Star Wars - Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel | Review
Catalyst, the tie-in novel to Rogue One, is yet another fascinating and enjoyable Star Wars novel. And, yes, it’s canon. The crux of the story is around how Orson Krennic cleverly manipulates Galen Erso in a web of deception and has him work on the Empire’s super-weapon without him even realising it. What happens over the course of the story goes a long way to explain the look on both their faces when we see them meet on that rainy morning at the start of Rogue One.
One of the things I really like about Catalyst is the time span it manages to cover. The first chunk of the book takes place during the Clone Wars, where we start to understand more about the Erso family, what they go through and how Krennic’s ambitions start to grow. Then, as the story moves forward, some of the key events from Revenge of The Sith take place, only this time you see them from a different perspective to that portrayed in the movie itself. From there, the latter part of the book starts to unfold under the rule of the Galactic Empire and that of course is where things really heat up.
As I mentioned, the focus of the story is primarily on Galen and Krennic. I, for one, welcome this focus; these two characters were undoubtedly two of my favourites from Rogue One and both could have done with more screen-time in my opinion. Catalyst provides a really satisfying account of how these two people meet, their rivalry and their relationship with other key people. Jyn’s mother, Lyra, plays a key part in the story too, offering us the opportunity to learn more about her character and some insights in to her beliefs surrounding the Force.
I should add that sometimes the story goes a little off course. For me, we get to learn a little more than we need to know about kyber crystals. And I wasn’t overly interested in the operational stresses Krennic was under, like budget and deadlines. Project management just isn’t that interesting, even with Emperor Palpatine as sponsor.
Catalyst is great at exploring some of the moments that we only catch a glimpse of in Rogue One; for instance, the flashback scene at the Erso residence on Coruscant, where we see them enjoying a glass of wine with Krennic. The kyber crystal that Jyn receives at the start of the movie is also touched upon, all without it feeling forced. I really appreciate this kind of storytelling as it ties up loose ends without being blatant. It’s all cleverly crafted and subtly woven in to the plot.
Overall the story is really compelling, there is tension, a well thought through plot and a nicely balanced pace; sometimes frantic, sometimes deliberately measured. There’s never any doubt as to how the story might end for the characters (we’ve all seen Rogue One after all) and so instead the author, James Luceno, focuses on their journey and delivering a rich backstory. The quality of that story truly enhances your understanding of Galen & Krennic’s characters and your appreciation for the circumstances we find them in. In this respect, Catalyst isn’t so much a prequel to Rogue One, but more of a companion piece, which even Luceno himself has eluded to in interviews.
Luceno has delivered some great Star Wars novels, including Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, the fascinating novel Tarkin and my personal favourite Darth Plagueis. Catalyst is right up there with those books in my opinion. And since you aren’t going to see Krennic or Galen appear in any future movies, this is a really good chance to learn more about the history of their relationship prior to their re-acquaintance at the start of Rogue One.
- The story adds great depth to the character of Galen’s wife Lyra, who appears only briefly in Rogue One, as well as other characters such as Saw Garrera & Has Obitt.
- Glimpses of what life was like for Jyn, cleverly told from her perspective, before she was raised by Saw.
- Follow the evolution of the Death Star, starting with its first sighting in Episode II as Separatist plans right through to how we see it at the start of Rogue One.
- Further insight in to Tarkin’s dislike of Krennic, how he sets him up to fail and his aspirations to succeed him are brilliantly woven in to the overarching story.
- You gain an understanding of how a moral scientist such as Galen could become involved in the development of a planet killing super-weapon. This is at the heart of the story throughout.
- Missed opportunity to include Palpatine in his role as the Emperor; Krennic instead deals with his advisor Mas Amedda.
- Too much science. I only need to know that kyber crystals make lasers awesomely destructive.