I finished Catalyst rather quickly, so sorry for the delay in my review. It actually worked out, because instead of a full review I’ve decided to simply lay out everything I loved about the novel.
If you aren’t up to speed, Catalyst is a prequel novel to the upcoming Star Wars Story film, Rogue One. Is it required reading to enjoy Rogue One? No, of course not. However, I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who’s looking for some backstory on a few of the main characters, notably the Erso family and Director Orson Krennic. It is also a quick read, and I would imagine even the most casual fan could mow through it between now and December 15th, when R1 drops in theaters.
OK, so there will obviously spoilers here, so you’ve been warned. Leave now or forever hold your peace. The article will continue below the image…
First off, I freaking love James Luceno, the author of Catalyst. In my opinion he is the KING of Star Wars writing, so apologies to all the holdout Zahn fans. He owns Star Wars, and every one of his novels – Legends and Canon – are exceptional. The detail and knowledge he brings to all eras of the SW universe are unparalleled. Which brings me to the first thing I loved about Catalyst: a good portion of it was written in the Clone Wars era. I make absolutely no bones about my love for the Prequel and CW eras of Star Wars, and he really kills it with Catalyst. Instead of brushing over the CW era (which is more and more common in the new canon…) he embraces it. The incorporation of Poggle the Lesser and Geonosis as a whole, as well as the early squabbling and politics with Mas Amedda and the rest of the Republic (and soon to be Imperial) ass-kissers is amazing. Also, the details of how the Erso’s came to essentially owe Krennic is rooted in the Clone Wars, even though they were trying to avoid the conflict in general.
Onto Krennic and Galen Erso. Galen is a brilliant scientist who specializes in energy production and Kyber Crystals. Yep, Kyber Crystals. The same crystals that power a Jedi’s lightsaber. In the new canon, these are becoming more and more important and I love that. They are descibed as living crystals, which I also think it awesome. I’m all for mystifying the Force again, and the Lucasfilm story group is obviously making it a priority as well. It’s also awesome that the same crystals that power a Jedi’s weapon are used to eventually power the superlaser in the Death Star, although it takes a long time to figure out how to do it, and we don’t get the full explanation of how that comes to fruition in the novel, as it’s obviously saved for Rogue One. Krennic and Galen are old friends from what amounts to a ‘Star Wars Technical College’, As Krennic tries to climb the Republic political ladder (and eventually the Empire’s more cutthroat ladder..) and come into the favor of Palpatine, he sees the opportunity to use the Erso family to meet this goal and orchestrates their rescue from prison on a Separatist controlled world of Vallt. It’s also worth noting that Jyn was born while the Erso’s were in captivity, putting her age in Rogue One at about 21 years old.
It is also explained that the Death Star began as a Republic project, not a Separatist project. This is key, as it shows that Dooku and Palpatine seized the opportunity to use the plans provided by Poggle rather quickly, as construction started around one year after the first Battle of Geonosis. They ravaged the asteroid belt and eventually the planet itself for resources for the project, as nobody – even Jedi – were allowed to visit the Geonosis system after the second battle. This was very noteworthy to me, and helped to clear up a plot hole for me. It also clears up why Dooku and the CIS never attempted to take the Geonosis system back. The fact it took 20 years to finish it really sheds a lot of light about how huge this project was. Galen and his energy research was the final piece, a piece that I’m sure will be greatly elaborated on in the film.
Now for some quick hitters:
- Lyra Erso, Galen’s wife and Jyn’s mother is Force sensitive. Not sensitive enough to be a Jedi, but she can certainly feel the Force. I love how the story group is opening up the universe to different levels of Force sensibility, and I think Lyra’s beliefs will play a huge part in Jyn’s character in Rogue One.
- Krennic is psychotic. I admire his drive, don’t get me wrong. But he is the embodiment of the mentality of the Empire and how power hungry everyone was. Palpatine did an amazing job fostering these attitudes, I’ll give him that. Having said all of that, he is an amazing character and I can’t wait to see him in all his glory in Rogue One.
