Era: Republic, 27 years Before the Battle of Yavin
Author: Timothy Zahn
ISBN: 0-345-45684-X (Del Rey)
Finsished: 19 February 2007
From the back: It began as the ultimate voyage of discovery, only to become a dark chapter in Jedi history. The Clone Wars have yet to erupt when Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth petitions the Senate for support of an ambitious mission: to contact intelligent life and colonize undiscovered worlds beyond the known galaxy. But 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. Or so it would seem. The evil Sith Lord Darth Sidious has his own interests in Outbound Flight. Yet even he could not foresee the events that unfold when the starship encounters the brilliant Chiss mastermind known as “Thrawn”.
Comments: Set five years after the Battle of Naboo, it opens with a smuggler and his crew stumbling across an alien race known as the Chiss. The commander, Mitth’raw’nuruodo, is curious about the Republic and treats them more like guests than prisoners. One, Jorj Car’das, makes a good impression on Thrawn and he takes him into his confidence (sort of). Soon, Thrawn is learning Basic and Car’das is learning the Chiss language (there are several trading languages known to both races and that’s how they communicate –- no C-3PO). Apparently in the Star Wars universe, learning another language is a snap.
Thrawn is a bit of a renegade. Chiss law prohibits preemptive strikes against a possible threat: an enemy must fire on them first. In the course of his duties, Thrawn has encountered a race of nomadic pirates/slavers that use their captives as living shields. Though they have not attacked or threaten Chiss systems, Thrawn feels it will only be a matter of time before they do. Even if the Chiss leadership finds the Vagaari’s behavior immoral, they will stand by their policy. Since he takes his responsibilities seriously, this leaves Thrawn with only one course of action: find a way to bait the Vagaari.
Meanwhile, Jorus C’baoth has been pushing for funding of his pet project, Outbound Flight. Palpatine tells him that he can do nothing to persuade the Senate to endorse the project. On the other hand, Darth Sidious can. Sidious wants the project to go forward so he can eliminate many Jedi at once. He sends one of his agents to arrange a situation that will guarantee that the Senate will give C’baoth whatever he wants. The plan is successful and the Jedi Master gets his funding. Sidious sends his henchman to intercept the mission and destroy it. However, any evil plot that involves the Neimoidians is doomed to failure, so why Darth Sidious would allow his agent to include them in the plans is beyond me. Their ineptitude is responsible for Thrawn coming to Sidious’s attention and paves the way for his eventual place in the Imperial Navy. Nevertheless, I’m rather found of the Neimoidians. They’re usually good for a laugh or two.
C’baoth and Thrawn both came as a surprise to me. In Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, one assumes that the reason the C’baoth clone behaves the way he does is because he’s a clone and not the original Jedi. Wrong. The C’baoth clone behaves the way he does because C’baoth behaved that way. C’baoth is arrogant, pushy, condescending, rude — I could go on. He believes that Jedi are superior to everyone else. Once he’s got Outbound Flight, he quickly becomes a tyrant. Anakin Skywalker looks up to him, which should shock no one. As for Thrawn, his characterization in this book is surprising because he’s, well, friendly. He’s courteous, polite, cultured, and seems to care about those who rely on him. He isn’t condescending. This can’t be the same person who would plot to kidnap Leia’s children, could it?
I liked how Zahn pulled in the mystery of the “Far Outsiders”, which play a major role in the New Jedi Order books. I also like the way Zahn writes space battles: just enough detail without using too much flying jargon, but I can still get a mental picture. Over all, I do like his writing style, but I do have one minor complaint. It seemed like there was a lot of wincing and grimacing going on.
“Why leave our backs turned while millions of other beings are forced to suffer?”
“You’d better get some rest. It won’t be fun for anyone if you collapsed from exhaustion before Ar’alani even has the chance to throw you in the brig.”
— Car’das to Thrawn
“Perhaps his plan is to throw our starfighters against Outbound Flight in an awesome display of disintegrating metal that will frighten Captain Pakmillu into submission.”
— Neimoidian Vicelord Kav