Book Review | Catalyst (Star Wars)

Author // James Luceno
Publication Month // November 2016
Publisher // Del Rey
Genre // Science-Fiction, Film Tie-In


War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.
Galen’s energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic’s debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal. While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor’s tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic’s web of deception to save themselves and the galaxy itself. 


Catalyst is a Star Wars novel set prior to the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and it details the life of Galen and Lyra Erso – the parents of protagonist, Jyn Erso, from the film. It’s also about the rise of Orson Krennic and his work on the Death Star and his eventual rivalry with Tarkin.

Ultimately, a bit like the film, I knew how this book would play out – there are films prior to and after both the book and the film and it’s not too difficult to fill in the gaps. And for a time, while reading Catalyst – which is not a typical Star Wars novel (which is to say, there’s not a whole lot of action in the book) – I found it difficult to get into a rhythm because there’s a lot of history and a lot of political backstory.

What I came to appreciate part-way through reading was how important this book is.

It sets the tone and builds up the history for Rogue One. It helps to develop the reader’s connection to all of the characters, particularly the Ersos and Krennic, who we see, but don’t get an entire backstory on in the films. It would be easy to dismiss Krennic as another of the Empire’s officers seeking to rise among the ranks, but Catalyst showed us why and how, just as it showed us why Galen Erso did what he did for his family.

One of my favourite characters to read was Lyra, Jyn’s mother. She’s a strong, female character who’s not afraid to voice her thoughts and opinions. She’s often the voice of reason in her relationship with Galen and she sees through Krennic and his attempts to recruit Galen.

It was also fascinating to read about the origins and construction of the Death Star. Krennic makes it his life’s mission to see this weapon realised and as readers we get to see the lengths that he will go to to achieve it.

This is not a fast-paced book. There’s a lot of exposition, a lot of explanations. It can be quite dense in places, but it does highlight a lot the events that take place between The Clone Wars and Catalyst. There are also a lot of subplots that have a tendency to slow the story down, too, unless you’re a fan of tiny details that build on what’s happening across a wider galaxy.

Overall, it was a good book – it sets the tone for the film, and while I think it’s great to read it prior to seeing the film, it’s not essential, making it a good tie-ie. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

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