REVIEW: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel

A book by James Luceno

Perhaps in counter to how most Star Wars fans feel, I absolutely LOVED Rogue One. If I were to do one of those “tier-lists” that all the kids do nowadays, I’d rank it up there with Empire Strikes Back as being towards the top. With every movie, up to that point, concentrating solely on the so-called “Skywalker Saga”, it was a breath of fresh air to have something that was somewhat distant to the overall storyline of Anakin, Luke, or anyone else of that bloodline. Yeah Vader shows up, but he’s there as an aside and to move continuity rather than be a focal point. The film was also both a war movie and somewhat of a spy/heist film which was an interesting thematic departure that you used to only really get with in-universe books.

I was super interested to see a prequel the moment it got announced, and Catalyst definitely fits that bill of being something that actually adds worthwhile information to the film itself. If you are like me and wondered exactly what Galen Erso did before he was practically forced to complete his work on The Death Star, that narrative is presented here in a fairly entertaining way.

“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 the Republic’s 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.”

The majority of the book details the ordeals that Galen Erso, a very talented researcher in the field of energy from Kyber crystals, had to deal with after his imprisonment during The Clone Wars and his near forced employment by The Republic and The Empire after Palatine seized power. Actively being used and gaslighted by his so-called “friend” Orson Krennic, Galen was led to believe that his meticulous research on how to manipulate the crystals, in the same sort of way that a Jedi would in a lightsaber, was being used to create some sort of energy project until he was fed a ton of Imperial propaganda about anarchists and terrorism that “could use some sort of crystal weapon to deal with”. His relationship with his family, especially his wife Lyra, became strained due to both overwork and his mind being muddled by Krennic. When it finally becomes obvious as to what is happening, it’s almost too late.

This book has a lot of cool information that plays a big part in Star Wars lore. for example, I’m sure some other books have explained that Kyber powers The Death Star, but for newer fans or those that only want “canon” information, the revelation was pretty interesting. Catalyst offers our best look yet at how they came to be weaponized and all the bureaucratic decisions that went into it. Some other cool tidbits include the ongoing feud between Moff Tarkin and Krennic showing Krennic’s fragility both politically and emotionally. Krennic is desperate to ensure he can continue his research and get all the credit due to his endless desire to be some sort of Grand Admiral in the Imperial Navy. It’s funny that this was present in this book and not resolved, considering the infamous moment where Vader told him “not to choke on his aspirations” was a direct result of him trying to take credit for the weapon and leverage it against Tarkin.

Aside from that, Catalyst goes through the same motions that some of these tie-in books do in showing what prominent characters were doing prior to the book. It never gets in the way here, but occasionally they go too far by showing asides that have nothing to do with the rest of the narrative. We get some glimpses of characters like Saw Gerrera, but they do not overstay their welcome.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot despite the fact that a large portion of it is basically Galen Erso doing research and having political discussions with people. Its a solid tie-in the the film and doesn’t feel tacked-on in any way. In fact, if one were to read this then watch Rogue One, I’m sure they would have a great understanding of character motivations that others may not be privy to. I have not read any books by James Luceno as of yet, as far as I know, but if this is any indication I should see what else he has done for Disney. This is easily one of the better books in this “new canon” timeline.

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