Jordan’s Review of James Luceno’s ‘Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel’

Catalyst Cover

All of the recent Star Wars novels can basically be grouped into one of three basic categories: film-adaptations, story-driven novels, and character-driven novels.  While the adaptation of The Force Awakens and the recent story-driven Aftermath: Life Debt were fantastic reads, there is something special about the more character-driven novels like Bloodline, Tarkin, and now Catalyst that keeps me coming back book after book with a renewed fervor.


There is just something about the book medium that fits these types of stories so well, allowing the reader to really get into the heads of the characters to more fully understand their strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. Two years after his very well-received introspective look into the mind of Wilhuff Tarkin in the aptly named Tarkin (2014), Luceno strikes again with another character-driven book that centers on eccentric genius Galen Erso (portrayed by actor Mads Mikkelsen in Rogue One) and the ambitious Republic/Imperial officer on the rise Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).



While the story focuses on these two characters, Luceno also gives readers a fantastic look at Galen’s wife Lyra, who, as it turns out, is one of the strongest characters ever written for the franchise in my opinion. She is Galen’s heart and soul – his anchor, his strength.  If Jyn (Felicity Jones) possesses a modicum of her mother’s character traits in Rogue One, I think we’re in for a real treat and another great character to add to the plethora of amazing Star Wars characters.




Catalyst is very much a spiritual sequel (or “prequel” technically) to Luceno’s Tarkin. The author accomplishes his primary goal of providing a backstory for the upcoming film and fleshing out the film’s new characters quite nicely.  However, in the end, Catalyst is so much more than a simple tie-in novel. Luceno uses the new storyline to build upon some small foundations that he laid in Tarkin as he gives readers a detailed glimpse at the galactic powers that be as the transition was made from the Republic to the Empire.


Tarkin Cover


We are even treated to some small passages with Tarkin himself as Luceno establishes an intense rivalry between the moff and Lieutenant Commander Krennic. It was a real joy to see the two men attempt to undermine and outmaneuver the other, especially given that we already know Tarkin’s position in A New Hope.  It will be very interesting to see what happens with Krennic in the Rogue One storyline next month. By the end of Catalyst, he has definitely built up no small amount of bad karma, and he still has about 15 years of shady management and underhanded dealings to go through before the timeline of the movie.  Given his position at the end of the book, his ongoing rivalries, and apparent character flaws, Krennic should be quite the villain in Rogue One.




Along with the unique character perspectives that Luceno provides in the book, he also delves into a lot of really cool information surrounding the backstory of the Death Star’s construction, especially that of its planet-destroying-super-laser. If you want to learn more about the innate properties of the kyber crystal, the logistics of supplying and constructing a moon-sized battle station, and whatever happened to the Geonosians that provided the original design for the Death Star, then you’ll find what you’re looking for in Catalyst.




Ever since the initial teaser trailer for Rogue One was released, fans have raised many questions surrounding the Death Star, especially after learning of Galen Erso’s and Orson Krennic’s roles in the upcoming movie and seeing the construction still taking place almost 20 years after having witnessed what seemed to be a mostly completed framework for the station in Revenge of the Sith. Why has the construction taken so long?  Who designed the Death Star? What about Tarkin?




Luceno addresses all of these questions, and for full detail, I strongly recommend you check this book out for yourself. But to answer some of these in short, I will say this much –  the original design of the Death Star was provided by the Geonosians, however, it was more of a concept than a full-fledged battle station.  After the design wound up in Palpatine’s hands, he sequestered the station to begin construction in secret during the Clone War, but the weapon itself took years of research, trial, and error to complete.


Rogue One Death Star


The mastermind behind its development was Orson Krennic, who was ultimately responsible for stripping down backwater worlds of their resources and assembling the top minds in the galaxy to accomplish the task.  The secret ingredient was the altruistic scientist Galen Erso, whose research (which he believed was being used to provide safer and more efficient means of generating electrical power) would ultimately lead to the creation of the most destructive force the galaxy had ever known.




Orson and Galen were old friends from their school days in the Futures Program, and Krennic takes constant advantage of their relationship throughout the book as he places Galen in situation after situation where Galen becomes indebted to him and eventually goes to work for Krennic and the Empire.


Catalyst is an essential read for any fan of the franchise in my opinion, especially if you have a soft spot for the Empire like myself (I can’t help it if the Empire has all the coolest ships, weapons , and armor…so don’t judge me…rebel scum…). If you don’t like to read, I still recommend that you check out the audiobook.  It’s a compelling story and a great tie-in to what I hope is a fantastic film.  My excitement for Rogue One continues to grow and Catalyst has only served to increase that excitement.