- Tarkin is the most patient and brilliant man in the Empire. The way he bides his time and lets Krennic take most (all) of the blame for the delays on the Death Star project is a sight to behold. Although it’s not directly stated, it’s pretty obvious that right after the end of the novel Tarkin assumes full command of the project, as was the state of things in the novel Tarkin (another GREAT read written by Luceno).
- That large Kyber Crystal that Krennic gives Galen access to? Yup, I’m almost 100% certain that’s the crystal that Obi-Wan and Anakin were after in the unfinished Crystal Crisis on Utapau arc of the Clone Wars. Freaking awesome!
- More Kyber Crystals. It’s kinda heart breaking when you realize the first batch of Kyber’s that Krennic gives Galen access to are mout likely from the lightsabers of fallen Jedi, recovered from the temple after Order 66 – a fact seemingly not lost on Lyra….
- I really want to believe Galen is brilliant, but not a naive fool. The novel makes the latter hard to assume, as he is manipulated at every turn, right up until the end. I’m guessing that was the point – brilliant scientist who lacks common sense? Ok, that works. The contrast between his and Lyra’s personalities is also on full display, as she’s more-or-less what we could call a modern day hippie for lack of a better description. World traveler, athletic, etc., the perfect opposite to Galen.
- The role smugglers/dissidents played in the transition from the Republic to the Empire was fascinating to me, especially Has Obitt. I’m not sure if every Imperial officer employed the same tactics, but watching Krennic use Obitt and his crews to his and the burgeoning Empire’s benefit was a sight to see. Whether it was via secret missions (like rescuing the Erso’s) or manipulating fake uprisings to show the galaxy and its systems the need for the strong hand of the Empire was fascinating to me. It also seems to have planted to seeds for the Rebellion, as we see Obitt later aligning with the one and only Saw Gerrera later in the book.
- Saw Gerrera. Yes! A small part but a VERY important one that will obviously pay off when we see Rogue One in a few weeks. When Galen and Lyra realize they’ve been used and played for fools, Saw helps them escape to the remote planet of Lah’mu, which I’m assuming is the planet we see Krennic finally track the Erso’s to in the film. He also leaves them with a communicator they can use to reach out to him any time they need help or are in trouble. I am goink to safely speculate that he may save Jyn when Krennic’s men arrive in R1, which could explain why she and Saw seem very close in the trailers. Can’t wait to see how that plays out.
- Hypori?!? Interesting insertion by Luceno, as this battle references the Tartakovsky Clone Wars series, which has been deemed Legends by the powers that be. I would LOVE for some of these stories to be integrated into canon, as I don’t see a ton of conflict there. Time will tell, just wanted to point that out..
- The introduction of Legacy Worlds was great. Essentially these were worlds that were protected by law as their historical value and/or resources were deemed too rare to be exploited. That is until the Empire needed these resources for the massive Death Star project. This is seemingly what propelled Saw Gerrera and his band of rebels to expand their fight and begin to battle the Empire. Another small yet important detail regarding Saw. Also makes me wonder if Jedha was a Legacy World……
- Obviously Krennic was blamed for the delays on the Death Star project when the Erso’s went into hiding. He received a demotion and I’m assuming when he finally tracks them down in R1 he’s gonna be really, really pissed. I am also going to speculate this isn’t going to mean good things for any of them, especially Lyra. Again, just speculation but I have a feeling he and/or his Death Trooper squad is going to kill her to make an example to Galen. Krennic’s distaste for Lyra is evident throughout the novel, so I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume this. We will see soon.
Overall Catalyst is a very good book, and Luceno has nailed it once again. I honestly can’t think of anything negative to say about it, so there you go. If you have any questions/comments/feedback hit me on the contact page on our site. I for one can’t freaking wait to see Rogue One, and Catalyst only added to the anticipation!