Author: James Luceno
James Luceno is the New York Times bestselling author of the Star Wars novels Darth Plagueis, Millennium Falcon, Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, Cloak of Deception, and Labyrinth of Evil, as well as the New Jedi Order novels Agents of Chaos I: Hero’s Trial and Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse, The Unifying Force, and the eBook “Darth Maul: Saboteur.” He lives with his wife in Annapolis, Maryland.
Genre: Science Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Movie Adaptation, Space Opera
Read… on the bus in Seattle while… traveling to and from work.
Title: Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Novel
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: November 15, 2016
Purchase your copy here.
Review: 3 out of 5 Dogwoods
(from Goodreads): War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.
Galen’s energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic’s debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal. While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor’s tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic’s web of deception to save themselves and the galaxy itself.
Review: Catalyst is a tie-in novel with Rogue One, which sets up many interest plot points that are further explored in the Star Wars film. Catalyst thoroughly sets up the film, but does not bring anything new in terms of style or long-lasting characters.
Catalyst takes place between the fall of the Republic and the earliest days of the Empire. The tone of the novel works in its favor as Luceno captures a story of how people are cowed or convinced into complacency and then evil in a time of war and political upheaval. However, since it is a prequel and move-tie-in, our characters and our plot never gets to a moment of extreme stakes or climax. Catalyst never managed to elevate quiet intrigue into a truly engaging story without leaning on the follow-up film Rogue One.
Although the protagonists in Catalyst are Galen and Lyra Erso, the real stand-out in this novel is Orson Krennic. At the time of Catalyst, Krennic is a power hungry member of the Republic’s Special Weapons Group, determined to rise into the ranks of Chancellor Palpatine’s advisors.
Krennic’s efforts to trick Galen Erso into using his genius knowledge of kyber crystals for weapons research comprises most of the plot. Unfortunately, the exploration of Krennic’s character is not as deep as one might hope. Krennic’s upward climb is clearly motivated, but his singular focus and attention on Galen Erso is not as fully explored as I might hope. For a man destined to battle Jyn Erso in Rogue One, I would have loved a stronger focus on his background and school relationship with Galen Erso.
Galen Erso, a scientist overflowing with ideas, is loyal to his family, but extremely naive and weak at times. Galen and Lyra have a romantic and sweet relationship, but Lyra stood out as a much stronger individual than Galen; one cannot help but think that she could have done better in finding a life partner. Galen is bright and skillful, but so buried in his work that he often fails to see the bigger picture and neglects those around him, Lyra and Jyn included.
I found myself to be most intrigued by Lyra’s character, and equally disappointed that she was not further explored or developed. For as little time and attention that she was given in Rogue One, I would have loved to see Catalyst told from her perspective or at least be given more information about Lyra beyond the fact that she is Galen’s wife and Jyn’s mother. Throughout most of Catalyst, Lyra felt very two dimensional and flat.
Buried in the plot is a relevant and moving discussion of individual morals and what it means to comply with a regime during wartime. All of the characters, the Ersos and Imperials included, ask themselves why they are doing what they are doing and measure its worth against the resulting sacrifice and risk. In particular, Lyra’s moral struggles are given a great deal of weight and heavily influence Galen’s choices and actions. Adherent to the philosophy of the Force, even though she is not a Jedi herself, Lyra’s free-spirited exploration and subtle thinking drive Galen’s conscious.
Even though Catalyst could never stand on its own without readers watching Rogue One, Catalyst does give us more information and detail about the Star Wars universe between the time of The Clone Wars and A New Hope. We are given more background on Grand Moff Tarkin, the early days of the Empire, the development and construction of the Death Star, daily life on Coruscant, life and culture of other planets in the Star Wars universe, relationships with the Force and the Jedi for believers but not practitioners, and the development of resistance fighters who will eventually become the Rebellion. For those who enjoyed Rogue One, I definitely recommend reading Catalyst for the extra detail and context that it lends to the movie; it will only enhance the movie experience.