I will be reviewing two of Zahn’s books in this post. One that is now designated “Legends” and one that is in the current “Canon.” I read them about two weeks apart, and it was a little confusing at times. I will explain.
Survivor’s Quest. ‘Legends’
Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade travel to Wild Space to take part in a ceremony to honor the people who died a couple decades before in Outbound Flight, the jedi ship designed to explore uncharted space. Luke and Mara first meet at assigned coordinates, are joined by representatives from several different governments, and make their way to Nirauan, the site of the crash. The motivations of each group comes into question as the Criss ship is sabotaged multiple times during the flight. Who is trying to stop them from paying their respects? And once they get to Outbound Flight, there is a whole new set of obstacles in Luke and Mara’s way.
I had successes and failures while reading this book.
I will start with the bad: it’s a case of “it’s not the book, it’s me.” I read the original Thrawn Trilogy and Outbound Flight many years ago, and I was out of cell service and was unable to do any quick research when I was reading Survivor’s Quest, so I felt I was missing out on much of the backstory. While this might have cut out some of my understanding of the characters, it did not keep me from enjoying Zahn’s many misdirections. The shadow of Thrawn seemed to hang over the entire book.
The good: Any Zahn book that I have read is categorized by a many-layered plot. A plot that includes numerous factions, each one with an intricate plan for power. It’s a satisfying experience to step into the minds of these characters. Luke and Mara share the task of deducing the power play in this book. Each has strengths that create a good balance in the relationship. Survivor’s Quest is very good read, especially if you enjoy Zahn’s work and you are pretty well versed in the ‘legend’ history.
Two Narratives, Two Places in the Timeline.
Before The Dark Side: Annakin chases a missing Padme to Batuu, a planet in the Unknown Regions. She has traveled there to search for one of her handmaidens who has found evidence of a Separatist plot. When he drops out of hyperspace, Annakin is befriended by Thrawn. The two of them continue to the planet’s surface to begin their investigation into Padme’s disappearance.
After The Dark Side: The Emperor orders Darth Vader and Thrawn to search out the source of a disturbance in the force. The two take The Chimeara to Batuu, and find evidence of a possible smuggling ring.
The strength in this book lies is interplay between Annakin/ Vader and Thrawn. It would be easy to make this rivalry a simple matter of brains vs brawn, but Vader smartly realizes that he can’t fall into this trap. In true Thrawn style, he is always seemingly 3 steps ahead of the opposition, but does that opposition include Vader?
One other thing that I enjoyed: Zahn provides a very cool Jedi tracking-voice/ inner monologue (don’t know what else to call it). It slows down and anticipates the counter actions in fights and other scenes.
Overall, the question I kept going back to: What is Palpatine’s purpose is sending them out on a mission together? The two threads bounced back and forth, and each conclusion helps to answer this very interesting question. The journey is quite enjoyable.
Note about Legends vs Canon: I try really hard to not get caught up in the debate and enjoy each new SW offering on it own merit, but it’s difficult sometimes. I believe there is some great writing and some outstanding story threads in the Legends that I haven’t read, but time has caused me to forget some details, and the Canon has caused some definite confusion. I will still dip back into the Legends from time to time; I already have my sights set on a couple that I’d like to go back to!