Catalyst is the prelude to Rogue One, and with it James Luceno dives deep into the characters of Galen Erso and Orson Krennic. The book explores their odd relationship and the desires and motivations of each. Along the way we find out about Lyra Erso, Jyn, Saw Gerrera, a new character named Has Obitt, and how Tarkin fits into all of this. From the science projects that lead to the Death Star to the power plays between Krennic and Tarkin, the book lays out the foundation for the events of Rogue One. Readers catch a glimpse of the turmoil building toward the Rebels ultimate attack on the Death Star, as well as the character histories of some of the key players. Luceno weaves in all those elements for an enjoyable story that’s well worth reading.
The book begins on the planet Vallt during the Clone Wars. There, Galen Erso and his wife Lyra lead a team of scientists studying crystals in order to produce a more efficient source of energy. Elsewhere in the galaxy is Lieutenant Commander Orson Krennic, a member of the Corps of Engineers and also a member of the Special Weapons Group. Between Galen and Orson, the book follows both characters to not only illustrate how the Death Star comes to be, but also to reveal who these characters are. Galen is a brilliant scientist who struggles to find a balance between his passion for discovery and his love for his family. On the other hand, Orson is a masterful manipulator driven to ascend the ladder of power. Their friendship leads them on an odd journey as they develop the most powerful weapon in the galaxy.
Through this journey, the book covers a large span of time. Starting in the Clone Wars, the book goes all the way to the end of the war and beyond. We see the birth of Jyn, the convoluted evolution of the Death Star, the war’s end, the mopping up of the Separatists, the dark ways of the Empire in peacetime, sparks of rebellion, and Galen’s part in developing the Empire’s super weapon. Luceno does a great job of melding together all the bits and pieces of Death Star lore to create one unified track of its development, thus making sense of all the scraps that were out there. By starting the story off in the Clone Wars, there is a lot more time for character development. Readers get to see Krennic’s long road to power, Galen’s advances in kyber crystal manipulation, and Has Obitt’s view as an outsider interacting with these individuals and seeing the true face of the Empire.
Rather than just focusing on Galen’s story, the book tackles a lot of very interesting subjects. For starters, there’s the exploration of kyber crystals and their relationship with the Jedi. Yet as much as the book reveals about the crystals, Luceno is careful to replace all those answers with even more questions and mystery. Another point of interest is Has Obitt. Obitt starts off as smuggler that gets wrapped up in Krennic’s schemes. Later on, he becomes wary of the things he’s done and gets involved with the Erso’s. Yet the highlight of his arc is when his path crosses that of Saw Gerrera. While Saw doesn’t play a huge role in the book, he is an important supporting character. Between him and Obitt, the book explorers the seeds of rebellion. Going along with those sparks, the book introduces Tarkin and sets the stage for a rivalry between him, Krennic, and control of the Death Star. There’s even an ongoing appearance of Mas Amedda throughout the book as part of the political subplots that are threaded throughout the story.
While diving into characters, delving into politics and weaving history, Catalyst also keeps things interesting by tossing in some fun bits of action. There are special ops missions that take place during the Clone Wars and space battles set during the reign of the Empire with Tarkin in full command. Yet the action is there to spice things up rather than carry the story along. Most of the focus is still on the characters and their stories. Aside from that, the book fills in most of the gaps to show how all these various pieces and characters fit together.
Catalyst probably isn’t a book you have to read to enjoy Rogue One, but the exploration of the characters and the events will certainly add a deeper intimacy for fans. Through the movie previews, you get glimpses of Galen and Krennic, and the movie will probably reveal enough of the story so viewers will know what’s going on. However, the book provides a solid foundation of understanding on just who these characters are and what their relationship is. On top of that, you get an idea of who Jyn knows and how those moments of her early childhood might affect the moments in the film. You get a bridge between Saw Gerrera’s involvement in the Clone Wars and his role against the Empire. It’s all a stepping stone to launch fans into the new film hyped and ready to go. I give it a solid four out of five metal bikinis and highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys reading.
Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.