Star Wars: Outbound Flight (Star Wars Legends)
By Timothy Zahn
“It began as the ultimate voyage of discovery—only to become the stuff of lost Republic legend…and a dark chapter in Jedi history. Now, at last, acclaimed author Timothy Zahn returns to tell the whole extraordinary story of the remarkable—and doomed—Outbound Flight Project.
“The Clone Wars have yet to erupt when Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth petitions the Senate for support of a singularly ambitious undertaking. Six Jedi Masters, twelve Jedi Knights, and fifty thousand men, women, and children will embark—aboard a gargantuan vessel, equipped for years of travel—on a mission to contact intelligent life and colonize undiscovered worlds beyond the known galaxy. The government bureaucracy threatens to scuttle the expedition before it can even start—until Master C’baoth foils a murderous conspiracy plot, winning him the political capital he needs to set in motion the dream of Outbound Flight.” – Publisher’s blurb, Star Wars: Outbound Flight
If you are a constant reader of noted science fiction author Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels, you may have noticed that he often introduces a storyline in one novel, then develops it more fully in a later novel. Zahn did this in The Last Command (1993) when he had Borsk Fe’lya make a comment that a Rebel mission to the Emperor’s treasure trove on the planet Wayland could possibly have serious consequences for the Bothan people.
In that Thrawn Trilogy novel nothing untoward happens, but a later visit to Wayland by Princess Leia and its dire repercussions become crucial plot points in Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future.
The most prominent secondary storyline to emerge from Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy is the tale of Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth and his plan to explore space beyond the galaxy in a huge colony-ship with 50,000 civilians and six Jedi Masters. Code named Outbound Flight, this ship set out from the Galactic Republic six years before the outbreak of the Clone Wars and was never heard from again.
That, of course, was the official tale spread by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s office to the Senate.
The reality was that Palpatine, knowing that the chance to rid himself of six Jedi Masters at once was too good an opportunity to pass up, so he cleverly manipulated events until a young Chiss commander named Thrawn is forced to destroy C’baoth’s expeditionary vessel and most of its passengers and crew.
Not surprisingly, Zahn’s Prequel Era novel, Outbound Flight (2006), tells a more detailed account of the mystery-shrouded maiden voyage of C’baoth’s ill-fated starship and the genesis of his clone, Joruus C’baoth.
Outbound Flight is set five years after the events depicted in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. As an apparently well-meaning but ineffective Palpatine attempts to stem corruption and political turmoil in the Galactic Congress, dark forces conspire to bring down the Republic and destroy the 10,000 Knights of the Jedi Order.
One of these Knights is Jorus C’baoth, a powerful and talented Master whose skills in the Force are counterbalanced by arrogance and ambition. These are traits that can lead him to the temptations of the dark side of the Force. Renowned for his skills as a negotiator, C’baoth tends to see all non-Jedi as “lesser beings,” an attitude that he tries to pass on to his Padawan learner, Lorana Jinzler…much to the dismay of other Jedi like Obi-Wan Kenobi.
In the book’s early chapters, which switch back and forth between the C’baoth storyline and another involving a young smuggler named Jorj Car’das, his two crewmates, and a Chiss officer named Thrawn, the publicity-hungry Jedi Master is desperately trying to get Palpatine to pressure the Senate into funding Outbound Flight. With its six Dreadnaughts linked to a huge central storage pod, the project is prohibitively expensive, and the politicians have tried to cut its financial support. Even the Jedi Council has misgivings and authorized only six Jedi Masters to go on this risky enterprise.
But after C’baoth, with the aid of Lorana, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and 14-year-old Anakin Skywalker, has a particularly spectacular success in defusing a conspiracy on the planet Barlok, the Senate and Palpatine have no choice but to approve the launch of Outbound Flight as soon as possible.
But even as C’baoth, Kenobi, Lorana, and Anakin board the huge spacegoing colony ship, Darth Sidious prepares to take steps to destroy Outbound Flight and its precious complement of six Jedi Masters. Dispatching his agent Kinman Doriana and a Trade Federation fleet to intercept C’baoth’s vessel in the fringes of Republic space, the Sith Lord sits back in his Coruscant haunts, seemingly aiding his Jedi enemies while taking steps to make sure their plans – and their expensive vessel – fail utterly…and fatally.
As in all of his Star Wars novels, Zahn moves back and forth between two or more narrative threads that start apart but become interwoven as the book progresses. This is exactly what George Lucas does in the Star Wars movies, but Zahn seems to accomplish this in book form far better than a lot of authors. Particularly interesting is the interplay between the young Thrawn and the three human smugglers who have strayed into Chiss space.
Here, we see the future Imperial Grand Admiral as an up-and-coming officer in his people’s space forces, with his innate curiosity and knack for analytical thinking coming to the fore. He is a good tactician, but more importantly, he is genuinely interested in other species and how they think and act. Thus, for me, the chapters in which Thrawn bonds with his human guests are the most interesting, especially knowing that Dorianna will cleverly get the young Chiss to help him ambush Outbound Flight…..
Because the novel is set between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan and Anakin are aboard Outbound Flight for only a short leg of the journey. Still, their presence in this story gives the novel a true Star Wars feel to it. Zahn has always been good at getting the essence of the movies’ characters down on paper, so the appearance of Kenobi and Skywalker fits in nicely.
The writing, as always, is excellent. Zahn’s style is lively, full of concrete detail, and his characters are very well developed. He also uses subtle references to the films; in this book the events of The Phantom Menace are alluded to several times, and there are subliminal references to the other movies as well.
In short, Outbound Flight is a perfect summertime read for anyone who enjoys stories full of adventure, intrigue, and suspense, Star Wars-style.
- Series: Star Wars – Legends
- Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: LucasBooks (January 30, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 034545684X
- ISBN-13: 978-0345456847