Author: Paul S. Kemp
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: October 25, 2011
This review contains major spoilers. There were aspects of this book which we felt couldn’t be discussed without going into detail, so read at your own risk. There are many other sites with spoiler-free reviews, including the one from the fine folks over at the New Jedi Order Encyclopedia.
Star Wars: Riptide is the third novel from author Paul S. Kemp and the sequel to Crosscurrent. Kemp also wrote The Old Republic – Deceived, an excellent tale set during the events of the upcoming MMO by the same name. Riptide kicks off immediately after the events of last year’s Crosscurrent, throwing readers back into the story. Thankfully, Kemp manages to catch up those who haven’t read or just plain forgot the previous story with relative ease.
Jaden Korr, the protagonist of Crosscurrent and the star of the video game Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, still has a freshly-wounded hand from his duel with the mysterious clones from Fhost. Some of these very same clones have escaped the planet and are now paving a path of destruction toward an unknown being known as “Mother” in the hopes that she can heal them of their strange illness. Naturally, Jaden and crew–Marr Idi-Shael and Khedryn Faal–set off in pursuit, as do a pair of Umbaran Sith agents with a mysterious package in tow.
Riptide is an intriguing story and Kemp provides some interesting insights and varying points of view. But, having just finished the reviews for Revan and Darth Plagueis (look for them in the coming months), I found it somewhat difficult to grow attached to the majority of the characters in Riptide. The clones, in particular, were difficult to relate to. Kemp provides very little descriptions of the clones, merely noting that they were created based on the DNA of such fan-favorites as Mara Jade, Kyle Katarn, Lumiya, and even Jaden himself. It’s a fantastic concept, but the clones are mostly single-minded: stave off their fatal illness and reach “Mother,” who just might hold the cure. Soldier, the Prime clone and the only one unaffected by the skin-crawling genetic disease, and Grace, a red-haired little girl, are the only two characters I ever grew remotely attached to. The clones’ simple names and single-minded purpose made their scenes–and indeed, there are many of them–somewhat dry.
Nyss and Syll, on the other hand, have a bit more character. The Umbaran siblings are agents of Darth Wyyrlock’s One Sith from the Legacy comic series. Those who haven’t read the comics will probably be left wondering what exactly the One Sith is, but it’s not a major concern. The two agents from Umbara–a planet that will actually be making an appearance in The Clone Wars television series this week–possess a unique power: the ability to separate people within a certain radius from the Force. Objects are also affected, allowing Nyss to shut off a lightsaber by “suppressing the blade’s crystal.” It is later discovered that Jaden is immune to this potentially disastrous power, but we never find out why.
Nyss, of course, isn’t the only one with unique abilities. Jaden is very gifted with a lightsaber, having constructed it without guidance before entering the Jedi Academy as a child. At one point, he is able to transform a red synthetic lightsaber crystal into a pure yellow one through a special Force-fueled cleansing process. It’s an interesting technique, and its use surprised me at first. It does, however, give readers a new perspective on the inner workings of a lightsaber.
Unfortunately, many of the characters in Riptide are under-used. The majority of the clones die off very quickly, leaving Soldier (the Jaden-clone), Grace, and Seer to continue their quest. Syll quickly and quietly leaves the picture, while Khedryn is often sidelined in favor of Jaden and Marr, the latter of which has begun learning the ways of the Force as Jaden’s apprentice. I enjoyed Kemp’s take on how Marr’s newfound powers and loyalty affect those around him, specifically his old buddy Khedryn. That’s partially why I was so disappointed to see Khedryn left alone to guard the ship again and again. He does have one important scene midway through the story, but he is soon relegated to a background character once again. It’s interesting to note that Khedryn would have saved himself a lot of trouble by just following Jaden’s orders, rather than continuously running off and leaving the ship.
