- Author: James Luceno
- 478 pages
- Published 2016
- Placement in Timeline: A few years before the end of the Clone Wars, and a few years after.
What It’s About:
Catalyst chronicles the events leading up to Rogue One, concentrating on Jyn Erso’s parents, Galen and Lyra, as well as their nemesis, Commander Orson Krennic.
Galen Erso is a brilliant scientist, fascinated by kyber crystals (the crystals that power Jedi lightsabers). Because of his talents, Galen finds himself at the center of an intergalactic conflict in which the Empire wants to use his expertise to build a superweapon–the Death Star.
Galen, a pacifist, abhors the idea of using his research to build a weapon–and Orson Krennic knows this. He met Galen years ago at school, and uses that acquaintance to lure Galen into an intricate plot do just that.
Galen thinks he’s doing research to provide the galaxy with a new energy source, but as events unfold–and as his obsession with the research drives a wedge between him and his wife, Lyra, and their daughter Jyn–he begins to suspect that not all is what it seems.
Lyra, for her part, harbors suspicions long before Galen, and never completely trusts Orson. They embark on a sort of tug-of-war for Galen’s soul.
In the meantime, Krennic begins a rivalry with Grand Moff Tarkin; not only for the Emperor’s favor, but for ultimate control of the superweapon under construction.
If you’ve seen Rogue One, then you know how this story ultimately plays out–but I won’t give too many spoilers in case you haven’t.
I loved this book because it tells Galen’s story. We get a little bit of him in Rogue One, and only Jyn’s misinformed memories of him in that film’s novelization and in Rebel Rising.
It’s fascinating and heartbreaking to see this brilliant prodigy and pacifist used as a pawn in Krennic’s ambitious machinations, as well as the Empire’s determination to dominate.
Krennic is fleshed out a bit here, too, and we see–as he does himself–how far he’s willing to go to satisfy his ambitions. It’s fair to say that the Death Star project is as much as an obsession for Krennic as the mystery of the kyber crystals are for Galen.
I loved getting more of Lyra here, too; the book shows as a brave, strong, outspoken woman who will do whatever she must to protect the man she loves, a man who gets so lost in the workings of his mind that Lyra must deal with a lot of the practical matters of their life. It’s great to see little Jyn’s spirit, too, before her life falls apart.
I learned more about what went on during the Clone Wars on Geonosis, which always confused me a little bit in the movies, and how it led up to the construction of the Death Star. And the end of the Jedi, through Order 66 (though it’s never mentioned by that name, of course, only as the “betrayal” and execution of the Jedi), which happens offstage, is truly chilling.
This is a big, complex book full of great characterization, political intrigue, scientific ambition, and a maelstrom of war centering around the genius behind the Death Star. If you loved Rogue One and want to know more about Jyn’s parents, you’ll love this book like I did.
Rating: 5 out of 5 lightsabers
For an excerpt of Catalyst, go here.