I really enjoyed this book overall and have no glaring complaints or criticisms concerning Luceno’s execution. He does go a little heavy with the scientific and pseudo-scientific lingo that went over my head a little at times, but this is to be expected with the genre and actually serves to add complexity rather than confusion.  It may not be as exciting as some of the more story-driven books in the franchise, but the the story is engaging enough and the characters are compelling enough to earn a pretty impressive score from me. I give Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel


4.5/5.0 Kyber Crystals


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Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he's not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.

Jordan Pate (Hard Case)

Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he's not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.

19 thoughts on “Jordan’s Review of James Luceno’s ‘Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel’

  • November 29, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Defiantly going on the Xmas list after this review!!

  • November 29, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    I’m not a huge fan of most of the novels or comics. I’ve read a few now & the only ones I really liked were Lost Stars and this. It’s certainly a good teaser for Rogue One. I’m not sure if I’m ever likely to re-read it after seeing the movie, though.

  • November 29, 2016 at 8:26 pm

    this was way better than tarkin or bloodline which were kinda boring imo.

    • November 29, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      Bloodline was a real disappointment I thought. Lots of potential but feels like it really suffered from “we don’t want to give everything away yet”.

      • November 30, 2016 at 5:15 am

        I will poo poo on Lucasfilm for trying to get us all jacked up for how the new books would be canon.

        Then give us actual filler. Like the gooey stuff that sticks together the plot of the actual films in the minute spaces they leave.

        It’s been disappointing for the most part. I mean, even Catalyst is very filler. But it’s fun because in all honesty the Death Star never did have a legitimate EU backstory, either. The Empire built it, the end. Then Lucas complicated that with the prequels, and Luceno has been the go to guy to taking complicated plots he weaved with no pay off and having them make sense.

        • November 30, 2016 at 5:48 am

          There was an entire novel dedicated to the death star in EU, tho I never read it.

          • November 30, 2016 at 10:18 am

            Yea its actually named “Death Star”, written my Michael Reaves. I have it and read it a year’s ago. But from what I remember, it was more about unlikely individuals coming together as a team and escaping the death star and also how it was tested on another planet. I dont think It went into its back story much, tho I could be wrong.

          • November 30, 2016 at 1:49 pm

            Really? I am sad to say I missed that one.

        • November 30, 2016 at 9:32 am

          You’re right although I feel like I’d rather have filler I can ignore than bad storylines I’m told I should care about.

          Not to be rude about the old EU but… it was kind of a mixed bag at best.

          • November 30, 2016 at 1:46 pm

            I agree

      • November 30, 2016 at 7:16 pm

        Bloodline wasn’t my favorite but I liked how it provided much needed background for the rise of the First Order and the Resistance.

        • November 30, 2016 at 8:34 pm

          It didn’t really go very far though which is what I meant about them holding stuff back for the movies. That’s the right thing to do but it means the book ends up a little thin. I thought Bloodline did a good job developing Leia’s history after RotJ but the actual plot itself was a bore.

    • November 30, 2016 at 3:47 am

      I actually enjoyed all three, but I can totally see how they could get a bit dull at times. I think I just really loved learning more about Tarken, and then in bloodline knowing how the politics are in the new era is set up.

      • November 30, 2016 at 4:19 am

        All the stuff about tarkin and imperial politics was great, but the actual plot about the “rebels” stealing his ship was pretty boring. As for bloodline it felt like all the important stuff was either skipped or rushed. The formation of the resistance for example rated just a single page at the very end. While we learned almost nothing new about the first order. A tad disappointing for me.

    • November 30, 2016 at 5:13 am

      Tarkin’s backstory was super “Who cares” except for the very last part about his trials in the outback of Eriadu. I liked what he did there at the end to survive.

      • November 30, 2016 at 7:42 am

        his interactions with palpatine pre empire are interesting. i like seeing how palps set the board, especially since the plageius novel isn’t canon anymore.

        • November 30, 2016 at 1:48 pm

          It kind of is though. Luceno connected it briefly in Tarkington.

    • November 30, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      I agree Tarkin was a tough read. It had good parts to it but it jumped around a lot and was boring at times. Luceno actually said he wanted to make Catalyst more complex and to jump around more but couldn’t do so due to certain constraints. I’m glad he didn’t as I think it would have ended up more like Tarkin. I think Catalyst is perfect the way it is.

  • November 30, 2016 at 3:45 am

    I just finished reading this one and I enjoyed it a ton. I really enjoyed how it started off in the Clone Wars and filled in a lot of information between, nodding to the TV show and to other books. And I feel the biggest strength of this book is the relationships and knowing what happened between characters, I think when I watch Rogue One I will have more of an emotional attachment to these characters.

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