The average fan of the Star Wars Novel believes in Timothy Zahn's vision of the Lucas universe. Admittedly, I may be the ring leader of this group. But I am critical to anyone and everything. So what did I think of Survivor's Quest? Well, first of I applaud the different direction that Zahn takes this novel compared to his prior Star Wars Work, (the Thrawn Trilogy and the Hand of Thrawn duology). This work of literature is completely different, and far less ambitious.
While his past work was associated with it's complicated plot's, strategically plotting villains, and New Republic politics emphasized over the force, this book has none of that. In fact, there is only one plot and only two characters that we are familiar with make it past page 20. This would be Luke and Mara, now a happily married couple for three years.
The story after that can be broken up on two parts. On the Chiss ship (The race "Chiss" of course was that belonging to Grand Admiral Thrawn) and on the planet where the Outbound flight crashed.
The story starts with Luke being called back to the planet Nirauen (which is where the Hand of Thrawn fortress was set up). The Imperial admiral there tells Luke and Mara that the Outbound Flight was found. Die-hard's will be familiar with the Flight, which is mentioned many times in previous Zahn novels. Briefly, a group of Republic Colonist and Jedi, Pre-Clone Wars, sent out on a journey to leave the known Galaxy and establish colonies elsewhere. However, Thrawn, on the secret orders of Palpatine, destroys the flight, where it crash's down on this planet in Chiss Space.
Luke, wanting to see this piece of history races to join the Chiss ship, and it's crew, including the Chiss Aristacra Formbi and the Chiss General Drask. Also going to the flight is the imperial man Fel (Son of the famous TIE fighter pilot) and his 5-man battalion of Storm Troopers, the elite Five-oh-First. Then their is the "Ambassador" Jinlzer, who "says" he was sent from the New Republic. However, we find out right away, or at least only Luke and Mara find out, that he really was not who he seemed, and he has his own connections to the flight. Also on the journey was a group of Geroons, a race that wanted to honor the Outbound Flight , because just before it's demise, they supposedly saved them from a violent attack by a mysterious race called the Vagarri. This group of people, on the Chiss ship, which included a whole legion of Chiss warriors set out to the Outbound Flight for the first time. At this point, it has been discovered, but not explored. And this is what they determine to do.
This was the only plot. There were no other character's we follow around, except for Luke and Mara, and occasionally, the other's on this ship. The plot quickly becomes a Sherlock Holmes-type story of "who-dun-it", with Luke being Sherlock, and Mara - Watson. Keep in mind, murder not being the mystery to solve.
Zahn did exceptionally well in this undertaking, and this from a person that very much enjoys the ambitious plots of his previous novels, the internal politics, the military strategy, et al.
Once the character's get to the Chiss ship a whole new avenue of unexpected events and plot twists develop, and the pace I found myself reading began to quicken at this point. But then, the Action started. And never ended. And the plot, and the mysteries (though all answered primarily in a single confession by one of the aforementioned characters) all become lost in the ensuing action. The action was relatively easy to follow, but sometimes over done. There was one scene where Luke and Mara where being chased around by a droid, that lasted 7 or 8 pages! Before the obvious happened.
And if you like any other character other than Luke and Mara, be warned, only Karrde and Booster have ANY dialogue in this, and that is limited to the first chapter.
Survivor's Quest was the only Star Wars full-length single novel that Zahn has written - and I could tell this by reading it. He seemingly did not know how to keep the page number's down by writing a simple plot. To achieve this, he would sum up "transition events" very quickly. For example, Luke and Mara first heard about the Outbound Flight discovery, next thing we know, they are on the Chiss ship a couple of pages later off to the Flight. It almost felt a bit rushed in the way it was wrote.
The last complaint was regarding the antagonist. I can't say who it is, because that will ruin a lot for you. But they are not memorable to me or well developed. Even Disra, Flim and Tierce in the Hand of Thrawn duology, though not very popular as Thrawn, were developed well.
Overall, this novel, was easy reading, not nearly epic as his previous Star Wars work, and it was a drop down in quality from it. I do miss his typical style, but this book still was most defiantly superior to most other author's out there.