Last year, I did a review series on the old Star Wars extended universe novels, or “EU.” One of the controversial aspects of Disney taking over the Star Wars franchise is that they rebooted the tie-in material, so all the old EU novels are no longer considered part of the fictional world. However, Disney also ordered new books, comics, and television shows to fill out the corners that go beyond the screen, and the myriad contributors to that world have knocked it out of the park. The fact that the new team is mainly comprised of people who have written for the old EU probably helps.

One example is James Luceno, author of Catalyst: A Rogue One Story.

This book begins smack in the middle of the Clone Wars, between the events of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith in the prequel trilogy. This is when Jyn Erso, the new protagonist of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (played in the movie by Felicity Jones), is born. As of this writing, I have seen the movie only once, but enjoyed it immensely, and read some praise and criticism from other reviewers. One of the consistent critiques of Rogue One is that everyone wants more background information on these characters. Catalyst provides the backstory for Jyn’s father, Galen Erso.

Galen (played in the movie by Mads Mikkelson) is a brilliant scientist with a pacifistic, compassionate personality, always looking to see the other person’s point of view–even when they’re in the process of taking him prisoner. This particular story revolves around the building of the Death Star battle station. Orson Krennic, Galen’s school comrade and an ambitious loyalist to the Empire, is bent on roping Galen into a research project to streamline the station’s devastating super-weapon. It’s a field of experimental physics on which Galen is the galaxy’s foremost expert, and they need his mind and creativity to make it a reality.

This is a fascinating look at the subtle manipulation and slow evolution of the Republic, how it was taken over by the corrupt Emperor, and the choices and actions taken by the people who tried not to get involved. I wouldn’t necessarily say you need to read this book before seeing the movie, but I found certain plot points and character motivations easier to follow because of it. That’s just how it goes in the Star Wars universe: the deeper you delve into the details, the more you get out of each successive viewing. That’s why I keep watching the original trilogy over and over, and why I continue reading more in the expanded universe both old and new.

If you’re curious about the backstory of just one of the many memorable characters in Rogue One, check out Catalyst from your Chesapeake library!

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2 thoughts on “Star Wars Read-A-Thon: Catalyst

  1. Laurel,
    Another excellent review. I really enjoyed Catalyst and at first I wasn’t sure I was going to get into the minutia of the project management for the Death Star construction. Yet, Luceno really draws the reader in.

    Was it just me, or was it impossible to read all of Galen’s dialogue in the voice of Mads Mikkelsen? Overall, I thought the work really added to the film. It makes the opening sequence work in a way that is most likely lost on most people who see the film. In the movie, Galen was actually one of my favorite characters and I think that is solely on the strength of this novel. The parralels between this as the Manhatten Project and Los Alamos testing really grounded the fantastical elements of the concept of a planet killer.

    So, do you think the second Death Star was already in construction as a Seperatist version that Dooku was funding?

    1. Hey, Joe!

      It’s so great to hear from you! I liked this book much more than I expected to as well. It’s always more effective when an author focuses on character, rather than the plot details. Still, I’m utterly fascinated by kyber crystals now. Was it you who told me that the Sith create their lightsabers out of artificial kybers, and that’s why they’re red instead of blue or green? I can’t remember whether that’s still part of the official canon now.

      I definitely read all of Galen’s dialogue in Mads’ voice. He was my second-favorite character in the movie, after Chirrut Imwe. I’ve seen Rogue One twice now, by the way, and liked it even more on the second go-round.

      As for the second Death Star already being under construction, I can’t imagine someone like Krennic – or Tarkin – putting all that time and effort into this project without having at least one backup. It’s like that line from the movie “Contact” – “Why build one when you can build two for twice the price?” Plus, the sheer amount of time it took to build the first one is dwarfed by the time spent on the second, so there’s no way they started completely from scratch.

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