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Riptide (Star Wars) Mass Market Paperback – October 25, 2011
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About the Author
Paul S. Kemp is the author of New York Times bestselling novel Star Wars: Crosscurrent and Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived, as well as nine Forgotten Realms fantasy novels and many short stories. When he’s not writing, he practices corporate law in Michigan, which has inspired him to write some really believable villains. He digs cigars, single malt scotch, and ales, and tries to hum the theme song to Shaft at least once per day. Paul S. Kemp lives and works in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, with his wife, twin sons, and a couple of cats.
Top customer reviews
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Riptide kicks off with a cryptic chapter concerning Jaden and then throws us back two days earlier. The rest of the book is devoted to catching up to this moment and solving the mystery. I found this a heavy-handed way to build suspense and interest and I kept hoping that first chapter would be resolved earlier in the book: then we could move forward from there. The resolution to this mystery, without spoiling any key details, was clear on a physical level but quite murky on a metaphysical one. There is a lack of explanation centered around what exactly the antagonist's intentions were. This concealment of intent appears to demand a third book following Jaden delving further into the altered state we leave him in here.
The clone plotline continues to emphasize the gruesome elements introduced in the first book. There is a strong focus on sickness, skin bubbling and rippling, bodily fluids, and madness as the damaged and not-fully-independent clones struggle for life. It's hard not to feel a bit of sympathy for these laboratory creations but at the same time they are such ciphers to the reader (except for one, Soldier) that the feeling never gets past just that little shred of emotion. The nature of their quest, to find Mother, doesn't make this any more accessible, except on an abstract level of relating to the innate need of any creature for a parental connection. I would have liked a little more time spent with these clones and a little less of it to be about their horrific physical deterioration.
The clones occupy a middle ground between our protagonists continuing on from Crosscurrent and the newly introduced primary antagonists, Umbaran siblings Nyss and Syll. The brother and sister have a fascinating ability to dampen the Force around them, somewhat like a scary, shadowy version of a ysalamiri. They are introduced in a chapter with Darth Wyyrlok: as a fan of the Legacy comics, I was delighted to get any more information on Wyyrlok and the One Sith during this era. The Umbarans prove interesting and effective adversaries as they go after Jaden and the clones. The problematic part of this storyline is even more forced mystery in the spirit of the first chapter, where characters are known by names such as the Prime and the Iteration. The whole book becomes action scenes passing time until the end where we can finally learn what's going on.
The horrific bent of this story and its predecessor doesn't please me much in the context of a Star Wars story. Deathtroopers was openly intended to be a horror novel and so I wasn't surprised to encounter undead and gore aplenty. I was surprised to find so much of it in a story outside of the official Star Wars swipes at horror. Not that there is anything here to give an adult reader nightmares, but the ick factor was too high for my tastes. Coupled with the thin nature of the story, where we essentially watch characters run and fight until the answer to chapter one is revealed, impaired my enjoyment of Riptide. It is certainly a quick read and there is some fun banter with the leads, but it didn't make much of an impact overall.
Anyways, Jedi Jaden Korr and friends untangle a strange Sith plot to infiltrate the Jedi (again) and wreak havoc. This time, the Sith use clones, but everyone knows that clones of force users are unstable, sicken, and die. Except... These old Empire clone research facilities set here and there seem to be able to grow them into adulthood. Unstable, adult, terminally ill force using clones. Wonderful adversaries. Almost like the replicants from blade runner - loyal to one another and fatalistic but also force using.
Yup, I guess that's the way to summarize it. Blade runner in a star wars universe with a handful of Sithful deceit thrown in for good measure.
However, unlike Crosscurrent, Riptide's story isn't as compelling. Jaden and company begin by chasing the clones who had escaped at the end of Crosscurrent. But they never seem like much of a threat. Indeed, it's clear that the real threat is supposed to come from the One Sith, which is still operating in the shadows at this point. The problem with all of this is that the motives for some of these villains is unclear.
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
There is a major plot twist that seems a bit too convenient. One of the escaped clones is a clone of Jaden, while the One Sith has a clone of Jaden. Jaden realizes that this means the Empire must have had his DNA from before he even joined the Jedi Academy. Which begs the question of why so many groups would clone Jaden. Jaden and the other characters realize this is odd, but we're never given an explanation. Perhaps Kemp was planning on leaving that for the sequel, but as it stands I found it hard to accept that there were so many Jadens running around.
*** END SPOILER ALERT ***
So, as I've said before, Paul Kemp might well be the best writer amongst the current crop of Star Wars writers. I think he had some interesting ideas in Riptide. There are even some really interest philosophical questions raised about cloning. But without a sequel this book feels incomplete, and unfortunately it's not clear the book will ever get that sequel.