The man, the myth, the legend, Thrawn!
Cover Art By: Dave Seeley
Written By: Timothy Zahn
Before I delve into my review I think it’s important to point out that my exposure to Commander Mitth’raw’nuruodo, or Thrawn, is extremely limited. I have heard over the years that he was a great character, and read the in-universe references to his brilliance. But, for some reason or another I still have yet to read any of the novels dedicated to him, other than Outbound Flight. This probably makes me less of a Star Wars fan, but such is life and one day I do plan on getting to the other novels that feature the much ballyhooed Thrawn.
The reason I bring my ignorance of Thrawn up is because without having read those novels Outbound Flight does a tremendous job of building Thrawn up for the audience. If you walk away from Outbound Flight thinking that Thrawn is anything less than a tactical genius then you read a different novel than I did. This could be viewed as Timothy Zahn overpowering Thrawn as a character and making him nearly infallible. While I can understand that sentiment, it didn’t ring true for me. I saw Thrawn as a genius, but a genius one or two moves away from going over the edge and losing it all. Either way, as a pseudo-introduction to Thrawn, Outbound Flight couldn’t have been any better.
That leaves us with the story proper, and what a story it was. It’s not perfect, the disappearance of Quennto and Maris in the final act is evidence of that, but it is a great move for move story. It’s a mystery story, but there really isn’t an actual mystery. The mystery comes in the form of the machinations of Thrawn to get things to go his way. You don’t know what will happen next, if Thrawn will succeed completely, will there finally be someone who can stand up to him, and so on. It’s hard to label Outbound Flight, because it is a unique book, it’s mainly a military novel, but it strays so far from the military novel format that it is its own beast.
The action scenes in Outbound Flight are tense and add to the drama created by Thrawn’s maneuvering. There’s also a palpable sense of the inevitable in the story, you and I know how it will all end, but the story engages you in how it will reach its end. I’m a big proponent of the journey of the story, the end destination isn’t anywhere near as important as how you get there. In that regard Outbound Flight provides one heck of a journey.
One final thing before we delve a little deeper into the meta aspects of the book. Jorus C’baoth is a colossal prick, one of the biggest ones I have ever seen. He’s a great character because there wasn’t a single moment where I didn’t want to beat the ever loving piss out of him. Zahn runs with how arrogant and self serving C’baoth is, and never looks back. He’s a character you love to hate, and Zahn writes him perfectly.
And with that it’s time for meta philosophy time, so sit back and relax as I wax poetic.
The first idea I’d like to tackle is an oldie but a goodie, the Jedi and the way they treat the families of the children they accept into their order. This time I’m not taking issue with them taking the children, but what they do after they take the children. They fire Lorana Jinzler’s family without a thought or care as to what will happen to them. This is supported as well by other people who have accused the Jedi of doing the same. Their idea of prohibiting family from seeing their children once they join the Jedi is idiotic, but it’s even worse once you find out how badly they happen to treat the unlucky parents who work for them.
Zahn does an exemplary job of exploring the rigidness of the Jedi Order. It would have been too easy for Zahn to be one sided in his approach to the Jedi ways, a character like C’baoth makes it even easier. Instead Zahn goes somehow else with C’baoth, using him to present the idea that while the Jedi may be rigid, their rigid ways are far preferable to someone who is willing to abuse his power like C’boath. I liked the balance brought forth by Zahn and how that led to an honest examination of how the Jedi handle the world around them.
I have always been a believer in the fact that the Jedi were blindly loyal to the Republic to a fault. Outbound Flight presents the interesting idea that the Jedi were so blindly loyal that they indirectly helped aid in the downfall of the Republic. Maris’ musings on the Jedi’s loyalty enabling bureaucracy to run wild may seem like an off hand comment, but to me they are very telling words. The Jedi were blindly loyal to the Republic, and because of this they enabled and ignored the political quagmire that beset the Republic. They may not have realized it, but by attaching themselves to the government and supporting the decisions of the government through thick and thin, they helped in that government becoming as corrupt as it was near the end.
My final meta musing deals with how the Jedi view the dark side. I don’t believe the dark side exists, but looking at it from the perspective that it does exist I still find myself disagreeing with how the Jedi view said entity. The Jedi seem to view the dark side as only being found in the application of Force powers. They don’t give as much weight to any darker actions that don’t involve the use of Force powers, but the application of Force powers is an action in and of itself. By focusing so much on the Force and leaving the sentient being element out of it it’s no wonder so many people fall to the dark side without the Jedi realizing they are doing as such. The Jedi needed to focus more on the individual, rather than on the application of the Force.
To finish this review up, Outbound Flight is a great military novel with more than enough action, suspense, and non-Jedi locales and events to keep you interested. The build to the end is well done, and I was intrigued by watching Thrawn in action as well as getting a great reference to the Yuuzhan Vong that further ties them to the history of the Star Wars universe. The bottom line is that Outbound Flight is a great novel well worth your time and it is a valuable addition to the world of Star Wars.