I have been co-hosting the Legends Library Podcast on the Coffee With Kenobi Network for two years now. The Legends timeline is completely immersive for me, but each time a new canon book is released it gives me the opportunity to swim to the surface, pop my head up and see what adventures our heroes both new and old are experiencing. This week I did just that, as I basically consumed the newest release from the Star Wars story group and Del Rey, Catalyst.
First off, I would like to say that as a fan of all Star Wars literature there are a handful of authors that I absolutely love to read, Timothy Zahn, Karen Traviss and yes, James Luceno. In my opinion Mr. Luceno is at the top of the list when it comes to writing movie-prequel stories. With books like, Labyrinth of Evil and Darth Plagueis, on his list of penned titles I could not wait to see how he would set up Rogue One. So without further ado, let’s get into it, spoiler free of course!
I was surprised and excited when I realized that the story starts later in the timeline than I thought it would. Set around 20 years before the Battle of Yavin, the Clone War is still being fought as Catalyst kicks off. This left me with some touchpoints that I could look forward to as the story progressed. How would Order 66 be revealed? When does Tarkin come into his own as a Grand Moff? What role does the young Rebellion play early on? How does the galaxy transition from a Republic to an Empire? I waited with anticipation to have these questions answered and some were revealed with style while others were presented as fact. James Luceno used our foreknowledge of the surrounding events to provide suspense and tension.
Galen Erso is our main protagonist in Catalyst. He is an introverted, melancholy character with his mind fixated on his work. His lack of emotion and relational disfunction is balanced by his wife, Lyra who is slightly force-sensitive. Galen, a scientist, has spent a large portion of his life trying to create a source of sustainable energy using synthetic Kyber crystals. Though he has not found much success up to now, he is still at the head of his field. The Separatists are aware of his work and have captured and imprisoned him to keep him from continuing, which could benefit the Republic if he finds success. It is this situation that leads to the introduction of our main antagonist. Orson Krannic!
Krennic is an old friend of Erso and his family. He has established himself as a very influential person in the Republic and eventually makes the transition to a person of prominence in the Empire. Orson Krennic convinces his superior Mas Ameda that the Erso family is in need of rescue because Krennic believes he can manipulate Galen into creating the main weapon to be installed into the completed orbital battle station that we know as the Death Star. As the story develops the construction, which is overseen by Krennic, and the command at completion, which is being sought by Tarkin, make intriguing drama.
The lack of social and political awareness on Galen Erso’s part make him vulnerable to Orson Krennic’s machinations. I liken the rest of the story to the Count of Monte Christo in style. However, the manipulation of Erso is executed with slow chess-like movements on Krennic’s part. Erso, his wife Lrya and infant daughter Jyn are pulled into the trap.
Late in the novel we are introduced to a character named Saw Garrera who seems to have connections to a group that is resisting the change to Imperial rule. We also meet a pilot named Has Obitt who is a thread character that surfaces throughout the novel and acts as a kind of informer to the reader about the current state of the galaxy each time he shows up. I really enjoyed the sections of the novel he was involved with. We also see the rest of the Poggle the Lesser story in Catalyst which was a surprise to me because I thought the Geonosians were all put to death after the Clone Wars but apparently they were the main workforce behind the Death Star’s construction.
Overall I enjoyed this book. As I said earlier, I consumed it pretty quick. I was engaged through the whole story and very satisfied with it’ conclusion. James Luceno once again did his job of creating a compelling movie prequel but left enough meat on the bone to make me anticipate the upcoming movie even more. Well done sir! I am even going back to read the novel Tarkin to see if I can pick up any more connections between the two stories. Time put aside to read this novel is well worth it. If you are looking forward to the new movie as much as I am, I know you will enjoy Catalyst as well.
Note: A big thank you to Penguin Random House for providing an advanced copy to review.Powered by Sidelines