Catalyst is written by James Luceno and it is a prequel to the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The novel focuses mainly on the Ersos (Galen and Lyra, Jyn’s parents) and Orson Krennic. It also stars other characters like Tarkin, Poggle The Lesser, Mas Amedda and Saw Gerrera.
As the cover suggests, the novel is about the early stages of the construction of the Death Star from the clone wars era to the Empire era. The Tarkin novel which was also written by Luceno completes Tarkin’s story from Catalyst, the two are heavily connected. At the end, Tarkin is where his story starts for his own novel, at the Sentinel Base. And having Luceno writing both is great, for both books he is able to find the same kind of tones, something very austere, menacing like the period is. It’s captivating.
The novel tells the story of how Krennic rises in the Imperial’s ranks as he is working on the Death Star and his plan to enlist Galen to work with him. Krennic is pure evil, he’s a manipulator and does everything he can to get what he wants, deception is something he likes to use a lot. He is someone who is always looking for more power. He is very similar to Tarkin’s lust for power and it’s actually no surprise that the two don’t like each other and try to get rid of the other. On the opposite, you have Galen and Lyra who are totally different. Both are pacifists who don’t want to have to take sides. Lyra is a supporter of the Jedi and believe in their faith (though just to make clear she is not a force-sensitive). Galen is a scientist who is a specialist of crystals, especially Kyber crystals (the ones the Jedi use for their lightsabers).
The novel is divided into three parts, the first one during the clone wars and the two others during the early years of the Empire.
PART I – Life During Wartime
It picks up early in the clone wars. At this time, we have Galen and a pregnant Lyra being prisoner on Vallt after the regime changed and decided to support the Separatists. Krennic is already working on the secret project of the Death Star that only a few people know, not even the Jedi know, obviously if they had known they wouldn’t have accepted this. It shows how Palpatine is, going behind the Jedi’s back building his weapon. He even manipulates the people working on his toy. The scientists know the plans come from the Geonosians but nobody how the Republic got them, the truth being that Palpatine controls everything and Dooku brought him the plans at the end of Attack Of The Clones. The Death Star is built above Geonosis after the second battle of Geonosis that actually took place at the one year anniversary of the first one. There are heavy connections with Star Wars The Clone Wars. At the end of the second battle, we knew that Poggle The Lesser had been captured but we never learned how he escaped. Catalyst gives us the answer and that involves Krennic. The whole time, he manipulates the situation and creates lies and more lies. He is the one rescuing Galen, Lyra and baby Jyn from the Separatists, all of that as part of his plan to recruit Galen and it’s a plan that takes a long time. The first part ends when the clone wars ends, after Anakin has sent the order to deactivate the droid army on Mustafar. At that time, Galen, Jyn and Lyra are in the middle of one of the last battles of the war.
Throughout this part, we are told the Separatists may be working on a super weapon themselves and that they had scientists who had made researches on Kyber crystals. That threat is more clear when you have watched TCW especially the Story Reels of the Crystal Crisis arc that exactly deals with Kyber crystals.
PART II – The Pursuit Of Peace
The second part has Galen finally working for Krennic as part of the Celestial Power project, said to be a program to use kyber crystal as source of energy to power up worlds while Galen doesn’t but it is to weaponize the research and use it as the superlaser of the Death Star. We can see clearly in this part how Krennic is able to make Galen believe all of that, he tricks him and without even realizing it Galen starts to even believe the Jedi tried to assassinate Palpatine. However, Lyra realizes Krennic’s deception, she doesn’t know the whole picture but she does realize he lies. In this part, we have also Saw Gerrera first seen in the Onderon arc of TCW who is already a freedom fighter and already a little bit extremist. He leads a resistance on Salient system with Has Obbit (a new character who has realized too late that he was being played by Krennic for him to achieve his plan of gathering more materials for the secret weapon), resistance that turns out to be a trap created by Krennic to occupy Tarkin elsewhere. In TCW, he was already the more extreme of the group on Onderon and his sister’s death obviously lead him to being more like that. We can see in Catalyst that he’d be more ready to destroy everything and die rather than the Empire to have it but it doesn’t seem he knows when to retreat and regroup, he’s more into rushing in the action and make as much damage as possible, he is reckless in a way but that doesn’t make him a bad person, he is one of the first to rise against the Empire and that’s something that is extremely important.
In this part, we can see how the development of the Death Star is a HUGE secret, with Krennic even ready to kill scientists and destroy facilities to make sure the truth stays hidden.
PART III – Dead Reckoning
In this final part a lot of things happen. Krennic loses control of the situation with all his lies. Tarkin survives the battle of Salient and gets a high position in the Death Star project, the position he has in his own novel. Has Obbit is able to fool both Krennic and Tarkin, working for both and sending them false information. Galen after being what I could call a fool for believing Krennic finally realizes what is happening and for what his research is being used. Lyra, Galen and Jyn manage to escape the Imperial facility on Coruscant with the help of Saw Gerrera. That’s how the Ersos know Gerrera. He is the one leading them to Lah’mu, the planet we see in the trailers when Krennic comes to arrest Galen in a flashback.
8/10 This novel connects with the Prequels a lot especially The Clone Wars and also ties in with Tarkin novel. It’s a fantastic novel that sets things up for Rogue One, it already establishes the story for Galen, his dynamic with Orson Krennic, how the Ersos know Saw Gerrera … A lot of things that when we’ll see the movie will give us additional insight on the situation and the characters.