Above all else, James Luceno’s new novel, Star Wars: Catalyst, A Rogue One Novel, is a sequel to Luceno’s well-crafted novel Tarkin (previously reviewed here at borg.com), another account of the Empire as it grew from the ashes left behind by the Clone Wars. Surprisingly, Governor Tarkin is a major player in this novel, a prequel to this week’s worldwide theatrical release, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As in Tarkin, Luceno adds another chapter in the detailed political and economic sphere of how various races are able to harness the energy necessary to power not only Star Destroyers, but this newly conceived idea of a planetoid battle station that becomes the first Death Star.
The corporate nature of the Empire, the scientists and power source behind the creation of the first of what would be three Death Stars in the Star Wars universe is laid out here, perhaps in more detail than the average fan would require. Key to preparing for the movie, we meet four players of note. Galen and Lyra Erso are scientists attempting to study and work on energy research outside the world of the military, but their refusal to choose sides lands them in prison and leaves them as pawns to be manipulated by rising officials in competing sects. Galen’s longtime friend Orson Krennic is an opportunist and master manipulator, often at odds with Tarkin. Rarely seen in Catalyst, but important because of her legacy as part of the Erso family, is young Jyn, a girl who will grow up to be the leading player in Rogue One.
Catalyst serves as a useful bridge between two trilogies: Episodes I-III and Episodes IV-VI. You’ll find numerous references to characters from the prequels like Emperor Palpatine, Mas Amedda, and Count Dooku. Geonosis, the planet that factored into the Jedi battle in Attack of the Clones, also plays a key role in Catalyst. And a secondary story about a smuggler named Has Obitt ushers in a new character called Saw Gerrera, a warrior who will be played by Forest Whitaker in the new film.
Catalyst is not required reading, but will appeal to fans of James Luceno’s prior novels including Tarkin. It also provides the backstory for Galen Erso and Orson Krennic, likely to merit only brief discussion by way of flashbacks in the movie, but it is interesting to see the characters have a long, tumultuous relationship. Lyra Erso’s story is not so well fleshed out, and is more of a clichéd supportive wife. Catalyst also lacks the action of many Star Wars tie-ins, is a bit too corporate at times and runs the risk in places of getting too caught up in its practical politics. Tie-ins aren’t intended to be made into movies, and some wouldn’t benefit from being realized visually. Luceno’s Tarkin and Catalyst fit this category–both are quality novels with solid storytelling and backstory that may whet the appetites of readers waiting for the next big theatrical release.
Star Wars: Catalyst, A Rogue One Novel is available now here from Amazon.com. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters everywhere tomorrow.