Ricky Church reviews Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel…
One of the most interesting eras in the Star Wars timeline is the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope in which Palpatine transitioned the Republic into the Empire, cementing his legacy as Emperor. Just as intriguing is the development of the Empire’s main weapon, the Death Star, and its long and complicated construction. With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story mere weeks away, author James Luceno uses Catalyst to tell a captivating tale of scientist Galen Erso and how he contributed to the massive weapon.
Luceno paints an interesting portrait of the final days of the Republic, showing the transition to the Empire began long before Order 66 was initiated. The characters he employs are well rounded and play specific roles. Galen is shown to be one of the smartest people in the galaxy and committed to his family and convictions, yet fairly naïve when it comes to politics and those who would use his mind for their own ends. It’s easy to see Mads Mikkelsen in the role, but its also surprising to see Galen isn’t as much of a main character as his wife Lyra. She keeps Galen tied to reality and, unlike him, has a firmer grasp on the politic sphere and a full belief in The Force, though she is not a Force wielder.
The real star of the show, however, is Orson Krennic. He’s a multi-layered character who doesn’t see himself so much as a villain, but a man twisting things to a necessary end and believes he’s doing what’s best for Galen. He’s smart in a way that allows him to predict people’s reactions and plan several moves ahead to get what he wants. His insight is interesting and Luceno really fleshes out his character’s motivations and behaviour. If Catalyst is to be an example, then we might already have quite a memorable Star Wars villain in this story and Rogue One.
The supporting characters are good as well, whether they are newly introduced or pre-existing. Luceno knows how to make use of them, but one of his real strengths is aptly describing the various races and worlds in lush detail. He really puts a lot of effort into how magnificent a planet looks to the destructive chaos of a battlefield. The imagery really comes to life during these sequences as we visit different worlds in various states of tranquility or decline.
The pacing, for the most part, moves along well. There are a couple points where the story feels bogged down with nothing really happening, but Luceno is able to quickly inject something new into the story, whether that’s with a revelation or deepening the mystery of what Krennic is really up to. It is obviously not enough to make the book feel slow, but the events that cause a stall feel a bit repetitive. Save for some characters becoming interconnected by the conclusion, the ending also doesn’t add much of an exciting factor, leaving a couple points unresolved. Even though Rogue One will likely pick up on these beats, it’s somewhat anti-climactic that there’s no real resolution to the story.
Fans may place Krennic as one of their favourite villains before the film’s release thanks to this book and Luceno introduces several of the other characters very well, using his imagery to greater effect, but some may be disappointed in the lack of true resolution. Despite this, Catalyst is still a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon and a good lead in to the upcoming film. If you’re feeling a Star Wars crave and want to explore a bit more about Rogue One, this is the book to pick up.