Star Wars: Outbound Flight has been released with a new cover and audiobook as part of the new Essential Legends collection. This novel, written by Timothy Zahn, is somewhat of an origin story for Thrawn during his final days as a commander in the Chiss Ascendancy.
Taking place five years after the events of The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Outbound Flight follows the point of view of the crew of the Bargain Hunter, Captain Qennto, Maris Ferasi, and Jorji Car’das as they are chased into the unknown regions. The crew cross paths with Commander Thrawn and the Chiss Expansionary Fleet and form an unlikely alliance.
The story changes to Obi-Wan and Anakin’s perspective as they are sent to follow fellow Jedi, Master Jorus C’baoth and his padawan Lorana Jinzler on Barlok for trade negotiations. Outbound Flight is Master C’baoth’s big project that has hit quite the rough patch. With the negotiations being a success on Barlok, the Senate restores funding to the project, letting Master C’baoth use whatever resources he needs.
[Note: While I am reviewing this audiobook novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that this new audiobook has been provided to me by Random House Worlds for the purpose of this review. Warning: spoilers for this story are discussed below!]
What is “Outbound Flight”?
Outbound Flight, a doomed project, was started by Jedi Master C’baoth. Its purpose is to carry passengers and colonists to the Unknown Regions of space to find planets to settle on and contact new life. The vessel consists of six dreadnought starships to hold six Jedi Masters, twelve Jedi Knights, and fifty thousand men, women, and children.
These are the days before the Clone Wars, and Palpatine hasn’t been supreme chancellor for that long. It’s clear there is unrest in the galaxy. Taking this many Jedi Masters and Knights on what could be an expedition lasting months to years is spreading them thin at a time when they’re needed to help peace in the galaxy.
It’s obvious Palpatine wants the project to go forward for his own personal reasons. With Palpatine pulling the strings behind the scenes, it felt like reading a three-episode Clone Wars arc, which is why I enjoyed the story. It felt very dramatic even though we know the outcome of the story, but I was hooked on the journey our characters went through.
Characters in Star Wars: Outbound Flight
I wasn’t invested in Car’das, Qennto, and Maris. It felt like they didn’t have a purpose other than to introduce Thrawn. They were just a way to have humans from the Republic run into Thrawn to teach him their culture. Had the book just been Thrawn’s and the Jedi’s point of view, it would have been more interesting. It felt like this trio got in the way of learning more about Thrawn, and they were an uninteresting part of the story.
Zahn has written Thrawn for years, and I felt like this was a missed opportunity for him to dive into Thrawn’s early mind. It’s obvious Thrawn has studied a lot of the Republic’s culture from Car’das’ interactions with the commander.
My favorite part of the book was Obi-Wan and Anakin. At this point, Anakin is in his teenage years and absolutely hilarious. He’s snippy, a challenge for Obi-Wan, yet already so powerful. Anakin at this stage reminds me of Ahsoka when she was first assigned to Anakin in the way he learns and goes headfirst into danger. I love how Zahn captured Obi-Wan and Anakin’s early relationship. It felt very much like a single dad and his teenage son traveling the galaxy.
When we come across Thrawn here, he’s just a commander in the Chiss Ascendancy, helping lead their expansion in the unknown regions of space. We can tell how loyal Thrawn is to the Ascendancy. Even though he went against their laws, everything he did was for the good of their cause. Thanks to his cleverly organized a preemptive strike, Thrawn is exiled from the Ascendancy.
I thought this would be more Thrawn centered going into this book. I was surprised by how much time was spent on Anakin, Obi-Wan, and other Jedi. As I stated before, had Thrawn been the center of those chapters taking place in the unknown regions, the story would have been more interesting.
The difference between Thrawn and Palpatine as tacticians was highlighted in this book. I find the difference between them so curious. Thrawn can keep a lid on his anger to look at the whole picture for his plan. He’s able to move seven steps ahead to see every possible outcome or what could possibly get in his way.
Palpatine has let his anger control him to keep him on the path. He seems to deal with disruptions as they pop up, even if he has carefully planned out how battles would be played out.
Final thoughts on Star Wars: Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn
Something I love about Star Wars audiobooks is how immersive they are. Sounds are added, such as ships, hyperspace, and blaster fire. Along with the sounds of Star Wars music and ambiance are added with the narration. Outbound Flight is narrated by Marc Thompson, who does a phenomenal job with the range of characters he’s given. He embodies perfectly Lars Mikkelson’s Thrawn giving him a menacing yet curious presence in the novel.
I thoroughly enjoyed this expanded universe novel. Honestly, this book could be put in the canon timeline easily without changing much. The end of the book did feel a little unfulfilling, with everyone just going their separate ways. And of course, like any prequel Star Wars project, the highlight of the book for me was Anakin and Obi-Wan.
My rating: 6/10
If you are looking for more Thrawn stories, check out his companion guide linked below. There’s a mix of canon and expanded universe to pick from, so there’s no shortage of content. Star Wars: Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn is available now in most places books and audiobooks are sold.