James Luceno has written some of the most popular and highly regarded Star Wars novels in the entire franchise, including “Tarkin,” “Darth Plagueis,” “Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader,” “Cloak of Deception,” “Labyrinth of Evil” and countless more. He has returned to bring us “Catalyst” to prepare us for the big release of the newest entry in the film franchise, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which comes out on Dec. 16, 2016.
Set in different points of the Star Wars timeline from before 2005’s “Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith” to right before “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” protagonist Galen Erso is a scientist and researcher who works with his wife Lyra Erso to find a powerful source of energy to provide to the entire galaxy. As the Clone Wars rage on, his expertise and research begin to reach out towards both the Republic and Separatists. Eventually, Orson Krennic, an old friend of Galen, recruits Galen to do energy research for the Republic.
This task given to the Ersos lasts past the Clone Wars and into the age of the Empire, where Galen and Lyra are conducting energy research for the Empire with the belief that the research will be used for harmless and energy-efficient purposes. However, Orson Krennic, now director of the Advanced Weapons Research division of the Imperial Navy, plans to manipulate their research in order to provide the Empire a massive superweapon that will spread fear throughout the galaxy.
James Luceno, as previously mentioned, has written some of the most brilliantly written Star Wars novels, and “Catalyst” may very well be up there with some of his most popular novels. “Catalyst” is so many things at once: a political thriller, a tale of betrayal, a family drama, an adventurous trek across the galaxy, etc. It also accomplishes in providing the reader with a deeper look into the lore of the Jedi and Kyber crystals, which are used to power their lightsaber.
It provides the reader with many themes and messages throughout the story, with different themes revolving around different characters. Without spoiling anything, many characters in the novel face betrayal, blindness, redemption, love and sacrifice. All of these different themes blend together to create an engaging story that revolves around different people simply doing what they think is right, some more compellingly than others.
The novel provides a great understanding as to what Galen Erso believes in and how he views different aspects of the Star Wars Universe, including the Jedi, the Republic and Separatists, the Clone Wars, etc. His incorruptibility and sympathetic personality makes him a likable character and the perfect husband for Lyra, who stands as an equal to Galen Erso and in some instances proves to be braver, stronger and more capable of taking care of herself than Galen. Together with Galen’s sympathy and Lyra’s strength, their chemistry blossoms to the point where they really feel like they’re made for each other and can never be separated.
But the big standout of the novel is the relationship between Galen Erso and Orson Krennic. The novel delves deep into their relationship held together by manipulation and distrust. Orson’s rise to the top of the Empire and his manipulative and tactical personality makes him one of the better Star Wars villains in the entire franchise.
What the novel does best is connect itself to the entire Star Wars movie universe by dropping numerous easter eggs, backdrops, and name drops. Throughout the novel there will be characters that have appeared in numerous other media, including the films and animated series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” The novel also constantly mentions events that have transpired in both the films and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”
In regards to the Star Wars film franchise, the lore and mythology behind the films goes even deeper in this story as Galen researches what are called Kyber crystals, which are the crystals that famously power the lightsabers of the Jedi and Sith. His research into these crystals delves the reader deep into the lore behind them and their full potential, not just to power lightsabers. The novel also discusses just how much influence, damage, and fear the Empire truly brought to countless worlds.
Where the novel does falter is between the second and third act where the pacing begins to slow down. There is a certain character that is introduced in the novel whose storyline drags on for a while and becomes uninteresting. To be fair, however, his storyline does begin to pick up a little bit later in the novel and can thus be forgiven.
Overall, “Star Wars Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel” is a story that blends beautifully to the Star Wars films while also feeling fresh and independent of the films. Strong heroes and menacing villains provide the reader with a tale of betrayal, thrill, and adventure while also going deeper into the mythology of Star Wars, particularly with Kyber crystals. James Luceno continues to be the reigning champion in Star Wars novels and there’s no telling what stories he’ll tell in the future. “Star Wars Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel” is definitely a must-read for not just Star Wars fans, but also people who are looking to get a much more impactful experience from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”