Author: Paul S. Kemp
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Review By: Chris Carey
In the closing moments of Crosscurrent, Paul S. Kemp’s first foray into the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Jedi Knight Jaden Korr vows to track down a group of Force-using clones that escape after he discovers them. Riptide takes place almost immediately after the closing moments of Crosscurrent, creating a virtually seamless transition between the books. For readers unfamiliar with Crosscurrent(or for those who have, perhaps, forgotten some of the key details), Kemp does a remarkable job of touching on past events without ever making the references feel forced. Riptide clocks in at a brisk 278 pages, but fans won’t feel cheated at the length. Kemp keeps the story very tight and focused, with an unrelenting pace that will leave readers gasping for breath at the end of almost every chapter. Every scene is important to the narrative, so there is no need to worry about superfluous sequences that serve only to artificially increase the length of the story.
Perhaps more than his previous Expanded Universe work, Riptide is a very mature title. Fans expecting a lighthearted, swashbuckling story that emulates the films or Bantam-era books will likely be disappointed. But for readers looking for a mature, darker take on the Star Wars universe, Riptide will be a refreshing read. Kemp doesn’t pull his punches, and he certainly doesn’t hesitate to put his characters through the wringer. The action sequences are particularly noteworthy, being so visceral that it will leave readers white-knuckled with tension. That same level of detail also has the opportunity to gross out, shock, and even scare, readers as the book reaches its climax. It is a testament to Kemp’s prose, that he can elicit so many different emotional responses throughout the book.
In terms of plotting, the book continues in the same similar style that Crosscurrent was written in. The book primarily follows three factions: Jaden and his two cohorts (Marr and Khedryn, who are as memorable as ever), the clones, and the One Sith agent that is stalking both groups. Of the three, the portions of the story that focus on the One Sith agent is the clear highlight. As a character that manages to be both menacing and creepy, while also containing a vulnerability that keeps him unpredictable in the mind of readers, this new villain is incredibly intriguing. As with the Anzati assassin from Crosscurrent, Kemp again does a remarkable job of creating a villain that is both unique and quirky. The clone portions of Riptide, however, provide some of the weaker moments of the book. It is tough to really get involved in their storyline, and to empathize with these characters. A certain amount of that likely has to do with their names and descriptions, which are purposefully left vague. The unfortunate byproduct of this vagueness is that it creates a disconnect that makes it hard to care about the clones. As for Jaden’s portions of the story, his scenes are some of the shining moments of the book. There is a definite growth that can be found in Jaden’s character from the opening pages of Crosscurrent to the final moments of Riptide, and this same level of growth can be found in Marr and Khedryn too. These characters, the only real constant between the two books, feel extremely realistic as a result, and they are characters that readers will find themselves attached to because of that familiarity.
A running theme found in Riptide is about testing one’s faith. Don’t think that pertains only to the narrative, though. Riptide invites a lot of controversy with its twists as the story develops, and while some twists are predictable and feel contrived, there are also a few that will absolutely stun readers. Although Kemp is careful to slip a few answers to some major questions throughout the story, and keen-eyed readers will catch and appreciate them, but some of the most shocking and confusing plot points are left either completely unexplained or are brushed aside with a simple explanation that still doesn’t really answer the important questions readers will have. Once the shock, surprise, and inevitable speculation runs its course, readers will find that Riptide really doesn’t offer much in terms of providing satisfactory answers to those burning questions.
Riptide is refreshing in its blistering pace and fantastic action scenes. Many are likely to finish the book in just a day or two, simply because the story is so compelling. Easily one of the more controversial Expanded Universe titles in recent years, there is little denying that fans will have plenty to discuss and speculate on once they finish reading. With Riptide, Kemp has proved that his decidedly original take on Star Wars has a depth that will keep him around for years to come. Riptide is a darker, more mature approach to the Expanded Universe, and will resonate strongly with readers yearning for a book that combines great philosophical and emotional substance with the ability to keep them on the edge of their seats with each turn of the page.