Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars Crosscurrent

Crosscurrent (Paul S. Kemp)


Plot

Crosscurrent is Star War's attempt at a time travel story. Relin, a Jedi Master at the time of the Great Hyperspace War (5000 years before A New Hope), attempts to sabotage a Sith cruiser carrying Lignan ore, a substance that can enhance dark side powers. Relin boards a ship under the command of his former padawan, Saes, and manages to damage the hyperdrive, causing the ship to move forward in time 5000 years. Meanwhile, Jaden Corr, of Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy fame, is having worrying force visions. He pinpoints a possible location from his visions, and sets off to see what has been trying to call him.

The first odd thing about the plot is that, though their paths cross, these two actually have a miniscule at best role in solving the other's problem. Jaden's quest takes him to the same system as Relin, but it actually involves a secret Imperial cloning facility. Relin, though on the same ship as Jaden, doesn't actually need Jaden or his companions to complete his task. Also, the time travel aspect is somewhat unfulfilled as the Sith never actually go toe to toe with modern technology, or attempt to take the galaxy by storm. It is resolved without much involvement from outside forces, and none from our main character Jaden. This plot is wrapped up with no effect on the universe at large, and feels out of place in this particular story.

Jaden's path takes a surprisingly gruesome twist as he makes his way deeper into the research facility. His story was actually above average, featuring great fight scenes and a fantastic set of companions in Khedryn and Marr, two salvagers that happen to know the coordinates to his mysterious planet. Unfortunately, this portion of the story is a bit on the short side, and doesn't mesh with the time travel plot at all.

Finally, a plot involving the mysterious Anzati, a race characterized wonderfully in Tales From The Mos Eisley Cantina, takes up too much page time, and is quite laughably resolved. Though the Anzati are a great race, and the character was ok, this sub plot felt like an advertisement for the "Legacy" series of comic books. Not to mention the character's actual involvement, both as an antagonist for Jaden and a player in the story, was minimal.

The Crosscurrent feels like several random stories loosely tied together. The time travel aspect is completely useless, and only strong side characters and an average, if abbreviated, central plot keep it from being a complete mess.

Characterization

Characterization in Crosscurrent is something of a mixed bag, with the side characters being far more effective than the central ones. Jaden, a previously unexplored character, is given a bland characterization that focuses mainly on an event during the GA-Confederation war that he has come to regret. Jaden spends alot of time monologuing, and overall he seems like a less interesting version of a character like Kyle Katarn. He doesn't really have any distinguishing characteristics, and his interaction with Relin takes him absolutely nowhere. The effect that his force vision ends up having on his life is also far from life-changing, as he emerges the exact same as before, only with a new quest to undertake in the sequel. 

Relin is a one dimensional character. After the death of his apprentice during the attack on Saes' ship, Relin slowly falls to the dark side. His fall is rather predictable, and hard to relate to. Though his situation is tragic, the lack of familiarity with the character, and the boring presentation of his character traits, not to mention the sense of inevitability surrounding his fall, keeps him from resonating with the reader.

Kell, the Anzati, is a good character, importance to the plot withstanding. Most of his effectiveness comes from the bizarre alien qualities attributed to him, and his interesting beliefs about fate. A good side character and passable villain, just utilized extremely poorly in relation to the plot. Saes is an effective villain too, but he is hamstrung by the plot in a similar way.

The standouts here are Khedryn and Marr.The two salvagers have a great dynamic, and each is memorable in their own way. I particularly liked how they actually developed over the course of the novel, unlike Jaden. Marr, a Cerean force sensitive math prodigy, is the only character to be truly moved by Relin, and his growing relationship with the force was a great aspect of the novel. Khedryn develops a sense of loyalty and resolve over the course of the novel, though he mostly comes across as a less skilled version of Han Solo. I actually liked this aspect of him, he was more relatable and effective as an underdog than the stereotypical amazingly talented average person as seen in many Star Wars novels.

Prose

Prose in Crosscurrent is actually reasonably effective. Action scenes are fantastic, the author pulls off the lightsaber fights and starship chases with a flair for tension and excitement. There is also a great card game that immediately endears Khedryn to the reader, and ends in a classic barfight that is probably the highlight of the book. Descriptions are generally good, especially those of the cloning facility, but the Sith ship was left too vague for my tastes, especially the interior during Relin's second boarding.

One really interesting facet of the book is the extremely gory descriptions that occur during Jaden's investigation of the cloning facility. The rest of the book is fairly standard Star Wars fare in terms of gore, but this passage is remeniscent of Death Troopers/Red Harvest. Decayed limbs, including heads, are prominently described, and at one point Jaden falls into a vat of corpses and body parts. Very gross, and out of place considering the rest of the book.

Everything else works fine, the dialogue is usually good, except for some of Relin's lines towards the end, and I really liked some of the language used during monologues and expository lines. Overall the writing is great outside of the bizarre abundance of gore in the end of the book.

Conclusion

The plots are jumbled and barely related, and the time travel motif was poorly explored, but Crosscurrent is boosted by good writing and two great characters. Not a must read, but not awful either

Final Score

51/100

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