Welcome to Book Reviews. In this series I will look to review any canon books that come out in the Star Wars galaxy. I am no expert in book critic or expert in writing (as you may be able to tell from this blog), so this is very much from a fan’s point of view. I will generally try to give a quick idea of what the story is about but avoid any spoilers. In each review, I will also try to point out a few “Moments in Canon” – moments that link into the wider canon and references to other canon stories – and also give my opinion if it is worth reading. Today I will be looking at James Luceno’s Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
What neither of them knew or could have known was that the war, so abruptly begun three years earlier, was just as suddenly over.
Catalyst spans a number of years, from midway through the Clone Wars to a number of years into the rise of the Empire. Orson Krennic chooses to use his friendship with scientist Galen Erso to help him develop the weapon for what will become the Death Star in order to rise above his current rank. However as Erso is against war, Krennic must keep his true plans for Galen’s research away from him in order to keep him on the project.
The 4 main points of view are Krennic, Galen Erso and his wife Lyra, also a smuggler named Has Obitt, who when we first meet him comes into the employ of Krennic. Tarkin (not yet Grand Moff) also becomes a point of view character later in the book and though his section appears separate to the main story of the Ersos, but its importance becomes clear towards the end.
The novel is a prequel to Rogue One and gives background to the relationship between Krennic and the Ersos and also the construction of the Death Star. We also see the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin that is also present in Rogue One while showing the Erso’s first meeting with Saw Gerrera, which proves to be important for the eventual destruction of the Death Star.
“They’re harmless, Orson,” Galen said, “Separatists or no.”
Krennic’s look was patronizing. “Perhaps. But we’re at war, and they’re on the wrong side.”
The story is somewhat slow, which is probably to be expected when the main characters are scientists and an engineer who is making political moves. While Thrawn was also slow-paced, I felt that novel had more mystery and intrigue while still having regular action, however this story just felt slow on the whole, with a quick turnaround towards the end as Galen becomes suspicious of how his work is being used. If these were characters that I loved, I probably wouldn’t mind so much if I was a fan of the characters, but if I’m being completely honest, Galen, Lyra and Krennic will never be near the top of my list if I were to rank all the characters in Star Wars by how much I liked them.
To say I am not a fan of the main characters in this novel is nothing against the writing. They are not characters that interest me as much as many others in the universe, though I think they were all written really well and this novel really does expand the characters. We see Lyra trying to find the balance between wanting Galen to be happy and not liking the work he is doing, while also getting used to be a mother. Galen finds it hard to balance his family with his research and is driven to the point of obsession. Krennic is ambitious and willing to do anything in order to rise through the ranks, even so far as killing innocents, manipulating and betraying one of his oldest friends and threatening others. The animosity between Krennic and Lyra is also set up throughout the story with her suspicions over his motivations, something which we see come to a head in the cold opening of Rogue One. The character I enjoyed most in this story was Has Obitt. The Dressellian smuggler is one of the moral compasses of the film, forced into helping Krennic for his own protection but eventually doing what he feels is right regardless of the danger to him. I really hope we get to see more of him in future stories.
Just as he’d suspected, Lyra needed to be watched.
While I was not a fan of the pacing of the story, I did like a lot that went on here. While Krennic is often behind the scenes manipulating things, we see the Ersos put into dangerous situations due to the jobs Galen is forced to take before agreeing to work for the Empire. We see the way Krennic uses the Geonosian people to create the Death Star and while we don’t see the extermination of their species that we know happens from other stories, we do see Krennic arranging the deaths of others to keep the project secret, though this ultimately counts against him as this helps lead to the Erso’s suspicions. Krennic’s manipulations of Obitt also count against him as it leaves one of his most useful – yet conflicted – tools in a position to become his own man and also to work against him on behalf of Krennic’s greatest rival, Tarkin.
While much of Obitt’s story appears separate to that of the Ersos, it is actually highly important. His smuggling work on Samovar and Wadi Raffa begins to lead to his conscience coming to the fore and also gives the Ersos soe information which helps raise their suspicions towards Galen’s work. His later Rebellion on Salient is also vital as it gives him the means to help the Ersos escape without Krennic being able to trace them. More than anything though, I think Catalyst should be considered the story of the Death Star, as all the stories tie in to its creation and development as Obitt’s smuggling missions are designed to allow the Empire to mine legacy planets of necessary materials and Tarkin’s success in the Salient system helps increase his rivalry with Krennic while also becoming an important part of the battle station’s ongoing development.
Should I read it?
His legacy, in any case, his contribution to the greatest weapon ever constructed, was now assured.
If you liked Jyn’s parents and Krennic in the movie or novel Rogue One, then I highly recommend this novel as it adds so much to their motivations and stories, while also making you understand the characters more in the movie. If you are not interested in these characters and prefer more action-orientated stories then this is a story that I think could be given a miss. There is nothing wrong with the novel, but I think the pacing and story have a bit more of an acquired taste to some of the other novels.
Moments in canon
- Catalyst shows us that development of the Death Star began as a Republic project as they recovered plans from the Separatists and thought they were already building one. In Attack of the Clones, we see Poggle the Lesser give Dooku the plans for the battle station
- Krennic mentions that he considered using Lok Durd or Nuvo Vindi as part of a prisoner swap, both these characters were captured by the Republic after failed missions for the Separatists, show in The Clone Wars TV series
- Tarkin mentions to Galen that he was imprisoned and tortured by the Separatists in the Citadel, we see his rescue in an arc during Season 3 of The Clone Wars
- An Imperial parade celebrates the anniversary of the Republic victory at Lessu on Ryloth. This victory was shown in the episode “Liberty on Ryloth” from Season 1 of The Clone Wars
- Towards the end of the novel, Tarkin arrives on Sentinel Base in his ship, the Carrion Spike. The location and the ship are both featured in another of Luceno’s novels, Tarkin
Have you read Catalyst? What were your thoughts on it? Thanks for reading and May the Force be with you…