Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Star Wars: Crosscurrent by Paul S. Kemp

"There be dragons."

I. Setting

Crosscurrent is a bifurcated novel, part of the story takes place in 5,000 BBY and part of the story takes place in 41.5 ABY.

The part of the story in 5,000 BBY is set during the reign of Dark Lord of the Sith Naga Sadow and The Great Hyperspace War.  The events in this part of the timeline tie into the Lost Tribe of the Sith e-books as well as the Fate of the Jedi regarding the Lost Tribe of the Sith.

The part of the story that takes place in 41.5 ABY is set following the travels of disillusioned Jedi Knight Jaden Korr and the salvaging crew of the Junker. The events in this timeline also involve Darth Kryat's One Sith that appear in Legacy of the Force novel series and the Legacy comic series by Dark Horse Comics.

II. Dramatis Personae

Drev Hassin; Jedi Padawan (Askajian male)
Jaden Korr; Jedi Knight (human male)
Kell Douro; assassin/spy (Anzat male)
Khedryn Faal; captain, Junker (human male)
Marr Idi-Shael; first mate, Junker (Cerean male)
Relin Druur; Jedi Master (human male)
Saes Rrogon; Sith Lord; captain, Harbinger (Kaleesh male)

III. Story (Caution: Spoilers)

One of my pet peeves with some Star Wars novels is that it seems like every other character is human.  In a galaxy that is set up as so diverse and rich, its disappointing that we get so few interesting characters of other species.  I loved Kemp's interesting cast of characters, of the 7 main characters we get only 3 humans and 4 aliens.  Of these aliens we got some really interesting choices.  A male Askijian, do you remember Jabba's oh so attractive dancing girl Yarna?  I cannot recall ever reading about a male of the species before Drev Hassin and his very large appetite for humor and life make a brief but memorable appearance in this novel.

Marr Idi-Shael, the Cerean navigator of the salvage vessel Junker, is a force-sensitive math wiz.  Not only is his numerical skills cool, but the idea to use it has his way of visualizing and interfacing with the Force is a very interesting touch. 

Saes Rrogon gives us an idea of what General Grievous may have been like before his cybernetic transformation.  As a Sith wearing a bone mask he presents a dramatic visage and with his bone hunting masks gives us an interesting flavor of Kaleesh culture. 

By far my favorite of these alien characters is Kell Douro.  Douro is an Anzat assassin and spy working in the employ of the One Sith.  It also appears that he is force sensitive to some extent because he is able to use mind control of victims.   Douro uses feeder appendages that are stored in his cheeks that extend and travel up a victims nostrils into the brain cavity.  He uses these to consume his victims' brains which he calls "Soup."

After reading Kemp's short story collection Ephemera, its clear how strong an influence the horror drama has had upon him, and his use of Kell Douro and the clones (which we will get to later) are the best use of horror elements in a Star Wars novel.  While I enjoyed both Death Troopers and Red Harvest, neither novel felt truly like Star Wars, both felt a bit like they could have been written with other/non-Star Wars characters and been just as good of books.  Crosscurrent succeeds as a main stream EU novel that has tremendously creepy horror elements, these elements do not take you out of the story but fit organically with the larger narrative.

The driving force behind the novel is the struggle within of Jaden Korr, trying to come to terms with killing Corellians during the assault on Centerpoint Station during the Legacy of the Force series, Korr is left with doubts about just about everything.

For those unfamiliar Korr was trained by Jedi Master Kyle Katarn, and his master introduced a rather peculiar view of the Force to Korr.
The Force is a tool, Jaden.  Sometimes a weapon, sometimes a salve.  Dark side, light side, these are distinctions of insignificant difference.  Do not fall into the trap of classificatin.  Sentience curses us with a desire to categorize and draw lines, to fear that after this be dragons.  But that is illusion.  After this is not dragons but more knowledge, deeper understanding.  Be at peace with that.
The novel follows the tale of Jaden and Jedi Master Relin Druur, as they team up with the crew of the Junker, as they attempt to investigate a mysterious distress signal and destroy a 5,000 year old Sith ship full of the Dark side enhancing Lignan crystals.

Without giving too much of the story away the story also introduces a group of 10 clones that escape into space at the end of the novel.  These clones may include clones of Lumiya, Lassin, Mara Jade-Skywalker, others and possibly children of these clones.  What is weird is that either the Emperor or Grand Admiral Thrawn began this cloning project by combining DNA samples of Jedi and Dark Jedi/Sith to create these clones.  It sets up some interesting potential interactions potentially if there is a living Mara Jade-Skywalker clone and she were to come into contact with Ben or Luke.

The story of these clones and the adventures of Korr and the crew of the Junker will be featured in Paul S. Kemp's sequel Riptide,  due to be released 9/27/11.

IV. Conclusions

Crosscurrent gets 9 out of 10 lightsabers, is a creepy fun ride, that delves into force philosophy and makes you re-examine right and wrong, dark side and light side. 

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