Star Wars: Catalyst – Review

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catalyst-coverThe Death Star has always been a fascinating subject in Star Wars lore and it’s history just as intriguing. With additions to the story by Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Rebels, the full account has been waiting to be told, until now. Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel chronicles the development of the Death Star from The Clone Wars to the upcoming film Rogue One. Author James Luceno masterfully connects the dots, while setting up the characters that will inhabit the movie and the seeds of rebellion in the galaxy that will spawn a new hope.

The Greater Good

One of the most interesting aspects of Catalyst is the ways in which this phrase and idea is used by characters in the book to rationalize everything they are doing. Galen Erso, the main theoretical scientist behind the study of kyber crystals continually has this as his mantra, ignoring any voice inside or outside himself that would warn him about the dangers of his research. He willingly blinds himself to so much throughout the story, believing the false narratives fed to him by Orsen Krennic, head of the Special Weapons Division for the Empire, that allow him to continue his research. Krennic has told Erso that the project is meant to find a way to bring affordable and renewable power to the Empire. It brings to mind Malcolm in Jurassic Park when he says, “…but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Erso becomes so enamored with the prospect of the knowledge that he can uncover and the power that he can hopefully unleash for the benefit of the beings of the galaxy, that he doesn’t even stop to consider how his findings may be perverted for other uses. Science never happens in a vaccum.

At the same time the Empire is lying to the scientists working on project Celestial Power, about their true objective, it’s also hiding from the galaxy it’s true intentions towards “Legacy” planets. These are planets that have been supposedly set aside as sanctuaries for preservation from industrialization, like galactic national parks. Yet the Empire employs the same tactics Palpatine did during the Clone Wars, setting up the planets, making it look as though they are arming themselves, giving the Empire licence to step in an annex them. The Empire then strip mines these planets for their precious ores and metals for “the greater good”, aka the building of the secret space station known as the Death Star.  Catalyst is a reminder of the horrors that have been done in the name of “the greater good” and the slippery slope that kind of logic is.  

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Forest Whitaker) Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
(Forest Whitaker)
Ph: Film Frame
©Lucasfilm LFL

Spark of Rebellion

Catalyst not only does a dexterous job of elucidating the rise of the Empire and it’s slow strangling of the galaxy, it also portrays the kindling fire for what will become the Rebellion. All throughout the book Krennic is using smuggler Has Obitt to do his dirty work in setting up the planets the Empire wishes to annex. What he doesn’t count on is, “…the effect the Empire’s actions are having on the lives of people who still care.”* Obitt, who was apart of the rescue of the Ersos during the Clone Wars, as well as ferrying Lyra Esro on a fact finding mission for Krennic, is influenced by Lyra. She is distrustful of Krennic and his motivations which leads her and Has discovering just what has become of the “Legacy” planets the Empire has appropriated. The devastation he witnessed forever changes Has, who aligns himself with an Onderondian freedom fighter and other disgruntled smugglers to fight the Empire. Saw Gerrera and Has have a beautiful conversation about the reason for rebellion,

“Did it work?”

“Did what work?”

“Defiance. Was that enough?”

“That wasn’t the point.”

“What was?”

“Believing that your actions mattered, and believing that a good end would come of them, even if you didn’t live to see the results.”

Has snorted. “Cheery thought. Throw dirt in your enemy’s face, get crushed underfoot.”

Saw stopped what he was doing and walked over to him. “Look at it this way, Has. If we can persuade enough people to start throwing dirt…”

Realizing that he was supposed to finish the thought, Has considered it, then said: “Eventually we bury them.”**

The Empire has sowed the seeds of rebellion unwittingly through its actions. The truth of what it is and what it’s becoming cannot be hidden from people forever. There will always be people like Saw, Has and Lyra who will understand the truth, regardless the narratives reported.

Conclusion

Luceno has long been adept at filling in the gaps of the Star Wars universe, his Darth Plagueis novel cemented that. Catalyst is in the same vein. It captures the essence of the era between the trilogies, while giving us the milieu of the upcoming Rogue One. He vividly brings to life Jyn Erso’s parents, Orsen Krennic and top of that, the addition of Saw Gerrera and his connection with the Ersos’ will leave fans on the edge of their seats till December 16th. The highest praise one can give a tie-in novel is that it feels essential and Catalyst fits that bill perfectly. As a quick side note, the book itself, the cover and the design work inside is outstanding. Del Rey really put a lot of time into the presentation. The book is rated 4 and a half kyber crystals out of 5.  

Review is by Matthew Rushing of Trek.fm‘s The 602 Club and TheNerdParty.com‘s AggressiveNegotiations. He can be found on Twitter @mattrushing02.

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This review was completed using a copy of Rogue One: Catalyst provided by Del Rey.

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  • Ruth Davies Knowles

    You’ve got a really great blog here for Star Wars fans! I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest (I do like it but not as much as my children) however I am running a comp on my own blog to win one the new Interactive Robotic R2-D2 Droids and I wondered if you knew people who might want to enter. It’s a great prize and probably one for the true fans I would think… Anyway, hope you don’t mind me posting it here and enter if you like? Thanks, Ruth (author of rocknrollerbaby – a family and lifestyle blog). Oh and here’s the link of course! http://www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk/thinkway-star-wars-toys/

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