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!