Retro Reviews: ‘Catalyst’ by James Luceno

November 3, 2020 at 2:00 am | Posted in Books, Random House, Regular Feature, Retro Reviews, Reviews, Star Wars, Star Wars Books | 1 Comment
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Catalyst by James Luceno is an adult canon book released in November of 2016. It is one of the tie-in books to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and it follows the characters of Galen and Lyra Erso, Orson Krennic, and Has Obitt.

I remember in 2016 when I was just getting into Star Wars books that my parents allowed me to go the day of release to the local bookstore to snatch up my copy of Catalyst. I was incredibly excited for Rogue One, and this book was really hyped online.

The first thing I’ll say for Catalyst is that it’s the best tie-in book for any of the new movies. With the sequel trilogy, they were mostly hamstrung in what they could tell about the main characters because they had to save that information for the future movies. Likewise, they were incredibly worried about spoilers, so they didn’t give the authors much to work with. However, with Rogue One, not only did the audience know roughly what would be happening in the movie, but it was a standalone and the story group didn’t need to worry about keeping information about it locked up like the sequels. That’s where James Luceno comes in. Luceno was given the script to Rogue One (which in my opinion every tie-in author should get the scripts for their respective properties) and Luceno was able to fill in some of the gaps that the movie left.

Rogue One itself is a fantastic movie, and is considered by some (myself included), to be the best Star Wars movie released in the “Disney” era. However, the backstory of Galen, Lyra, and Krennic was mostly left open and not discussed. Of all the things needing to be addressed in the movie, it was something that could be left alone. However, Luceno saw the opportunity available, and he was able to give them not only an interesting backstory, but also fill in information about the creation of the Death Star.

When it comes to formatting, this is a very unique Star Wars book. There is very little action or battles or warfare in the book. Rather, the focus is on the political intrigue and worldbuilding and characters that Luceno is known for nailing in all of his books. The least intriguing storyline was the one focused on the rebellion and the smugglers involved (but I’ll get to that later).

Regarding the main characters, Galen and Lyra have a different and refreshing relationship in Star Wars. Too often, relationships end up badly in Star Wars (ie. Han and Leia, Anakin and Padme), but even though they go through their difficulties, Galen and Lyra ultimately show the commitment and sacrifice that every relationship should have.

Orson Krennic is a fascinating character and was the most interesting to follow in the book personally. I love anytime the Empire’s political and military industrial complex is explored and I love reading about political machinations between characters. I loved how he confided in Mas Amedda and how he played him off Tarkin, which solidifies their rivalry in the movie. His power moves with Poggle the Lesser and Galen and others were interesting and I loved reading about him climbing up the political ladder.

The least interesting storyline for me was Has Obitt’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love Has Obitt as a character and I hope we see more of him in future projects, but I felt that his storyline felt a little out of place and unnecessary. It felt like Luceno really wanted at least one standout original character and that’s why he included Obitt. Hopefully he’ll have another project where his plotlines fit better. But I did like when he was playing off of Galen, Lyra, Orson, and Tarkin.

One thing that I have to mention is Luceno’s references, easter eggs, and worldbuilding. James Luceno is the absolute best at tying in all the different parts of Star Wars. There were a ton of references to The Clone Wars series with Nuvo Vindi and Lok Durd referenced, as well as several battles like Christothsis, Geonosis, and Ryloth referenced. Luceno also referenced his own species that he created for the Legends series The New Jedi Order, the Ryn, which was a pretty cool easter egg. There was even a super duper deep cut that I missed the first time about a planet named Hypori and the book references a battle that takes place in Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars. None of these references take the reader out of the story and they feel natural and even part of the worldbuilding, which is what makes James Luceno just such a fantastic author. He may have some duds, but his good books are amazing. Other incoming Star Wars authors would be wise to follow his model for references.

Overall, this is a fantastic book and is, in my opinion, one of the best Star Wars books in the canon and one of the best ever written. It looks like Luceno has completed his run of writing for Star Wars, but he certainly went out with a bang! Catalyst gets 5 out of 5 from me.

Next book to read is the Rogue One novelization by Alexander Freed, my favorite Canon novelization.

Written by Jonathan Koan.

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  1. This is a great book. When I saw Rogue One (a fantastic Star Wars movie) I wanted to learn more about Galen Erso. We get that in Catalyst, and the complicated relationship he has with Krennic, as well as with his wife, Lyra. Loved it!


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