfighters now under his control. When C'boath attacks Thrawn personally with the Force, Doriana presses the button that throws the droids at Outbound Flight, killing most of the Jedi on board (as they were at the weapons blisters that were targeted), creating hull breaches, and sending in nuclear-armed bombs within, so that all life was wiped out. I assume the blasts were nuclear, based on the description of the radiation, but they could have been a different kind of radiation. Regardless, all life on Outbound Flight is destroyed, except for a small remnant hidden in the storage core.

Therefore Thrawn's objective is completed, the near-complete destruction of the Vagaari (though not as complete as he hoped), and Doriana's is, too, with Outbound Flight's destruction. Thrawn is saddened that the Jedi forced him to destroy their ships, though. He gets into more trouble with Formbi, though, as he clearly attacked the Vagaari first. He will undoubtedly be thrust from Chiss civilization because of this. Formbi obviously wants Outbound Flight for himself, but it unexpectedly takes off into hyperspace on its own...

As I mentioned in Survivor's Quest, I have great doubts that the Chiss were so aware of the Yuuzhan Vong. They say they repelled several attacks. Sidious is given his knowledge of the Vong as one reason why he wanted to unite the galaxy in Empire. I still doubt his motives were so pure. And what were the Vong doing for the fifty years between then and their ultimate attack, anyway? Was there a power struggle? I have trouble believing they could wait around so long.

Backing up to the beginning of the story, within Republic space, we finally get to meet the real Jorus C'boath. He is a Jedi, a person, nobody could like. He epitomizes the superior attitude of the Jedi of Yoda's time. Most of the Jedi we have met are insufferable, especially Mace Windu and here, Jorus C'boath. The story starts with the project in jeopardy, with funding cut, and C'boath looking for support to the point of ordering Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to tell the Senate to restore its funding.

C'boath is easily manipulated by Doriana into arbitrating a dispute on Barlok between the Corporate Sector mining company and the native workers. Windu asks Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker to tag along, in a transparent effort to keep an eye on this volatile Jedi. The author highlights, in the most fascinating ways, the differences in teaching styles between Obi-Wan and C'boath. Obi-Wan lets his student learn in the humblest fashion, but C'boath is always berating his Padawan, Lorana Jinzler, telling her to act the superior being she is. I was quite intrigued as Lorana was put under Obi-Wan's care for a while, and how she lived up to her low expectations. Obi-Wan was quite willing to let Lorana make her share of mistakes, knowing she would learn a great deal from them.

While Anakin was more qualified to follow the person who took the missile components than Lorana was, Obi-Wan decided to give her the chance. She did well enough, but in the end was captured, mostly because she stopped to think too much. They fail to stop the saboteurs from launching their missile, even to the point that it escaped them as it entered the hall where negotiations were taking place. This gave C'boath the opportunity to stop the missile single-handedly, which gave him a position of strength to complete the negotiations, and skyrocketed his fame, so that funding for his pet project was restored, and he was allowed to pick another fifteen Jedi to accompany him. And he won't take no from Lorana, either.

Though I found sending Obi-Wan and Anakin to Barlok, then to join Outbound Flight to keep an eye on C'boath, to be a stretch to get these characters into the story, once they were there, I found it to be a great choice. At one point, Obi-Wan even thinks that he and Anakin should remain on board for its full duration, because of all the wrong-headedness that C'boath is professing. When Sidious finds out about them, however, he manipulates another trade dispute and forces Obi-Wan and Anakin to leave the ship to take care of it.

Once Outbound Flight is outbound, C'boath takes over command, and eventually reveals his philosophy that the Jedi were born to rule, not to serve, because Jedi can know greater wisdom through the Force. Obi-Wan opposes him at every turn, but it is not a head-on confrontation, which Kenobi could never win. Obi-Wan always carries on the discussions in private and is dutifully respectful, even as he reminds C'boath of the basic tenets of the Jedi philosophy, something C'boath feels has been misinterpreted for a long time. Even as Palpatine is getting ready to form his own Empire, C'boath has his mini-Empire on board, ready to leave the galaxy.

It's no wonder the people in Survivor's Quest hate the Jedi so much. Anakin feels that C'boath is correct in what he does, but even though he disagrees, Obi-Wan doesn't do much to help the regular people of Outbound Flight. Only Lorana does, as she feels that C'boath is doing some unethical acts, but feels powerless to stop him. Although she is touted as being the only person who could talk some sense into C'boath, she lacks the confidence to do so. So it is with a growing sense of unease that Lorana joins in C'boath's battle meld. When Thrawn shows up, some of the people who have had enough of C'boath try to meet the blue-skinned alien, but their wills are stopped by C'boath. Lorana is sent to contain these fifty-odd people in the storage core.

Ironically, that is where the people remain when Thrawn's bombs go off, and so they are safe, as is Lorana, who raced to the core to try and get them into escape pods, where they would have been killed if she had succeeded in their goal.

In Survivor's Quest, we meet Dean Jinzler, seemingly self-appointed ambassador for the Outbound Flight project. I expect he's been searching for it ever since Car'das found him and gave him Lorana's message. She knew she was going to die, so she sent Car'das away to try and find her disillusioned brother, who grew up in the shadow of his Jedi sister, even though she didn't know her parents.

In the end, Lorana surprises Thrawn's brother Thrass, who is inspecting the ship and getting ready to take it to Chiss space, under the supervision of the Defense Fleet, who thinks there is no life on board. But while Thrawn is being reprimanded by Formbi, who plans to take the dreadnaughts and tilt the balance of power in his favor, Lorana and Thrass take the ship to a secret Chiss hideout, a place where they plan to hide from the "unknown threat" if it becomes necessary. The hyperdrive fails, and Lorana has to crash the ship, saving as many of the survivors as possible. In that event, she must crash with the control dreadnaught (the one she is piloting from) on the bottom, where it will take all of the force of impact. She dies an unsung hero.

This is one of the reasons why Jedi Jinzler is not thought of in the same vein as the other Jedi when Luke and Mara come across the survivors. She was nice, kind of like Obi-Wan, but more like Luke's Jedi (where Obi-Wan was often also quite high-minded). She took the time to make sure everybody she came into contact with was comforted as much as possible.

The action, politics, manipulation, and everything that went into this book made it a joy to read. I liked the writing style (with one exception where some dialog was repeated in another scene, but it seemed less annoying than in Warpath), and the author really knows these characters well.

The softcover version of this novel contains the short story Mist Encounter, which documents the events that led to Thrawn's entry into the Empire. The story is rather heavy-handed, and contains some glaring inconsistencies with the Star Wars mythos as we now know it. But this was written back in 1995, so it can be forgiven, I suppose! There are already TIE fighters and stormtroopers mere weeks after Palpatine declared himself Emperor, for example. But I liked the Imperial troops, and their rationale. But when Thrawn comes on board the Star Destroyer, he provides so much exposition that it became tiring, even as we marveled at his skill and tactical genius. Palpatine's dislike for non-humans is given too much time, as well. Still, I'm amazed that the author had so much of Thrawn's background already set up way back then, as Thrawn describes that he learned Basic from Corellian traders, for example, and that he was exiled for launching a preemptive strike. The story was worth reading, but was not as good as the novel that is the main focus.


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