Star Wars: Catalyst
Author: James Luceno
Published By: Del Rey Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Having read the novelization of the Rogue One movie, I was interested in reading Star Wars: Catalyst, a prequel to the film. The fact that it was written by James Luceno, a writer whose previous Star Wars novels I have enjoyed greatly didnít hurt.
Catalyst begins just prior to the birth of Jyn Erso. We are introduced to Galen and his wife Lyra as they conduct research on the energy producing power of kyber crystals. Former schoolmate, now military man, Orson Krennic believes Galenís research can be used for more than just producing low-cost energy. In fact, he believes it can be used to help power the huge battle station that Chancellor Palpatine has been secretly working on. Unfortunately, Krennic knows that Erso wonít allow his research to be used to aid any war effort.
But Orson Krennic is a crafty sort and he has a plan. He arranges for Galen, Lyra and their newborn child to be rescued from the Separatists. In theory, Galen now owes Orson a favor, but Orson knows he has to tread lightly in regards to Galenís research. In the end, he devises a plan in which Galen believes he is actually continuing his research on the energy produced by kyber crystals, but in fact, he is stealing Galenís research and putting it to use creating a super-laser for the battle station Emperor Palpatine has long dreamed of.
Lyra is the first to become suspicious, especially after a friend and colleague contacts them. To say that colleague is nervous about the content of their conversation is an understatement and, after an enlightening research journey of her own, Lyra becomes worried about her husbandís research and what it may be used for. It would seem that the Empire is scooping up planetary resources, removing their legend status in an effort to circumvent rules regarding how those resources can be mined. She knows she is on to something when she receives a visit from Orson Krennic, warning her to be careful.
She consults her husband and, after a while, even Galen has to admit something his off, especially when he learns just what resources the Empire is going after. Could it be that his research is being used for nefarious purposes?
Star Wars: Catalyst is basically a book that strives to explain why someone like Galen Erso would even work on something so destructive as the Death Star. While some may feel as though Galen were duped, in my mind I see Galen as a somewhat willing pawn. This is an intelligent man we are talking about. Sure, he is socially challenged, but I have to believe that Galen knew something was amiss in Orson Krennicís offer to allow Galen to continue his research for the greater good. He had to know something was not right when he realized that the crystals he was being allowed to work with were revealed to be those used in Jedi lightsabers.
One could say he was lulled by the need to complete his research, but I would say he was a tad selfish, allowing himself to awaken too late. By the time he realizes he should stop working for Krennic, itís all but too late Ė Krennic has the means to create the laser needed for the battle station. Itís just a matter of perfecting its use. Most of the time I read this book, I spent angry at the way Galen chose not to believe he was working for the wrong side.
That is the mark of good writing Ė James Luceno had me seriously pissed at a man who doesnít exist outside of the Star Wars Universe. How good is that?! I liked that we got to see more of Jynís parents and I now realize that Jyn was more like her mother than she would ever know. Nice to see, since you donít see much of Lyra in Rogue One. I also liked the fact that Luceno explained how Jyn became involved with Saw Gerrera and his resistance fighters. I even found the love triangle between Orson, Galen and Lyra rather entertaining, even with Galen being at the center of that love triangle.
All-in-all, James Luceno tied everything up nicely in an effort explain the backgrounds of various characters in Rogue One rather well. I had wondered about the connection with Saw Gerrera and how the Ersoís had managed to escape the Empire after being duped into their service to begin with. Now I have all the answers I was searching for thanks to Star Wars: Catalyst.