This article will very light spoilers of the Novel, Star Wars: Catalyst
Catalyst by James Luceno is the primer for Rogue One. If you think you aren’t ready enough for the Star Wars movie before you read it, then after it, you most definitely will be. The story follows the research of the arcane, enigmatic Kyber crystals by Dr. Galen Erso and the attempts by his old “friend” Orson Krennic at manipulating him into using the research for the future Death Star’s primary weapon. In addition to these two the story introduces us to his wife Lyra Erso, and just a short ways into the book, a brand newborn baby Jyn!
The story starts during the Clone Wars, and even as early as then we can see the dark machinations of the empire slowly falling into place. At some points you forget the Stormtroopers accompanying Krennic on his various expeditions aren’t Stormtroopers. Early Orson, a member of the Engineer Corps, is searching for a means to gain favor within the Republic (later during the course of the book to become the Empire) by being the man responsible for fashioning the new Battle Station’s primary weapon. When Galen’s Kyber research comes up in conversation, he makes it his priority to see to it that the genius be his means of matriculating to the top of the military ranks. His talent for manipulation is Sith worthy.
Galen being nothing more than the passionate, meticulous researcher with a prudent eye capable of seeing the world from unique vantages, wants nothing to do with weapon’s research. All he cares about his family and learning to tap into the energy potential for Kyber crystals to create new sources of substantiating energy. Herein lies the conflict, and James Luceno does nothing to hold back his prowess for creating the most tension gripping situations both sides, in their efforts to reach their individual goals.
What makes the whole struggle all the more endearing are the other parties involved. From the Geonosians who constructed the plans for the Death Star, to Tarkin, the Governor turned Grand Moff, who eventually oversees the Death Star Project as a whole and comes to command it, to old characters we never thought we’d see again, like Saw Gerrara from Onderon, back in the Clone Wars. Once the Empire comes to power at around the halfway point in the book, we witness a struggle for power between Krennic and Tarkin which turns out to be a tantalizing battle between manipulation and cunning.
The book ends with a stage fastidiously prepped for Rogue One. With the Ersos on the run, and Krennic determined to get what he needs from the genius Kyber scientist, we can clearly see the plot for the movie taking form. Regardless of the fact that she’s still very young in the last chapter, you can see young Jyn’s shrewdness, and I’m excited to see how she employs it on the big screen, as an adult. This novel is a prime example of why the New Canon is working and why new content should continue to be released to mesh with the core episodes. Star Wars is an expanding universe, with little connections that help to bind all of the material together into full, detailed picture that can facilitate a much deeper understanding of it, and this book adds to that picture.