Kemp pleases fans by pulling in various aspects of the Expanded Universe, such as Grand Admiral Thrawn’s cloning project, the aforementioned Umbarans and One Sith, the Celestials, and the Rakata from Knights of the Old Republic. Rakatan technology plays a much larger and exciting role than one would initially suspect. The One Sith possess a Rakatan device which allows them to control special clones called Iterations. The Iteration in Nyss’ possession is actually a clone of none other than Jaden Korr. Yes, in Riptide, Jaden is surrounded by two wholly separate clones of himself.
The climactic final battle, too, takes place on a Rakatan biotech space station. As it turns out, Mother is actually the heart of the space station itself, and she is looking to escape. Mother quickly betrays the clones upon their arrival, possessing Seer and using the clone as a vessel for her consciousness. Mother reanimates the former inhabitants of the station in the hopes of stopping Jaden, Marr, Khedryn, and the two remaining clones from escaping. Though, oddly enough, she neglects to simply shut down the bio-elevators necessary to reach the “docking bays.
Riptide‘s big twist happens in the final chapters of the book during a duel between Jaden and Nyss. The Umbaran attempts to speak a coded phrase to Jaden, implying that Jaden himself is a clone and sleeper agent. Kemp alludes to this fact at other points in the book, but nowhere is it explicitly stated. But Jaden, much to Nyss’ dismay, is unaffected. The Jedi Master takes advantage of Nyss’ shock and quickly strangles the Sith agent. Of course, Jaden falls unconscious soon after, allowing the Iteration to step into the light and begin the transfer of memories and experiences, killing Jaden in the process. Marr intervenes, but seeing his lifeless Master, he decides to continue the process himself. Within minutes, Marr has switched Jaden and the Iteration’s clothing and equipment, going as far as to remove three of the Iteration’s fingers. Jaden–formerly the Iteration–is briefly disoriented upon regaining consciousness, but he appears to be his hold normal self. Marr never reveals Jaden’s true fate.
The book ends with “Jaden,” Marr, and Khedryn–who had been fumbling around the station the whole time–escaping Mother and the Rakatan facility shortly before its explosion. Soldier and Grace also survive, with enough medicine to keep Grace healthy for a while. Our three heroes, however, never learn of Grace’s fate, despite their efforts to help her. One has to wonder what kind of impact the red-haired Grace, the daughter of the Mara clone, could have on Luke Skywalker in future books? The impact on Jaden, however, is even larger. He has no memory of his “death” and subsequent “resurrection,” but he does begin to wonder about the little things, like the missing scar on his face.
The reader, like Jaden, is left with many questions. Riptide poses many, but only answers a select few. Why did Mother want to escape the station in the first place? Why did she need the clones, and how did she initiate contact with them? What was the purpose of the Iteration? Was it meant to take Jaden’s place and do the One Sith’s bidding? Is Jaden, formerly the Iteration, now a Sith plant, or will he be able to resist their control? How was Jaden cloned in the first place? Has he always been a clone? It’s doubtful that he’s been a clone since becoming a Jedi, considering his resistance to Nyss’ coded phrase, but it’s possible that Jaden was able to develop some sort of resistance to it. In a way, the questions about Jaden’s identity are reminiscent of those regarding the Secret Apprentice in The Force Unleashed II. Identity and choice are recurring themes in the book. Do people act a certain way because it’s in their DNA, or because of their upbringing? These are all questions posed by Riptide, but never answered. Plus, how does a person’s soul affect them?
Paul S. Kemp’s Riptide is, overall, an enjoyable story. It’s no Deceived, but it’s a fun ride. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect. The clone-centric scenes can be a little difficult to get through, and the most exciting developments happen late in the story. In a way, it almost felt like Imperial Commando: 501st, where many plot points are moved into place in anticipation of the next or final chapter in Jaden Korr’s character arc. The ending obviously sets up a sequel, and one has to wonder if Kemp’s upcoming duology will run with Riptide‘s dangling plot threads. A cloned sleeper Jedi and the possible existence of a young Mara Jade could make for an exciting duology indeed.
Reviewed by William Devereux
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