Review: Survivor’s Quest by Timothy Zahn

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STOP!!! Before you go any further – have you read Outbound Flight yet?? If not, you might want to have a little think before proceeding. You see, I read Outbound Flight before this book and I personally think it really added to my reading experience. However, I have read out in the internet-verse that some people would consider Outbound Flight to be a massive spoiler for Survivor’s Quest.

So, a bit of background. I believe Outbound Flight is first referred to in the Thrawn trilogy as a doomed mission headed up by Jorus C’Baoth before the Clone Wars. In this book, set around 22 ABY (soooo Luke is around 40 years old) Luke and Mara head to the wreckage of Outbound Flight which has recently been discovered by the Chiss Ascendancy. The novel, Outbound Flight is set 27 BBY and focuses almost entirely on the Outbound Flight mission.

I personally found that a lot of Survivor’s Quest wouldn’t have made sense had I not read Outbound Flight. We already knew the mission was ‘doomed’ following comments made in the Thrawn trilogy so I don’t think it is a massive spoiler to find out exactly why and how the mission went so catastrophically wrong. I found the background to the Chiss Ascendancy crucial to my understanding of the Chiss politics that take place in this book, plus the Chiss’ own view of Thrawn and his role in the events that surrounded Outbound Flight. Plus, reading Outbound Flight, you are only certain that C’Baoth does not survive the mission (again, we learned this in the Thrawn trilogy so no great spoiler there) and that Obi-Wan and Anakin must survive (because, you know, Prequel Trilogy and all). However I didn’t know the fate of any of the other characters in Outbound Flight and I think if I had read Survivor’s Quest first, this would have taken away a lot of the suspense and tension of Outbound Flight.

So, if you want my recommendation, I think reading Outbound Flight is very helpful and certainly added to my enjoyment of Survivor’s Quest. Hope that helps!

On with the review! As I mentioned above, Luke and Mara have been contacted by Empire of the Hand, namely by Admiral Parck, to confirm that the wreckage of Outbound Flight has been found. As the nearest representatives of the New Republic to the system, Luke and Mara head on over to Chiss space to rendezvous with the Chiss Ambassador Formbi (not going to type out the Chiss full names soz!) and set off on a mission to see the remains of the doomed vessel. They are joined by representatives from the Empire of the Hand, Commander Chak Fel and a small unit of stormtroopers from the legendary 501st Legion, together with some extremely grumpy Chiss, a group of aliens who owe their lives to the people of the Outbound Flight mission and come to pay their respects together with New Republic Ambassador Dean Jinzler who, if you have read my review of Outbound Flight, may not be being entirely honest about his credentials or motives for attending the wreckage.

This motley band head on over to the ruins of Outbound Flight and, needless to say, an almighty ruckus kicks off and there is, to quote the late, great, Terry Pratchett ‘a lot of hey-nonny-nonny and blood all over the place’.

What’s good

Once again, Zahn has created a book that is simply unputdownable! I think he really excels at these duologies and single books, he doesn’t have the pacing concerns that a trilogy has and can really grab you by the scruff of the neck and not dump you on the floor gasping for breath until the whole thing in over!

If you loved Outbound Flight you will love this. Apart from the references to people like C’Baoth, Thrawn and the mission itself, it is quite a self-contained story. What I mean by this is there is no Han or Leia, or Pellaeon. The New Republic hardly features and therefore this book doesn’t get bogged down by the politics of the galaxy as a whole but instead simply focuses on being a wonderful adventure story for Luke and Mara. That’s not to say that there are no galactic implications to this book, clearly the Chiss are the dominant alien species in the Unknown Regions so their actions and Luke and Mara’s (as inevitable representatives of the New Republic) are going to have an impact on the galaxy, but it just felt that there was more freedom to concentrate on the main action of the book which was the exploration of the Outbound Flight and the various disasters that inevitably befall the party. (I mean, this is science fiction, when has the exploration of an ancient wrecked spaceship ever gone routinely?!)

Luke and Mara are definitely the main two characters in this book and, after the Hand of Thrawn duology, this is completely amazing. They are, as always, such a fantastic team and it was so lovely to read about how they are settling into married life, which is anything but dull when you are Luke and Mara!

Mara has grown so much as a character throughout the New Republic era. When we first met her she was kind of broken, very angry and bitter about her past and ready to lash out at anyone who tried to get close to her. Now we get to see her gradually accept her role as a Jedi although she has her fair share of doubts throughout the novel. It has been wonderful to watch her journey and immensely satisfying to read her in this book and see just how far she has come!

As ever, Zahn writes Luke extremely well. I love the various gifts he has given Luke as a Jedi. He is clearly immensely powerful but exercises great caution with that power. Luke will always look for a peaceful solution (unlike Mara who is more than happy to resort to violence if she is threatened or those around her are) – I think whilst this also shows how far Luke has come, it is also a great homage to his character and the young man who threw aside his weapon rather than fight back in the Emperor’s throne room all those years ago.

Zahn has also created a fascinating alien race in the Chiss. Their politics are so interesting and their policy of not attacking another species unless that species has directly attacked them was actually quite refreshing. They are clearly a powerful and intelligent race and yet they can also hold to their traditions to the point of stubbornness. I found myself almost screaming at the book in places when the Chiss were being particularly belligerent!!

Mention Jinzler when you know more. I found his journey to be one of the most moving and satisfying. Gone is the angry, resentful young man from Outbound Flight and he has been replaced with a kind and compassionate man who reminded me so much of his sister.

Overall this was a perfect book to wrap up the New Republic era. It felt like such a treat to just focus on Luke and Mara (there were plenty of interesting new characters introduced such as Fel so it never got dull or overly focused on our two Jedi) and was a refreshing change of pace. It also answered some nagging questions I had from the end of Outbound Flight and gave some much needed closure to that particularly sad and dark time in the history of the Jedi and the galaxy.

I feel like this book is a palate cleanser, refreshing your taste buds ready for the mammoth pudding that is the New Jedi Order!

What’s bad

Oh gosh this is the hard part right?! I always struggle to criticise Zahn’s books because I just love them so much. I would say maybe the Chiss themselves because they are maddeningly frustrating, prickly and belligerent. But then, that just means they were extremely well written right, because we’re supposed to feel that way about them! Haha!

Sorry I’ve got nothing. I adored this book, devoured it in less than two weeks and I know that Luke and Mara’s story will have a special place in my heart for many years to come. Awwwwww. Heart-eyes!

Rating: Obviously 5 out of 5 Death Stars!

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