Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel Review

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With less than one month until the release of Star Wars: Rogue One, fans are foaming at the mouth to get a taste of the franchise’s first anthology movie. In over 30 years of filmmaking, Lucas Film has never released a stand-alone movie, Ewoks adventure and holiday film notwithstanding. But outside of a few teasers, trailers, and one extend featurette, fans like myself have only had glimpses of the story, and we’re left to speculate as to what the film will cover.

We know a group of stormtroopers, led by Orson Krennic, orphaned Jyn Erso when they absconded with her father, Galen. Apparently, Galen has/will have something to do with the construction of the Death Star’s superweapon. The movie focuses on Jyn’s attempt to rescue her father and steal the plans for the massive space station. There’s a lot of other speculation, and maybe a fact of two I am leaving out, but that is basically what we know from the trailers.

We don’t know how the Empire new of Galen Erso in the first place or what his connection to Krennic is.

Until now.

Star Wars Catalyst: A Rouge One Story provides additional context for the movie. Unlike Star Wars Aftermath, the novel released in anticipation of The Force Awakens, Catalyst deals directly with characters involved in Rogue one. While you don’t necessarily need to read this book to understand the events in the movie, reading it before seeing the movie will provide an additional subtext for the film.

If you don’t want to learn more about the film, you should stop reading now. I will hold most of my heavy spoilers for another post, but you’ve been warned.

Spoiler Alert

Catalyst Overview

Catalyst is the story that sets up the events in Rogue One. It takes place a few years after the start of the Galactic Civil war and ends roughly five years after the rise of the Empire. The story follows and elaborates on the entanglements between Galen Erso and Orson Krennic; one a staunch pacifist, the other an imperial officer who’ll do anything to rise in the ranks of the Empire.

In the beginning, we are introduced to Galen, his wife Lyra, and his work with synthetic kyber crystals. Galen has been trying to harness the power of the crystals in an attempt to provide inexpensive energy to developing worlds. Noble, isn’t it. But through a series of events, Galen and his wife, who is expecting their first child, are imprisoned on a Separatist planet. They are only freed with the help of Galen’s one time classmate, Orson Krennic.

But Orson didn’t free Galen for old times’ sake. Orson rescued the Ersos in an attempt to persuade Galen to use his research in an attempt to help the Republic and eventually the Empire. Since Galen is a pacifist, he is unwilling to let his research be weaponized by any government, be it Separatist, Republic, or Empire.

The story is really about how Orson manipulates Galen to fall in line with the Empire’s way of thinking. To a greater degree, it shows how the Empire is willing to use and desecrate all that is good in the universe for their own means.

The Writing

Catalyst is not your typical Star Wars novel. While there is some fighting, the book mostly revolves around the politics within the upper echelons of the Empire. If you are familiar with James Luceno’s other Star Wars novel, most recently Tarkin, then you know what to expect. If you haven’t read his works, you may want to head on over to your local book store or hit up Amazon for Tarkin, Darth Plagueis, or Labyrinth of Evil. All good reads.

Catalyst can be a little scientific in parts, but nothing it never overwhelms or panders.

Final Thoughts

So far, I have read every book in the new Star Wars canon, and have even picked through most of the new comics. While I have enjoyed almost all of them and loved a handful of them, Star Wars Catalyst ranks in my top three. It’s definitely worth reading before or after Rogue One’s release.

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