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T'Bone's Star Wars Universe
Book Review
Survivor's Quest
by Timothy Zahn
Review by: CeeWulf
Posted: 3/9/2004 5:29:08 PM
February 2004
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Sometimes it seems a Jedi's work is never done, and Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker know this only too well. Despite the bond they share in the Force, after three years of marriage the Jedi Master and hsi wife are still learning the ropes of being a couple -- and struggling to find time together between the constant demands of duty. But all that will change when they're united on an unexpected mission -- and must pool their exceptional skills to combat an insidious enemy... and salvage a part of Jedi history.

It begins with a message from a surprising source: Nirauan, the planet where Thrawn, dangerous disciple of Emperor Palpatine, once held sway... and from which Luke and Mara barely escaped with their lives. The message itself is shocking. After fifty years, the remains of Outbound Flight -- a pioneering Jedi expedition viciously destroyed by Thrawn -- have been found on Nirauan. Now, the fiercely honor-bound aliens who reside there wish to turn over the remnants of the doomed mission to the New Republic. Accepting the gesture will mean a long voyage into the treacherous cluster of stars where thousands of souls aboard the Outbound Flight vessel met their grim fate. But it may also mean something more... something that has stirred an inexplicable sense of foreboding in Mara.

Whatever may await, the Skywalkers will not face it alone. Joining them on the strange and solemn journey are an officer of the post-Palpatine Empire, escorted by a detachment of Imperial stormtroopers; a party of diplomats from a gentle alien species that reveres the fallen Jedi for sving them from blood-thirsty conquerors; and a New Republic ambassador who harbors his own mysterious agenda.

Soon enough, suspicion, secrecy and an unknown saboteur run rambant aboard the isolated ship. But it is wihtin the derelict walls of Outbound Flight itself, buried for half a century on a desolate planetoid, where the gravest danger lies. As the marooned hulk yields up stunning revelations and unexpected terrors to its visitors, Luke and Mara find all they stand for -- and their very existence -- burtally challenged. And the ultimate test will be surviving the deathtrap carefully laid by foes who are legendary for their ruthlessness... and determined to complete the job Thrawn began: exterminating the Jedi.

First of all, let's look at this horribly written blurb which I pulled from the novel's book jacket. The aliens who reside in Outbound Flight are not looking to turn the remnants of the flight over to the New Republic, the Chiss are. The people who are at Outbound Flight don't want anything to do with the New Republic.

Second, the baddies in the novel aren't looking to destroy the Jedi, they want to destroy the Chiss. I guess you could say that they have a beef with the Jedi as well, but their goal was to exact revenge on the Chiss.

But, of course, this is nit picking. Most of the blurbs found with Star Wars novels are misleading.

"Survivor's Quest" has taken ranks, in my opinion, among the worst of the Star Wars novels. Why this book was put out as a hardcover, I don't know. It's not a book, it's a prologue. Or, maybe an epilogue, since the real story takes place decades before.

Either way, there is nothing in this book. It sets up the events that surrounded the Outbound Flight's demise, without providing one answer to what actually happened to it. What's the point of having a novel that is just a teaser for another book? Zahn didn't even really bother providing as least some deeper purpose to this work. Sure, there is Mara's weak soul searching as she finds herself missing times back in the day, when the Empire ruled and destroyed and murdered, and she lived a privlaged life in ignorance of it all.

Give me a break.

I'm not much of a Mara fan, but I thought this book would give the character some depth. Aside from her illness in the NJO, she served little purpose there. But, instead what Zahn delivers is a story that tries to promote Mara as some sort of "survivior". How dull. She didn't suffer nor was she mistreated, she was akin to the middle child who felt ignored by her abusive father. Then when someone saves her from that environment, she hates them for it. Now, she finds herself missing that station in life. And we're suppose to feel sorry for her? We're suppose to feel anything for her?

Her story is designed to mirror the struggles of another character in the book, Jinzler. He was someone I liked. A tie in to the prequels and the Old Jedi Order, he was the most enjoyable part of the novel. I don't want to say too much about him, but he was someone I could understand and feel for. His struggle was real, unlike Mara's manufacturered one. Although I thought the resolution of his plight was somewhat forced, he made the book bareable for me.

I also liked the appearance of the 501st. The Imperial stormtroopers were cool, and they definitely helped elevate this work above such poor Star Wars outings like Darksaber and The Crystal Star. General Drask was also a notable figure. Clearly, Zahn has an affection for the Chiss - which he created - and continues to display them well.

But, even with these highpoints, the book never escapes the fact that it's just a set up for something else -- Zahn's upcoming Outbound Flight tale. Plus, the novel was probably one of the slowest moving Star Wars stories I'd read in some time. There is no action until the final 100 pages (the book is 360+), and that is a long, drawn out series of chases that -- like the book -- have extremely week climaxes.

Still, the lack of information was the key failure of "Survivor's Quest". We learn that certain things went wrong on Outbound Flight, and there is a lot of bad blood between the humans onboard and the Jedi who were a part of the mission. Yet, no one asks the basic question -- WHY? Of course, we'll be learning this in another book, so we'll just have to wait for that response. But what's the logic here? Luke and Mara never bother asking about what happened. Perhaps we're suppose to accept the logic that so much goes on by the time they get to Outbound Flight, we're simply suppose to believe that they just never get the chance. Then the book ends and, oh well, we'll just have to wait.

What bothers me most is that Zahn didn't even try to deliver a real story here. Mara's laughable "journey" isn't integral to the plot, nor is it terribly important to anything. Even Jinzler, who goes to Outbound Flight searching for answers, simply shruggs and accepts that he won't get them. I mean, give me a break, he never even tried to get them. He could have, too. And that's where this novel competely faulters, because he DOESN'T EVEN TRY! We're simply supposed to shrug our shoulders and wait until his next books.

I will give Zahn kudos for the manner in which he handled Luke and Mara. He balances the two out nicely, not giving either one more weight than the other. I just wish he had strived to tell a real story here, instead of using the opportunity to promote his other work.

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