We’re less than a month out from Rogue One and discovering just what a non-Saga, “anthology” Star Wars film looks like. Lucasfilm seems to be dipping its toe in the non-Saga pool gently, giving us a story — the theft of the plans to the first Death Star — separate from but still intrinsically linked to the original Star Wars film. In the meantime, to whet our appetites and give us some backstory for the characters we’ll meet in the film, Legends and Tarkin alum James Luceno has brought us Catalyst, the story of Galen Erso and Orson Krennic (Mads Mikkelsen and Ben Mendelsohn in the film, respectively) and how their unlikely friendship led to the development of the galaxy’s most powerful weapon.
Random House has consistently released audiobook versions of the novels in the new canon, and Catalyst is no exception. Catalyst is performed by Jonathan Davis — not the lead singer of Korn, but the veteran of more than four hundred(!) audiobook recordings, over of thirty of which were under the Star Wars banner.
So, how does Catalyst work — as a stand-alone novel, as a film prelude, and as an audiobook production? Read on to find out!Continue reading →
Catalyst was a good book. It was a worthwhile read. And, as it was very thoughtfully and craftily designed to do, it has whet my appetite for next month’s release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Catalyst is the story of Galen Erso: his passion for science, his devotion to both his family and his work, and the relationships that come to bear on his personal and professional life; all wrapped up in a volume that feels unmistakably Star Wars. From the opening paragraph, the GFFA seems familiar in a way that’s been missing (although I would be hard pressed to use the term ‘lacking’) from recent Star Wars books. Perhaps it’s just that Luceno contributed so much to the Legends universe that is to account for this feeling of familiarity. Whatever is behind it: Catalyst felt a little bit like coming home, and that made me smile.
If you were amongst those who were disappointed that the first Aftermath book wasn’t a more direct prequel to The Force Awakens,Catalyst will most definitely scratch that itch for you for Rogue One. Set during the Clone Wars and the early years of the Empire, Catalyst dives into the long history between Orson Krennic and Galen Erso. I obviously haven’t seen Rogue One and only know what the trailers have told us but after reading Catalyst, I can’t help but feel that this book is a must read for any Star Wars fan who really wants to enhance their first viewing of the film next month. That’s just one of the reasons why I absolutely recommend picking up Catalyst by James Luceno today at your earliest convenience. Or right now. Now would be good too.
If you’re a Luceno fan, you’ll definitely enjoy this book. The writing style is less dense than Tarkin and will appeal to more people but you’ll probably still learn a new vocabulary word or two. Luceno does a wonderful job of weaving the tale of the slow burn manipulation of Galen Erso across the years without ever leaving the readers lost and wondering exactly when we are. (An impressive feat unto itself.) Primarily, Catalyst is told from the point of view of Lyra Erso, Orson Krennic, and a smuggler named Has Obitt but very rarely from Galen’s. It may seem an odd choice but it works oh so well especially since it can so often be a struggle to get Galen out of his own thoughts and scientific musings.
Although Catalyst is very much a character showcase, it also serves to show a different side of a story than what we already know along with expanding the galaxy a little. What was the last time we got the scientist’s point of view during a war? Catalyst may lack the grand battles that so many assume are synonymous with Star Wars but more than makes up for it with its characters. It’s a big galaxy so it’s nice to see its other facets.
While the book establishes Krennic as being someone you definitely don’t want to cross, the real standout here is Lyra Erso who is also the hero we need and deserve. While some may be disappointed that she’s not a scientist like her husband, she is most definitely her own person and a complex character. We spend a lot of time in Lyra’s head and it is absolutely to the book’s benefit. While yes, the book revolves around Galen and Krennic’s slow manipulation of him, Lyra has agency and keeps trying to do what’s best for their family. She doesn’t just sit there and fret about Galen or just let things happen. She plays an active role in trying to get to the bottom of just what Krennic’s ultimate plan for Galen is. Lyra is exactly the sort of capable female character we need to see more of in Star Wars because she shows us that strength isn’t found in combat alone.
Catalyst will definitely raise your excitement for Rogue One to critical levels. Luceno has done such a wonderful job of weaving together bits and hints of Rogue One into this prequel while also telling a complete story that can stand on its own merits. This is definitely one that Star Wars fans should pick up soon.
Thank you to Del Rey for providing an early copy of the book for review purposes.
Star Wars fans didn’t have to wait very long to get comics and books related announcements from C2E2 out in Chicago but it was all rather vague. At a retailer breakfast this morning, it was announced that Marvel will be releasing a three issue comic plus a standalone issue in October that will be related to Rogue One. No writer or artist has been announced yet. We don’t know any other details but it’s likely filling a similar role to what Shattered Empire was for The Force Awakens. The Star Wars Free Comic Book Day offerings will be $1 a pop copies of some of the previously released books, mostly #1s.
At the Star Wars books panel this afternoon, the big announcement was Star Wars: Catalyst. Arriving on October 4th, the novel will be a prequel to Rogue One… and that’s all we know. Author announcement is forthcoming. Start the betting pool.
Outside of the Rogue One pattern, we did learn from Claudia Gray that a character from Lost Stars will make an appearance. You may also start the betting pool on this one. Claudia Gray also mentioned that the reason for the Bloodline’s delay was that she wanted to see The Force Awakens before finalizing her draft but also that this is a book about Leia herself and not Leia defined by her roles as wife or mother. For fans of Mark Waid’s run on the Leia comic, it sounds like Gray had the option to pull from the book but didn’t so don’t expect Queen Evaan to appear.
The Star Wars books panel featured Claudia Gray, John Jackson Miller, Jeffrey Brown, Adam Bray, and Elizabeth Schaefer. You can read Newsarama’s liveblog here for some of the more fun tidbits that panelists mentioned throughout the hour.