Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Star Wars: Riptide by Paul S. Kemp

I have a little advice for you, run don't walk to your local bookseller and pick up Star Wars: Riptide on Tuesday, October 25th.  The third Star Wars novel by author Paul S. Kemp is a page turning tale that has the pacing of an episode of '24'.  Does that make Jaden Korr the Star Wars equivalent of Jack Bauer with a lightsaber?

Publisher's Synopsis:

Anyone can escape danger. No one can escape the truth.

When a ship full of Sith warriors arrived in Galactic Alliance space, the fight to destroy it accidentally uncovered a hidden menace: a long-hidden group of clones, secretly created as insidious weapons capable of wielding the Force and heedless of the differences between light side and dark side. Now the clones have escaped—and evidence suggests that they are flawed by genetic disease and violent madness.

Jedi Knight Jaden Korr pursues the clones, hoping to heal them but prepared to destroy them. What he doesn’t know is that Sith agents are hot on his heels, determined not only to recover the clones for their Master but to capture Jaden for their own dark-side purposes. In a life-or-death battle, Jaden will confront a shocking reality that will rock him to his core and bring him face-to-face with the question of what makes a man . . . and a Jedi.

Riptide picks up immediately after the events of Crosscurrent as The Three Junkerteers, Jaden, Marr, and Khedryn, are chasing down a group of crazy Force-using clones.   

Kemp sets the stage in chapter one with the use of descriptions and details that lets you know this is going to be a story with some dark overtones and some violent action.  One of the thing I enjoy most about Kemp's writing is that it is a melting pot of horror, fantasy, hard science fiction, space opera, and philosophy that creates a Star Wars novel that is both entertaining and thought provoking. This book will trigger some arguments and debates, which is always a good thing among EU fans. 

The inclusion of dark horror elements into a Star Wars story has been tried most notably in Deathtroopers and Red Harvest, but to a lessor extent those same elements are ever present in both Crosscurrent and Riptide.  In Riptide, Kemp uses midi-chlorians in a way that I would never have imagined and could serve as a metaphor for how some fans feel about their introduction into the Star Wars saga.  There are other elements in the story that have a Lovecraftian feel and also had me wondering about how it might relate to a certain villain in the Fate of the Jedi series. 

Kemp marches over to the Star Wars fiefdom that Timothy Zahn has carved out in his numerous novels and short stories and firmly plants the Kempland flag onto the territory of Grand Admiral Thrawn's cloning program.  Cloning played a central role in both the Thrawn Trilogy and the Hand of Thrawn Duology, and Kemp resurrects the idea of Thrawn's cloning program for Crosscurrent and Riptide. The clones introduce the age old debate about what shapes a person, is it their biology or their life experiences? 

Riptide sees the return to the novel universe of the One Sith, the order of Sith created by Darth Krayt (A'Sharad Hett) in the Dark Horse Comic series, Legacy which takes place roughly 90 years after the events of Riptide.  By including the One Sith it helps integrate the two major EU licensees' and opens up some intriguing story telling possibilities to span the gap between the Fate of the Jedi novel series and the Legacy comic series.  

Kemp also ventures into the ancient EU history and the land of PC games to bring the Rakata and their Dark Side infused technology into play.  This is a very interesting move, but it is necessary for certain story telling purposes and also is a solid step in exploring a civilization that I would love to learn more about.

There is an inclusion of a species in this book that makes me wonder about potential continuity issues down the road. Debuting on the same week we have Riptide and Star Wars: The Clone Wars four part Umbara arc.  The use of Umbarans and the imputing of them with certain abilities has me wondering whether or not it is unique to the character(s) that Kemp created or if it is a general trait of the mysterious Umbaran species. 

In the Harry Potter universe there is the concept of wandlore, an ancient branch of magic that governs just about everything surrounding the construction and use of magic wands.  In Riptide, Kemp gives us lots and lots of Lightsaberlore.  The last novel that really went this in depth with lightsabers, is Mike Stackpole's I, Jedi in a series of scenes we get two different lightsaber contruction techniques (normal and fast/emergency construction), a special meditation designed to fuse the components of the lightsaber and the Jedi together, and a run down of all the components necessary to construct the blade.  In Riptide, we get a tremendous amount of detail of lightsaberlore that is different take then what I have read before and is beyond to create some message board and Facebook discussions regarding the Force, Jedi, and lightsabers.

Lightsaberlore isn't the only Jedi related issue that Kemp delves into.  In the expanded Universe we have seen that Jedi all perceive the Force in different ways, in Riptide are presented a curious scientific way of approaching the mystical energy field.  

There are two types of endings that I hate to see in a novel, when the author either ties up all the loose ends and leaves very little room for future storytelling, and on the other extreme when the author leaves the ending so open ended that you are reliant on a subsequent story to feel any sense of closure to the characters and their story arcs.  Riptide strikes that delicate balance where you get resolution to the this particular tale, but a new story telling possibility is opened up and sets up the potential for another story to be told either now or later on in the timeline. 

At 278 pages Riptide is a very quick read, but unlike some shorter novels I have read it feels like a complete story.  As a result of the setting of the story and the pacing, there isn't a lot of plot fat and dead pages to wade through.  I predict that Jaden Korr will quickly become an EU fan favorite much like Corran Horn became after his starring role in the novel I, Jedi.  I can heartily endorse Riptide for any Star Wars fan.

Check back to Lightsaber Rattling after Riptide is released as I have some spoiler filled thoughts on what ripples it could send out into the larger Expanded Universe.  

Star Wars: Riptide by Paul S. Kemp is available in paperback and ebook formats for $7.99.  To read excerpts of the book you can visit and

1 comment:

  1. Advice often goes unheeded by those who know better...but that's their problem.